Excerpt #12 from “Winning The Music Game” by Brian Allen
The most damaging time that you can be tripped is when you’re running.
If you have the right combination of skill, uniqueness, talent, perspective, motivation and instincts, you have a very good chance of being successful as opposed to those who do not possess any or all of these qualities. When that success comes, it could plateau at any number of levels. However, one of the by-products of success is notoriety. Successful artists become obvious, not only to their fans, but also to those who suddenly feel that they had a real or imagined role in your success story. Greed inevitably distorts vision – the more successful you are, the more these come-lately leeches will value their supposed contribution.
An unsettled dispute or interpretation of value or rights is a ticking bomb. Before you become the international star described in your business plan, take a realistic inventory of your past and present relationships. Can you honestly say there are no open files? For example – was there adequate agreement between all parties who shared in the creation of a song, or is everyone relying on each party’s understanding of “standard practice”?
Carefully consider if there may be anyone who may feel that they have grounds to launch a claim against you at the exact time when it will hurt you the most. Be sure that you have your house in order before you become famous – while their perception of their eventual benefit is still speculative and possibly, favourably negotiable. Do not assume that everything will take care of itself in time or that everyone involved in an issue sees the issue the same way that you do. It has been said by wise people that our unspoken expectations get us into the most trouble.
Although there is a provision in the law in Ontario that allows the admissibility of a verbal agreement if the issue comes to legal action, I’m sure that anyone reading this can recall the futility of debating who said what in reference to some past verbal agreement… no matter how trivial it may have been. As well, people who feel that they are on the losing end can become particularly nasty. Consider the old adage: “Don’t fight with a pig, because you’ll both get dirty and the pig likes it.”
You can avoid many of these career-tripping obstacles by documenting everyone’s position on paper. Ensure that everyone has a dated copy signed by all parties, and for double protection, even consider having a witness sign as well. In many cases, if the language in the agreement satisfies everyone, something simple should suffice. However, if the consequence of breaking that agreement has sufficient weight, always seek the advice and assistance of an experienced entertainment lawyer.
Document your agreements now… even if it is to confirm that someone has no claim at all. Don’t wait until you are running.