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Law Offices of Troy Sutton - 900 Industrial Rd. Ste. E, San Carlos, CA 94070

Answers to a few of my most Frequently Asked Questions:



When Should I Hire An Attorney?

Before signing any contract, consult with an attorney. An experienced music attorney will help you avoid getting trapped in a bad deal, and those of us who have a lot of experience with the music industry can help you with general ideas and strategies for moving your career forward productively.

How Do I Find a Good Music Attorney?

  1. Contact the Law Offices of Troy Sutton.
  2. Referral - Talk to folks who are working in the music industry and ask them who they can recommend.
  3. Music Business Directories, like the Recording Industry Sourcebook, list music business attorneys, often by geographical area.
  4. Local Bar Associations, like the San Mateo county Bar Association, have lawyer referral services that for a small fee with connect you with local experienced lawyers.
  5. Music Business Conferences are a great place to meet many music industry experts including music lawyers.

Can I Get a Recording Contract if I’m a Minor?

In most states, if you are under 18, you have different contractual rights than adults. In California, you must have court approval for a contract with a minor to be legally binding on the minor. Most major record labels require a parent or guardian signature as well as court approval when entering a recording deal with a minor.

What is “Deal Shopping"?

"Deal shopping" is when a second party (not you) acts as the middleman to try to sell your act to record labels and music publishers. Some "deal shoppers" are legitimate, but many are “questionable,” and some outright dishonest. They often shop multiple clients/acts at the same time, do not advocate for you personally, charge a large amount for the service they offer, and are seldom successful at getting you a deal. Remember, without commercial potential, a record label will not sign an artist; even if the demo was brought in by a well-connected attorney.

Lawyers who deal shop are no longer a significant part of getting industry attention. Deal shopping is a relic of the music industry heyday when there was no youTube, no internet, and attorneys around the country were part of the industry network searching for the "next big thing." In this social marketing era, the music industry is intimately connected to a vast network of blog posts and tweets about an overwhelming number of up and coming artists.

When you have significant social media attention, you will have industry attention. When a record label believes in you, believes that you have commercial potential, they will be interested in signing you. They will also be interested in making as much profit off you as they can. This is when you want a music attorney who understands the industry and believes in you. Your attorney's job is to help you get a good deal, and avoid a bad deal.

I work with artists early in their careers the help them create the kind of industry buzz that gets the labels' attention. I believe in my clients. When I talk with label representatives about my clients, I speak with genuine passion for their art, and advocate for good deals that fit my clients long term career goals.

Is a Contract Legally Enforceable if it was not prepared by a Lawyer?

Yes. Generally, a contract is a legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties. Some contracts don't even have to be in writing to be legally binding. The written contract is simply proof of the terms of the agreement. You can make an agreement and write down the terms of that agreement without the help of a lawyer.

However, incorrectly drafting your own contract can cause problems. Some contracts must contain specific terms to be legally enforceable. For instance, under California law, a home improvement contract must have some very specific terms, like language about mechanic's lien rights, in order for the contract to be valid. Hiring a lawyer can help you avoid very expensive problems down the line.

Additionally, a lawyer will help you define possible problems and include terms for how to deal with those problems if they arise. Often problems come up because the terms of a contract did not anticipate problems, or were not clearly defined. For instance, a contract that says "Fred will buy Bob's car for $1000" seems simple and straight forward. But, what if Bob has 3 cars? Which one in Fred buying? Does Bob guarantee that the car is running? What happens if Bob doesn't actually own the car? Does Fred get his money back?

Problems that were not anticipated by the Contract can become very expensive disputes. The challenge is creating a contract that is clear, and as well defined as possible, without being overwhelmingly exhaustive and cumbersome.

What Should I Consider When Looking for a Home Repair Contractor?

Cost should never be the only consideration when hiring a Contractor. The lowest price up front can often turn into a nightmare of delays, extra costs, and shoddy workmanship.

I am consistently surprised at how many homeowners are willing to spend thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home improvement project with a contractor they really know very little about.

License status, quality of work, and a significant list of happy prior customers should all rate highly in your list of considerations when choosing a home improvement contractor. A little of your time and effort researching your contractor can go a long way toward keeping your project on schedule, on budget, and at the level of quality you expected.

How does an Indemnity Clause Help Me?

An indemnity clause helps to protect you from lawsuits against you by someone who is not a party to the contract that was caused by the other party to your contract. For instance, after Fred bought Bob's car, he crashed the car into Ernie's fence. Ernie sues Bob because Bob is still listed as the legal owner of the car until Fred has finished all the payments. An indemnity clause in their car buying contract would mean that if Bob has to pay Ernie, Fred will then have to pay Bob back for the money he paid to Ernie.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

Statute of limitations are time limits on a party's legal rights. The time limits vary depending on the type of issue. Some rights expire in as little as 90 days, and some rights last for years.

California has a ten year statute of limitations on concealed construction defects. Meaning, after you buy your newly built home from the contractor you have 10 years to figure out all the things the contract did wrong. If you wait until after 10 years to sue the contractor for all the things he did wrong, the court will not allow the law suit.

What is your opinion regarding clients educating themselves on legal issues?

Naturally, it is not practical for a client to learn everything about the law. It is not practical for anybody to learn everything about the law. That is why we have specialization. However, I have always been a fan of learning and always encourage clients to educate themselves as much as practical on legal issues that affect their lives and careers.

What should I bring to my first meeting?

It’s a great idea to write down a list of the questions you want to discuss. This helps you think about all the issues you want to talk about, and especially helps to make sure we cover all your questions.

I like clients to bring any significant documents related to your questions. It’s a good idea to make copies so we can both have a copy to read when we are discussing them.

Are you willing to review documents prepared by clients?

I am always happy to review documents prepared by the client or another attorney and offer my assistance and counsel on moving forward with those papers. I often find this is a cost effective way to handle a case. I have had many clients that only need a few minutes of my time to review a document that they have done an excellent job preparing and suggest one or two minor adjustments.

Why did you decide to be a lawyer?

I have always enjoyed problem solving. I find negotiations to often be a process of finding a way to solve problems for both parties to a contract. I spent a lot of years as a working musician and found myself not only involved in many contract negotiations, but explaining the contract language to my fellow musicians.

When I made the decision that I did not want to be on the road 10 months a year, I realized that getting my law degree and continuing to formally help my musician friends with their contracts, was an attractive challenge.

What work experience and education helps you be a better lawyer?

Losing my mother & father at a young age made me strong and independent. I did not have the luxury of mom and dad’s help to pay for college or law school. I worked full time in the construction industry while pursuing my education, and the construction work paid the bills while pursuing the dream of a music career.

Dealing with contracts in both the music industry as a working musician, and the construction industry as a carpenter, a contractor, and an owner’s representative, has given me good insight into drafting contract language that better addresses the most important needs of the parties.

What do you like best about your career?

Working with young musicians who are starting on the first big steps of a career in music. I love seeing the passion for their art and the stars in their eyes as they venture into a really exciting and changing world of music.



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