by Dan Kimpel
At what point should a songwriter, artist or producer contact you to become involved in their career?
HY: When they have done a sufficient amount of development themselves and they now need to handle the business aspect of their creative career. For example when there’s a contract that needs to be reviewed and negotiated, and it is essential for them to achieve the best terms with someone experienced negotiating on their behalf.
Do you shop artists and songwriters for deals?
HY: I really don’t because I’m a lawyer, not an A&R person or a manager. Most of the other people I deal with, being a lawyer, are other lawyers. And contrary to popular opinion A&R does not generate from the legal department. If I had amazing ears I wouldn’t be a lawyer – I’d be doing something else! My job is helping commerce merge with the art: I handle the commerce aspect so the creatives can go on and create while the other aspects are being taken care of.
What is the common ground for your client roster?
HY: All of my clients are incredibly talented and exceptionally good people. It’s often said ‘You never want to mix friendship and business.’ For me, it’s all about friendship and business, it’s all personal. There’s nobody I work with that I don’t want to work with, that I don’t have a personal relationship and a friendship with. If I don’t have that relationship with them it makes it more difficult. Because you want to see your friends do well, and you’ll do anything to help them. The old adage of ‘You can’t mix friends with business’ is not something I live by.
How are your fees structured?
HY: Fees are structured one of two ways. Lawyers are typically paid on a retainer, which is a deposit basis against an hourly rate. In entertainment often things are done on a percentage basis, part of bringing in that deal. It depends on what’s going on, what the matter is. We will typically do it on a retainer basis, an hourly, or a percentage.
What types of changes do you see in the business, and how can creative people prepare themselves?
HY: I think we need to break entertainment down into four separate sections: music business, television, film and this whole new media business that is comprised of Internet, games and audio books for the Internet. Each of the businesses is doing something different. You can’t prepare for the future. The most important thing for creative people is to not get bogged down in the business, to take opportunities, and to keep their eye on the ball. The ball is the creative vision. If you are doing something that’s unique and creative and you have the right business people in place, you will be successful.
What would you describe as your proudest career moment?
HY: There are so many – I might have done a small to medium sized publishing deal for a writer who was big in the Seventies and lost his way, but with this deal he was able to buy a home for his family. Or it may be a multi-million dollar record deal for a brand new artist. Both of these will change their lives, but they’re both equally important in different ways.
What misconceptions do you commonly encounter concerning your role as an attorney?
HY: Most people think that the attorney is someone who goes out and shops on spec, makes connections, gets music to A& and pitches to film and television. It’s simply not the case. If you’re an attorney, and you’re a credible attorney, you’re too busy being a lawyer to be going around working on spec.
What is your life’s philosophy, and how does this influence your business?
HY: Whatever you do you have to have a passion for. You have to love it everyday enough to get up and do it whether or not you’re being paid for it. If you continue to live your life in that way, success will naturally come to you.