Gods, Gangsters And Lawyers

Those who believe lawyers continually vie with journalists and real estate agents to be considered lowest of the low may hear another point of view at The Great Escape in Brighton, England.

On the second day of Brighton’s annual music conference and showcase festival, music business lawyer Steven Machat will explain how attorneys working directly with artists will stick with them through the good times and the bad.

Machat, the son of the legendary U.S. showbiz lawyer Marty Machat, was born into a family legal business already working with the likes of Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Frankie Valli and Sam Cooke.

It’s all detailed in his recently published memoirs, “Gods, Gangsters And Honour,” along with episodes from his own career including stints working for Seal, Donnie Osmond and Bobby Brown.

For those who think of lawyers as grey suits who spend their days scrutinising weighty music industry contracts, the book has tales of gangsters shaking down label bosses, label bosses screwing foreign record companies, stupid musicians, brilliant businessmen and some of the biggest stars of the last 40 years.

Machat will be interviewed by Chris Cooke, a music industry journalist and founder and business editor of the free e-bulletin CMU Daily.

Later there will be the chance for other lawyers to have their say when Helen Searle, who has worked for Jamiroquai, The Prodigy, Seal, Nigel Kennedy, and Moby, among others, will talk to Ben Challis (3A Ents), Trevor Gale (SESAC), Dean Marsh (Creative Law & Business) and Saranne Reid (Acumen Business Law) about the current legal issues for the music industry.

The panel boasts that it’s assembled enough brains and legal talent to answer questions about copyright, contracts, licensing and so forth that possibly in the future it may save TGE delegates “millions of dollars and an ulcer.”
On the first day of the conference Cooke, will talk to HMV chief exec Simon Fox, who has diversified the music retailer into running live music venues and selling tickets for shows.

Its recent purchase of MAMA Group further expanded HMV’s music business interests to include running festivals, artist management, merchandising and brand partnerships.

Cooke will ask Fox why the company chose to diversify, how its various divisions will work together, and what the future holds for HMV as a multi-channel retailer and a 360-degree enterprise.

Cooke’s final stint will be on the third day when he’ll interview Association Of Independent Music chief exec Alison Wenham about what the future holds for indie labels and what they can do to combat Internet piracy.

The other panel sessions at The Great Escape May 13-15 include PRS for Music economist Chris Carey’s guide to key market movements from the last year, covering recorded and live music as well as business-to-business revenues including PRS, PPL, publishing, advertising and sponsorship.

The wide-ranging list of conference topics also include the Digital Economy Bill and the relationship between the music industry and ISPs, the possibilities for future collaborations between the industry and both national and local government, and the almost requisite discussion on what can be done about the closure of BBC Radio 6.

The panels relating to the live music business cover the different ways that local authorities interpret and enforce noise regulations, the importance of exclusivity to the festival industry, and the cooperation between promoters, artists, managers, agents and others and how it’s essential to the development of what is now most artists’ primary income stream.

Rob Challice from the UK’s CODA Agency will be talking to Windish Agency founder Tom Windish.

The booking agency he founded in Chicago in 2004 has recently opened a second office in New York and also retains employees and associates in Los Angeles.

Ensuring the lawyers don’t get to do all the talking, former NME writer John Harris and former A&R man John Niven will discuss the overlapping worlds of A&R and music journalism.

Harris is now a contributor to, amongst others, Mojo, Q and the Guardian. Since Niven quit A&R, he’s written “Kill Your Friends,” a novel drawing on his experiences during his 10-year career working with labels.

Observer Music Monthly and Q writer Garry Mulholland will be trying to get the best out of them.

In another session veteran rock writer Nick Kent, the 2002 winner of the NME’s “Godlike Genius Award,” will detail his 30-year career. He’s a contributor to the Guardian, The Times, Liberation, Mojo and GQ.

The best-known acts on the three-day showcase include Ellie Goulding, Band Of Skulls, Bettie Serveert, Blood Red Shoes, Marina & The Diamonds, Broken Social Scene, Cosmo Jarvis, Groove Armada, Rolo Tomassi, The Walkmen, Ed Harcourt, and The Fiery Furnaces.