By: Rebecca Rechtszaid
On Friday, October 26, 2018 the Recording Artists Project (RAP) at Harvard Law School (HLS) celebrated its 20th anniversary by hosting Donald S. Passman, an HLS alumnus and author of the music industry bible, All You Need to Know About the Music Business. Mr. Passman is one of the most respected and well-known attorneys in the music business. Mr. Passman is a partner at Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman where he represents some of music’s true rock stars, including Adele, Taylor Swift, Green Day, Paul Simon, and Stevie Wonder.
For those of us who came to law school determined to practice in the music and entertainment industry, getting to meet a legend like Mr. Passman is a dream come true. Throughout the event, students from HLS and other schools that partner with the Recording Artists Project told Mr. Passman how reading his book inspired them to attend law school or otherwise confirmed their decision to pursue a career in the music industry. Mr. Passman went over the basics of music law for the first half of the event: discussing copyright, royalty streams, and the most common types of agreements that artists enter into in the music industry. He then took questions from the roughly 70 attendees, which ranged from questions about his experiences as a music lawyer to his thoughts on how new technologies will change how musicians make money and interact with their audiences.
Mr. Passman also talked about how, when he attended Harvard, there were no entertainment-focused classes or student groups. We are fortunate now to have a few, including the Recording Artists Project and the Transactional Law Clinics’ Entertainment Law Clinic. Speaking about his practice, Mr. Passman discussed the importance of being able to take the music industry’s complicated concepts and explain them to artists in clear and concise language. He also touched on some new developments in the industry, like the recently-passed Music Modernization Act and the exercise of copyright transfer terminations under Section 203 of the Copyright Act, and how he thinks they might change the industry in the coming years.
Harvard Law School’s alumni network in the entertainment and music community is fiercely dedicated to the cultivation of young legal talent in the industry. Mr. Passman’s generosity in flying out from Los Angeles to speak to our organization shows the lengths that our alumni will go to help students who are truly passionate about pursuing a career in music law. We look forward to seeing the Recording Artists Project continue to grow and strengthen as it enters its next 20 years.