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Billboard’s 2024 Top Music Lawyers Revealed

Billboard’s 2024 Top Music Lawyers Revealed

Nominated by their firms and peers, and chosen by our editors, Billboard‘s 2024 Top Music Lawyers list comprises the attorneys guiding superstars and industry-driving companies — led by lawyer of the year Christine Lepera.


Christine Lepera: Billboard’s 2024 Lawyer of the Year


Negotiating recording deals, global tours and catalog sales, their legal savvy drives the music business. And this year, they have much advice to offer on the rise of generative artificial intelligence.

Lawyer of the Year

Christine Lepera might be one of the country’s top music litigators, but decades ago, she wasn’t even sure she still wanted to be a lawyer at all.

In 1986, just a few years after she graduated law school, she was working at a New York firm where she was “dissatisfied” and, like many young attorneys, faced existential questions about her chosen career path.

“I never intended to be a music lawyer, and after four years at a corporate firm on Wall Street, I was basically ready to quit the law entirely,” she recalls with a laugh.

Today, that’s hard to imagine. Lepera — who is chair of the music litigation group at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp (MSK) — for years has been one of the music industry’s go-to trial lawyers.

To read the full profile on Lawyer of the Year Christine Lepera, click here.

Music Groups

Jeff Harleston
General counsel/executive vp of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Saheli Datta
Executive vp/chief compliance officer and employment, Universal Music Group
Rob Femia
Executive vp of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Nashville
Steve Gawley
Executive vp of business and legal affairs and East Coast label business development, Universal Music Group
Nicola Levy
Executive vp of digital business affairs, Universal Music Group
Alasdair McMullan
Executive vp of business and legal affairs/head of litigation, Universal Music Group
Michael Seltzer
Executive vp/head of commercial transactions for business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Magda Vives
Executive vp of business and legal affairs for Latin America and Iberian Peninsula, Universal Music Latin America

In the current music industry climate, UMG’s legal team stays focused on efforts “to defend and protect the rights of our artists, songwriters and music publishing company” from generative artificial intelligence (AI) companies like Anthropic, which it sued in November over “unlawful ingestion, appropriation and infringement of legally protected works as well as the appropriation of the culture and unique identity of our songwriters,” Harleston says. “[AI] is remarkable technology and can potentially enhance the creative process. However, it should only be deployed with the consent and in the service of the artist.”

Most pressing issue: “Eliminating fraudulent tracks and nonmusic sounds from the music streaming platforms,” Harleston says, “allowing for a more ‘artist-­centric’ experience for creators and fans.”

Paul Robinson
Executive vp/general counsel, Warner Music Group
Brad Cohen
Senior vp/head of litigation/associate general counsel, Warner Music Group
Jon Glass
Senior vp/head of digital legal affairs, Warner Music Group
Michael Kushner
Senior vp/deputy general counsel, business and legal affairs, Warner Music Group
Maryrose Maness
Senior vp/deputy general counsel, Warner Music Group
Trent Tappe
Senior vp/deputy general counsel/chief compliance officer, Warner Music Group
Dana Sheahan
Vp/head of mergers and acquisitions of corporate legal, Warner Music Group

WMG, along with attorneys from Pryor Cashman, prevailed on behalf of Ed Sheeran in the copyright lawsuit over whether Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” a No. 2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2015, copied Marvin Gaye’s 1973 classic “Let’s Get It On.” Robinson says the case is an example of the importance of the company’s dedication to “defend[ing] the rights of our artists and songwriters.” But the music group is also focused on boosting the value of those rights and music in general: “In a world where more than 100,000 new tracks are being uploaded to streaming services every day,” he says, “the most pressing issue is enhancing the value of the music of artists and songwriters such as ours that drives engagement on these services.”

In May 2023, Ed Sheeran won a copyright case confirming that his 2015 hit “Thinking Out Loud” did not infringe Marvin Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get It On,” a victory for the legal teams at Warner Music Group and law firm Pryor Cashman.

Julie Swidler
Executive vp of business affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Stu Bondell
Executive vp of business and legal affairs for international, Sony Music Entertainment
Wade Leak
Executive vp/deputy general counsel/chief compliance, ethics and privacy officer, Sony Music Entertainment
Susan Meisel
Executive vp/corporate deputy general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Jeff Walker
Executive vp/head of business and legal affairs for global digital business, Sony Music Entertainment
Jennifer Womack
Senior vp of business and legal affairs for film, television and podcasts, Sony Music Entertainment

As streaming growth in the world’s biggest markets begins to slow, SME’s legal team is working to keep expanding the company’s opportunities around the world and in new sectors, particularly gaming and social media. “Our team works globally across Sony Music to offer legal support systems that help our labels and divisions reach their creative and commercial goals,” Swidler says. “We are focused on working to ensure that there are proper rights environments and deal frameworks that can support commercial activity and greater partnership expansion opportunities across platforms where music content is core to their customer experience.”

Advice on AI: “When AI companies want to use our artists’ voices and music,” Swidler says, “they must seek permission and make sure that there is a proper business plan to pay all those in the music ecosystem that contributed to this music.”


Eve Konstan
General counsel, Spotify
Kevan Choset
Vp/associate general counsel/head of legal strategy, Spotify
Darren Schmidt
Associate general counsel/global head of record label licensing, Spotify
Sofia Sheppard
Associate general counsel/global head of licensing and business development, Spotify

Spotify has 602 million active monthly users but has posted inconsistent profits. That could change after Konstan and her team helped build an audiobooks business, fought Apple for better in-app payment terms and secured rights to podcasts such as Trevor Noah’s What Now? Spotify’s health is crucial, considering it’s the single largest source of music royalties — $9 billion in 2023 alone. That responsibility isn’t lost on Konstan. “The most pressing issue facing the music industry today,” she says, “is growing the total pie of listeners and revenue to ensure more artists are able to live off their work.”

Advice on AI: “Whatever we think about the state of AI and its legal treatment,” Konstan says, “it’s important to stay nimble and try to think several steps out because things may change fast.”

Jon Kurland
Executive vp of business affairs and chief entertainment counsel, iHeartMedia

Over the past year, music fans have tuned in to some of their favorite artists’ live performances in part because of Kurland’s work to expand iHeartMedia’s platform partnerships. In addition to the iHeartRadio Music Festival shifting its distribution partner to Hulu, enabling a livestream after years of cable broadcasts, Kurland helped iHeart partner with Meta for its expanded Horizon Worlds virtual reality concert experiences, as well as showcasing an immersive Ed Sheeran performance in Fortnite. “Fans are spending increasing amounts of time in virtual and interactive spaces, a factor which was only accelerated by the pandemic,” Kurland says. “At iHeart, we are committed to reaching listeners wherever they are.”

Most pressing issue: “As the music industry achieves unprecedented growth, it will continue to be important for stakeholders to work in concert to achieve meaningful service profitability while also adequately compensating artists and other rights holders.”

Antonious Porch
General counsel/chief diversity officer, SoundCloud
Ama Walton
Senior vp of music licensing/deputy general counsel, SoundCloud

SoundCloud finalized a global licensing deal with Merlin in 2023 that lets Merlin members and their artists participate in SoundCloud’s Fan-Powered Royalties model, “a trailblazing alternative to the traditional pro rata model to pay artists equitably,” Walton says. “The Merlin deal seamlessly integrates with the SoundCloud initiative First Fans, leveraging SoundCloud’s robust recommendation algorithms to amplify exposure for new uploads, ensuring both artists and listeners alike discover and engage with fresh content.” Importantly, Walton adds, the integration also brings fans and creators together at scale and helps artists find their audience, which is something she says is “close to my heart.”

Most pressing issue: “The economic model behind streaming needs fixing. Most artists don’t make an adequate living income despite the consistent demand for streaming,” Walton says. “Fair remuneration and transparency are crucial to … the future of music.”

Robert Windom
Chief counsel, content and services, Apple
Elizabeth Miles
Senior legal director, Apple Music

The legal team at Apple Music helped support the company’s big expansion into classical music, which last year included the launch of the Classical app in March and then the acquisition of Swedish classical label BIS in September. “In addition to the product counseling, deals and [mergers and acquisitions] support our team performed for the acquisition and new product launch, we had a chance to learn about the customs and practices of the classical music business, which can be quite different than in other genres and may date back to long before Apple existed,” Windom says. “It’s really thrilling to bring the full power of streaming to this important category of our music culture.”

If I quit law, I would: “Be a musician, of course,” Windom says.

Stephen Worth
Head of legal/associate general counsel, Amazon Music
Cyrus Afshar
Nicolas Gauss

Associate general counsels/directors, Amazon Music
Jon Cohen
Senior corporate counsel, Amazon Music

During the past year, Worth has seen Amazon Music collaborate with artists, labels and managers to cultivate a “next-generation” approach to tour merchandise. Through partnerships with artists such as Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Doja Cat and Rauw Alejandro, Amazon Music has expanded the concept of purchasing tour merch to encompass fans buying merch in venues to be shipped to their homes. The returns were immediate, with the exclusive, online Renaissance-themed Beyoncé merch capsule breaking the Amazon Music record for first-day sales from an artist collaboration. Successes like these have only made Worth even more “excited about what [Amazon Music] has planned for 2024.”

If I quit law, I would: “Volunteer as a mountain guide,” Worth says, “giving skiers tours of a ski area in the winter and helping backpackers explore the backcountry during the summer.”


Michael Rowles
General counsel, Live Nation

Rowles spent much of the past year working on ticketing legislation following the major disruptions that affected Ticketmaster during Taylor Swift’s problem-plagued ticket sale in 2022. “Live Nation led the industry by moving to all-in pricing at our owned and operated venues and festivals so that fans see the total cost of the ticket upfront,” Rowles says. “All-in pricing is one of many ticketing reforms we and a broad industry coalition are calling for as part of our FAIR Ticketing platform.” The company, according to Rowles, is also seeking reforms to protect fans and empower artists, including a ban on speculative ticketing, stronger enforcement of the Better Online Ticketing Sales Act and giving artists control over resales. “You’ll see us and a broad industry coalition advocating for ticketing reforms that protect the artist-fan connection,” Rowles says.

Shawn Trell
Executive vp/COO/general counsel, AEG Presents

The last year has yielded more major milestones for AEG’s top attorney as the company’s global touring division keeps expanding its footprint. “It has been among the most significant experiences of my career to have been involved in the single most successful tour in music history — Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour,” Trell says. The trek, which will reach Europe this spring, is poised to become the highest-grossing global tour of all time by the time it wraps in December. “So many people across AEG Presents all around the globe have contributed to the execution and success of that tour,” Trell says. “That effort has truly highlighted the strength of this company and the collaborative work environment that exists here among our touring teams in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia.”

The international reach of Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour benefited from the global legal support of AEG Presents.


Peter Brodsky
Executive vp of business and legal affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Publishing
Michael Abitbol
Senior vp/head of U.S. digital, Sony Music Publishing
Nicole Giacco
Jonas Kant

Senior vps of business and legal affairs, Sony Music Publishing

The legal minds at SMP are ensuring it remains the industry’s largest publisher by inking new writers and extending the contracts of established talent. Kant says the team is especially proud of contract renewals for Usher, Tyler, The Creator, Sara Bareilles, System of a Down, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Warren “Pete” Moore. In addition, the legal team worked closely with top studio clients like Apple TV+, Sony Pictures and Shaftesbury Films. And it is leading SMP into the AI age, spearheading its strategy for the emerging technology and how the company can protect its copyrights. “We must embrace the creative opportunities AI affords,” Kant says, “but we must also ensure that it does not come at the expense of respecting songwriters and their copyrights.”

Most pressing issue: “Educating, mentoring and making our business more approachable and transparent,” Kant says.

Michael Petersen
Senior vp of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group
Don Glista
Vp of business and legal affairs and creative affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group
Kerrigan Hennings
Ira Hoffman

Vps of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group
Angelica Merida
Vp of business and legal affairs, international and digital development, Universal Music Publishing Group

The business and legal affairs team at UMPG is fighting for the value of music. Earlier this year, Universal Music Group — including UMPG — let its contract with TikTok lapse, effectively pulling millions of musical works and sound recordings from the platform in an effort to gain better remuneration for music. Hennings says, “Reforming royalty payment structures in the social media space to properly recognize the value that music brings to those platforms” is the most pressing issue facing the business, and his team is boldly leading the charge. UMPG’s attorneys have also kept busy signing a number of new stars to the roster, including Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey, Wallows and Maggie Rogers. “Everyone we sign brings a unique value to our roster,” Hennings says, “and strengthens our reputation as the premier songwriters-first publishing company.”

Peter Rosenthal
Executive vp/global head of legal and business affairs, Warner Chappell Music
Steve Butler
Head of legal and business affairs for North America, Warner Chappell Music
Chris Head
Tim Meade

Senior vps of legal and business affairs, Warner Chappell Music

The attorneys at Warner Chappell Music have had a lot to celebrate this year. “We’ve continued our tireless advocacy for songwriters across multiple fronts,” Rosenthal says, “from our involvement with the Copyright Royalty Board ­Phonorecords IV settlement — which secured the world’s highest streaming rates to date — to proposed rulemaking by the U.S. Copyright Office on the Mechanical Licensing Collective’s distribution of royalties.” Rosenthal and his team are also proud to have drawn up the contracts for its roster’s new signees, from legends like Mick Jones, Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg and Burton Cummings to current stars like Morgan Wallen, 21 Savage, Zach Bryan, Coco Jones, Maria Becerra, Laufey and Yng Lvcas.

Most pressing issue: “Continuing to enhance the engagement and value of music,” Rosenthal says, “amid the ever-­increasing competition for people’s time, attention and entertainment budgets.”


Christos Badavas
Executive vp/general counsel, SESAC Music Group

In March 2023, the acquisition of the analytics, content management and distribution platform AudioSalad solidified SESAC as “a comprehensive music services platform that can administer rights and distribute music on behalf of independent publishers and labels worldwide,” Badavas says. Regarding the rise of AI, he says the technology “will not replace human expression and artistry that speaks to people. Focus on how your music connects uniquely with people as AI is adopted and leverage [its power] to drive efficiencies in licensing and rights management for your works.”

Most pressing issue: “The barriers to entry for the creation and distribution of music have lowered dramatically. While this has democratized who can write, record and release music, it has also led to oversaturation. As a result, breaking through the noise is a huge challenge.”

Tim Dadson
General counsel, SoundExchange

Dadson cites SoundExchange’s $150 million suit against SiriusXM over unpaid royalties as “one of the best examples” of how the organization — the designated administrator of the compulsory license outlined in Section 114 of the U.S. Copyright Act — “enforces the terms that govern licensees’ use of creators’ work.” SoundExchange accused the satellite giant of using “contrived” methods to underpay royalties owed to artists. (SiriusXM has denied the allegations, stating they were based on a “flawed and biased examination.”) “While we’d prefer to find business solutions,” Dadson says, “we will use all means at our disposal to ensure that creators are paid every cent they are owed.”

Advice on AI: “Engage with your representatives locally and nationally to ensure that creators’ rights are at the center of any proposed rulemaking or legislation around artificial intelligence.”

Kristen Johns
Chief legal officer, Mechanical Licensing Collective

The final mechanical royalty rate determination for interactive streaming for the period of Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2022, published by the Copyright Royalty Board in August 2023, was “a significant development for not only the MLC as the sole entity tasked with administering blanket mechanical licenses for eligible streaming and download services in the United States, but also for the music industry as a whole,” Johns says. Songwriters and publishers are due nearly $400 million in additional payouts following the determination, according to information released by the MLC. “The deadline to provide adjusted data and corresponding royalty payments was Feb. 9,” Johns says.

Most pressing issue: “The necessity for accurate data reporting. Accurate and transparent data practices ensure that copyright owners and creators are paid for their work.”

Clara Kim
Executive vp/chief legal and business affairs officer, ASCAP

Addressing the issues raised by AI has been a priority for more than a year, Kim says. “In November, we submitted an extensive set of comments to the U.S. Copyright Office in response to their notice of inquiry on AI to help policymakers understand the stakes for music creators.” In June, Kim adds, the ASCAP board of directors adopted six guiding principles regarding AI: human creators first, transparency, consent, compensation, credit and global consistency. The transparency principle is another priority while moving forward: “ASCAP’s distribution rules, governing documents and awards show rules are all publicly posted … and ASCAP members have 24/7 access to their performance royalty information,” she says, adding that ASCAP and BMI’s Songview provides performing rights data for their combined repertories. “We believe the entire industry has to provide more transparency to songwriters for the system to work fairly and efficiently.”

Stuart Rosen
Senior vp/chief legal officer, BMI

BMI, which closed its sale to Big Mountain Capital in February, had two high-profile legal victories in 2023. “BMI prevailed against AEG, Live Nation and the North American Concert Promoters Association,” Rosen says. “As a result, BMI affiliates will receive a rate 138% higher than the historical rate and an expanded revenue base.” The decision is on appeal. BMI also fended off what Rosen called the Radio Music Licensing Committee’s “unprecedented and improper” joint rate proceeding against BMI and ASCAP.

Most pressing issue: “Ensuring that businesses that use music understand and recognize the full value of what music creators bring to their industries. While it’s a never-ending challenge, BMI is always ready to advocate for our songwriters, composers and music publishers so they’re fairly compensated and valued for their essential contributions to the many industries that benefit from their creations.”

Emio Zizza
General counsel, Global Music Rights

The powerhouse sibling duo of Billie Eilish and FINNEAS won the Academy Award for best original song on March 10 for “What Was I Made For?” from the film Barbie, a month after the composition earned them two Grammys — and they previously sought performing rights royalties to match their creative stature by signing with Global Music Rights. “For over a decade, it has been GMR’s express mission to ensure that superstar creatives are paid superstar rates,” Zizza says. “However, the industry at large needs to go much further in order to properly recognize the outsize value brought by the most popular artists to every sector of music.” GMR, a division of The Azoff Company, has also recently signed YoungBoy Never Broke Again, the estate of George Michael, The Black Keys and Bel-Air composer Jacob Yoffee.


Danielle Aguirre
Executive vp/general counsel, National Music Publishers’ Association

Social media companies have shed their reputation as licensing backwaters and engaged with music rights holders — with one notable exception: the platform formally known as Twitter, now known as X. That impasse could change after the $250 million copyright infringement lawsuit that 17 music publishers brought against the company in a Tennessee federal court in June 2023. “Twitter was one of the last, largest digital companies that refused to license music despite benefiting from a substantial amount of music on its platform,” Aguirre says. “It was time to hold Twitter to account, and NMPA spent over a year developing evidence to demonstrate Twitter’s massive copyright infringement.”

Advice on AI: “Educate yourself about how generative AI works. Understand how your copyrights are being used by generative AI companies, and don’t be afraid to protect your copyrights where necessary.”

Ken Doroshow
Chief legal officer, RIAA

In April 2023, “Heart on My Sleeve,” a song written and produced by TikTok user ghostwriter977 and performed by AI-generated replicas of the voices of Drake and The Weeknd, set off alarms in the music industry. By the following month, Doroshow was speaking at one of the first formal proceedings — a U.S. Copyright Office “listening session” — dedicated to the issue of protecting artists from nefarious uses of generative AI. “My team has done dozens of filings, meetings and briefings across the executive and legislative branches as well as in state capitols,” Doroshow says. “[We’re] laying down an intellectual architecture for the ethical development of AI in ways that promote human creativity and maximize the benefits of responsible AI for all.”

If I quit law, I would: “Play my guitar all day and night.”

Ryan McWhinnie
Vp of business and legal affairs, Merlin

A key to McWhinnie’s work at digital licensing firm Merlin is finding new approaches to the pro rata royalty model with his streaming partners that will drive more value to music creators while ensuring appropriate protections. Whether it’s Deezer’s “artist-centric” royalty distribution system, Spotify’s new “track monetization” approach or SoundCloud’s Fan-Powered Royalties model, McWhinnie says his role is to “ensure that these initiatives accrue to the benefit of our members, their artists and the incredible music they create while ensuring that these moves do not disintermediate independents.”

Most pressing issue: “Tackling artificial streaming and fraudulent content is an incredibly important issue facing our industry. At Merlin, we are laser-focused and deploying significant resources on doing all we can to combat these corrosive issues, which penalize legitimate actors and pull monies away from artists and the rights holders who invest in their careers.”

Talent & Litigation

Kenneth J. Abdo
Paul N. Bowles III
Cynthia L. Katz
Tim Mandelbaum
Michael L. Reinert
Leron E. Rogers
Alex Threadgold
Heidy Vaquerano

Partners, Fox Rothschild

Among the firm’s deep roster of clients are 10K Projects, Berry Gordy, Cash Money Records, Coco Jones, the estates of Bill Withers and Muddy Waters, HarbourView Equity Partners, Mötley Crüe, Primary Wave, Roberta Flack, Stevie Wonder, Trace Adkins and Kool & The Gang. Abdo negotiated the 2021 release of Perfect Union, the last Kool & The Gang album to involve, at that time, the surviving four of the original five members. Abdo also represented Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe on the sale of his publishing catalog to BMG and closed the deal for his first solo album, The Other Side of Mars (Megaforce Records). He led the closing team for BMG Rights on 12 catalog acquisitions.

Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe sold his publishing catalog to BMG in a deal negotiated by Ken Abdo of Fox Rothschild.

Gary Adelman
Sarah M. Matz

Partners, Adelman Matz

Adelman Matz specializes in the fashion and beauty brands for some of pop’s biggest names, including Justin Bieber’s Drew House line and Ariana Grande’s R.E.M. Beauty. In the past year, the company helped facilitate Drew House’s collaboration with the NHL on the jerseys for the 2024 All-Star Game held in Toronto and represented R.E.M. Beauty in its global intellectual property (IP) ownership and protection strategy. In 2022, alongside the law firm of Moore Pequignot, Adelman and Matz represented Cardi B in her successful defamation action against a gossip blogger. As a firm, Matz advises clients to “lean in” when it comes to AI, counseling that “the people and companies who do their best to embrace the technology in a manner that helps them … will be in the best position in the long run.”

Lisa Alter
Katie Baron

Partners, Alter Kendrick & Baron

Alter and Baron — whose clients include Primary Wave Music Publishing, BMG Rights Management, Iconic Artists Group and Reservoir Media Management — worked on multiple major transactions in recent months. The firm represented Primary Wave in acquiring a stake in recording, publishing and other rights for The Doors, BMG in the acquisition of The Hollies’ sound-recording rights and Influence Media Partners in its acquisition of the catalog of Enrique Iglesias in a reported nine-figure deal. Regarding AI, Alter says the firm is “pushing clients to explore the ways in which you can enhance the exploitation of your music assets in partnership with ethical AI ventures — including the creation of new or rerecorded material and the development of branding opportunities including holograms and other audiovisual productions or otherwise.” They’re also watching the declining share of English-language music worldwide, highlighting the need for international strategies for music publishers and rights holders.

Jonathan Altschul
Managing attorney, The Altschul Firm

In an increasingly global industry, Altschul has negotiated a partnership between Korea’s SM Entertainment and RCA Records tied to K-pop group RIIZE, announced in September, after doing the same for SM Entertainment with Warner Records for aespa in 2022. The latter was Warner Music Group’s first collaboration with a K-pop act, with the girl group earning three No. 1s on Billboard’s World Albums chart to date. He also worked on deals for the creators of as1one, the first boy band comprising Israeli and Palestinian musicians.

Advice on AI: “Fighting against the implementation of new technology that consumers want has always been a losing battle for the entertainment industry. The better approach is figuring out the best ways to monetize the new technology and provide fans with connections and experiences that AI cannot easily replace.”

Ken Anderson
Jill Berliner
Ray Garcia
Celeste Moy

Partners, Rimon

“With a practice that represents some of the music industry’s most iconic recording artists and songwriters” — including Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, Beck, The Chicks and Soundgarden — “as well as certain leading independent record companies and publishers, we have been able to empower established artists with the reversion of their sound recording and publishing copyrights and propelled new, talented artists on their career paths,” Garcia says. Last year, the firm represented Nirvana when an appeals court affirmed the dismissal of a copyright lawsuit regarding the band’s use of the 1949 illustration Upper Hell. The court deemed the lawsuit, brought by the heir of illustrator C.W. Scott-Giles, must be resolved in the United Kingdom.

If I quit law, I would: “Return to my former life as a rock journalist,” Garcia says.

Peter Anderson
Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine

Anderson, whose clients include Mariah Carey, The Weeknd, Taylor Swift, Normani and Sam Smith, scored a major victory for Smith and Normani and their co-writers in September when they prevailed in a copyright lawsuit against their 2019 hit, “Dancing With a Stranger”; the California judge dismissed the case. Three songwriters had alleged that the tune, which reached No. 7 on the Hot 100, copied their 2015 song of the same name. Anderson, who has over four decades of experience in copyright and entertainment litigation, also represents major labels Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group.

Most pressing issue: “The continued filing of copyright infringement cases based on the mere presence of commonplace musical building blocks, such as a few pitches, chords and commonplace lyrics.”

Marvin Arrington Jr.
Vincent Phillips

Founding partners, Arrington & Phillips
Aurielle Brooks
Junior partner, Arrington & Phillips

Whether it’s newcomers such as Sexyy Red and Rob49 (one of Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Artists To Watch in 2024) or seasoned artists like Keri Hilson and Bow Wow, Arrington & Phillips has advised them. Securing a major global touring deal for YoungBoy Never Broke Again with Live Nation for eight figures was no small feat. “This is monumental because this will be his first tour,” Phillips says. Other notable clients include Stevie J, Kevin Gates, That Chick Angel and Wolf Pack Global Music, home to Lil Baby.

Advice on AI: “Protect your IP,” Phillips says. “Make sure all of your label agreements, side-artist agreements, appearance waivers, etc., have language in them to protect yourself. Also, be diligent by further expanding your protections for your brand, name, image and likeness.”

YoungBoy Never Broke Again secured a global touring deal with Live Nation negotiated by Arrington & Phillips.

Craig Averill
Jeff Worob

Partners, Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill

The firm, which represents Maroon 5, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, Leon Bridges and Maggie Rogers, among others, recently navigated a corporate restructuring for Rostrum Records that included the acquisition of Fat Beats Distribution. Its work also resulted in the separation of Rostrum’s catalog business from its front-line business, as well as the creation of a new division working with other stand-alone legacy catalogs. Maroon 5’s Las Vegas residency continues at the Dolby Live, and Bridges further expanded his acting career as the lead in The Young Wife, an independent film that premiered at South by Southwest.

Advice on AI: “It will be hard to develop and retain a loyal fan base without the ‘humanity’ of a real-life recording artist,” Averill says. “Think Taylor Swift fans standing outside of a sold-out stadium to listen to her music from a parking lot. I don’t see that happening around an AI artist.”

Ed Baden Powell
Nick Eziefula
Paddy Gardiner
Ben Gisbey
Tom Iverson
Euan Lawson
Ed Weidman

Partners, Simkins

London-based Simkins represents clients ranging from Universal Music Group and rights organization PRS for Music to acts such as Iron Maiden, Becky Hill, Eliza Rose and the estate of David Bowie. The firm is also representing Experience Hendrix and Sony Music against posthumous royalty claims by the estates of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell. Lawson says the firm, which has been operating since 1962, also tries to help clients navigate shifting marketplace dynamics to develop “a sustainable and long-term career.” “The industry needs to continue to find ways to grow, but in a sustainable manner,” Lawson says, “ensuring that new talent is not overlooked in favor of catalog artists.”

If I quit law, I would: “Become a musician, of course,” Lawson says. “Although my talents — or lack of them — mean that giving up the day job is unlikely.”

Hector Baldonado
Founder, The Baldonado Group

Baldonado reports closing the sales of catalogs for eight-figure prices, renegotiating recording contracts for established artists and signing several new acts to major recording deals over the past year. His clients include the estate of Juice WRLD, which has had two posthumously released albums, Legends Never Die in 2020 and Fighting Demons in 2021, reach No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on the Billboard 200. He also represents Lil Durk, Rod Wave, Coi Leray, Trippie Redd and Moneybagg Yo, among others. One year ago, before AI became a hot topic, Baldonado flagged his “serious concern because of deepfakes and the possibility of copyright infringements.”

Most pressing issue: “Greater diversity at the high executive level. I would also like more financial literacy for recording artists.”

Andrew “Andy” Bart
Co-chair of content media and entertainment practice, Jenner & Block

In late 2022, Bart led a team that secured a $46.7 million verdict on behalf of Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. At issue was the failure of defendant Grande Communications Network, a Texas-based internet service provider, to address the massive pirating of copyrighted recordings by its users. The jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and ruled that Grande willfully contributed to the copyright violations by failing to act against subscribers who were repeat infringers. Bart calls the trial result “a resounding win for the music industry.”

Advice on AI: “I don’t believe that anyone knows where AI is going to take the industry five years from now. Having said that, the battle over whether content owners should be compensated for the use of their assets to train AI models is an existential one.”

Richard Baskind
Alasdair George

Partners, Simons Muirhead Burton

Working on a wide array of issues that concern artists, labels, publishers and more, London-based Simons Muirhead Burton provides its clients with a global perspective. Among the greatest challenges now, according to Baskind, is “the proliferation of channels and the sheer volume of new releases daily: How do you get your music to rise above the noise and be noticed? To answer this question, direct fan engagement is critical. Social media and the use of available and emerging technology are key to achieving and sustaining that base of support.” Among the firm’s major transactions during the past year have been the acquisition of Lil Peep’s recordings catalog for the late rapper’s estate and the sale of Arctic Rights Management — one of the largest independent publishers in Scandinavia — to peermusic.

David Beame
Brian Mencher

Founding partners, Beame & Mencher

Beame & Mencher are legal advisers to the music-driven international advocacy nonprofit Global Citizen, where Mencher is general counsel and Beame holds the position of vp of global events and experiences. In November, in partnership with Kendrick Lamar’s creative imprint, pgLang, Global Citizen announced Move Afrika, an international music touring circuit in Africa. The first music event, Move Afrika: Rwanda, was headlined by the Pulitzer Prize-winning artist in December. Mencher oversaw the legal and business affairs of launching Move Afrika, whose aim is to create jobs and other business opportunities on the continent. As part of his efforts, Mencher says he is also “building the broader blueprint for establishing a continentwide tour throughout Africa while helping upskill the local communities to host first-rate international touring artists for years to come.”

Kendrick Lamar’s creative imprint, pgLang, and Global Citizen, advised by Beame & Mencher, teamed up to announce an international touring circuit in Africa.

Jeffrey Becker
Chair of entertainment and media law practice group, Swansons Martin & Bell

“We are honored to work with a diverse array of talent,” says Becker, whose firm’s clients include Toosii, Natalie Jane, Shaquille O’Neal for his music projects as DJ Diesel, late rapper King Von and the estate of Frankie Knuckles. The firm also represents producers such as Dru DeCaro, whose production credits include “Money on the Dash” by Whethan and Elley Duhé, as well as Nick Henriques, who produced Crash Adams’ hit “Give Me a Kiss” and “If Only I” by Bebe Rexha, Loud Luxury and Two Friends. High points of the past year for the firm, Becker says, included signing deals for WesGhost with Columbia Records, Natalie Jane with Warner Chappell Music and C3 Presents, CIL with Warner Records and Ax and the Hatchetmen with Arista Records.

Audrey Benoualid
Eric Greenspan
Josh Karp
Jeffrey Light
Craig Marshall
Tamara Milagros-Butler
Robert Minzner
Francois Mobasser
Aaron Rosenberg

Partners, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light

The firm boasts an all-star roster of clients including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Disturbed, Common, Yeti Beats, RuPaul, Tate McRae, Deftones, Erykah Badu, Reach Records, Silversun Pickups, Brett McLaughlin, Jennifer Lopez — and Ariana Grande, whose first album since 2020, Eternal Sunshine, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. “In addition to some interesting catalog sales over the last 18 months,” Milagros-Butler says, “we’ve also had the pleasure of handling the agreement for Dead & Company to appear at the Sphere in Las Vegas, as well as [Jennifer Lopez’s] new recording and publishing deals with BMG. Handling the heavy legal lifting to get ready for the much-anticipated 2024 Khruangbin tour has also been a ball.”

Advice on AI: “Keep calm and create on,” Milagros-Butler says. “Don’t be afraid to explore AI as a tool, but maintain human connection. And stay vigilant about protecting your IP and original work.”

David Bercuson
Founder/president, David Bercuson

Bercuson worked on the inclusion of music for the recently released biopic Bob Marley: One Love and defended composers and producers who had worked with the artist Canserbero from litigation and “specious claims,” he says. The underground Venezuelan rapper has been in the spotlight after his death was reinvestigated last year and found to be a homicide instead of suicide. In addition, Bercuson, who also works with Farruko and InnerCat Music Group, among other notable clients, defended longtime client Harry Wayne Casey of KC & The Sunshine Band from protracted copyright claims.

Most pressing issue: “With respect to new and independent artists, the need to understand, exploit and utilize the digital ecosystem to promote, market and distribute their music and videos.”

Josh Binder
Jeremy Mohr
Paul Rothenberg

Founding partners, Rothenberg Mohr & Binder

The Beverly Hills, Calif., firm that represents such stars as Charlie Puth, Gunna, Logic and Chloe x Halle has also worked with client Top Dawg Entertainment’s TDE label to release SZA’s RCA blockbuster SOS and launch her accompanying tour. Binder says “free-flowing, unchecked misinformation” and the coming AI onslaught are concerning: “Artists are bombarded with misinformation” all the time, he says, “and are often left wondering what’s actually true, making it nearly impossible to determine the best direction. And watch out: AI is going to make things much more complicated.”

Most pressing issue: “The biggest dilemma facing recording artists is deciding which record partner to work with when faced with so many options,” Binder says. “Between self-releasing, pure distribution, label services and indie and major record labels, the value proposition of each partner is hard to determine.”

Jason Boyarski
David Fritz

Partners, Boyarski Fritz

Boyarski’s clients include the estates of Donny Hathaway and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, established superstars such as Marc Anthony and rising talents like JVKE and Maddie Zahm. For White’s estate, Boyarski negotiated a new administration deal with Sony Music Publishing and an agreement for a documentary about Earth, Wind & Fire and White’s life. He also guided Tainy’s signing to Republic Records and counseled JVKE on deals with AWAL and Kobalt, as well as brand partnerships with Bose, Walmart and Microsoft. For the producer duo Stargate, he cut a new joint-venture partnership with Pulse Music. And for NEON16, the company run by Tommy Mottola and Lex Borrero, he negotiated new publishing and distribution deals with Sony and a financing agreement with Firebird.

Most pressing issue: “Assuring that music creators are fairly compensated for music and that the tech platforms do not undervalue the power of the song,” Boyarski says.

Benjamin Brafman
President, Brafman & Associates

Brafman has been the go-to defense attorney for the rich and famous for about three decades, and while many of his peers have hung their jerseys in the rafters, the New York native shows no signs of slowing down, boasting a client roster that features hip-hop icons — Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Sean “Diddy” Combs — and nightlife royalty (Peter Gatien). The 75-year-old legal legend is making sure to stay on top of all the new threats that could possibly ensnare some of his clients — with the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal cases heading his list. (Legislation to prohibit the practice, the Restoring Artistic Protection Act, was reintroduced to Congress in April 2023.)

If I quit law, I would: “Be a writer or an entertainer — an actor or a comedian.”

John Branca
David Lande
David Byrnes

Partners, Ziffren Brittenham

Ziffren Brittenham handles all business transactions for a formidable array of superstars, from Beyoncé — for whom the firm negotiates business transactions including her Super Bowl ad for Verizon in which she teased the release of her latest album, Cowboy Carter — to Justin Timberlake, who just released a new album and announced a tour. In addition, the firm works with the Michael Jackson estate, which is developing a biopic of the legendary singer, and the Bee Gees, who also have a biopic in the works — Ridle

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Billboard’s 2024 Top Music Lawyers Revealed