Meet Music Attorney and Adjunct Professor in The Butler School of Music

Edward Fair has been a practicing music and entertainment attorney for more than 25 years and has represented clients in all phases of the music business. He teaches students at The Butler School of Music about music copyright and publishing.



Photo Credit: Clara Patt

Longhorn Life sat down with Edward Fair, a practicing music and entertainment attorney in Austin, who is also an adjunct professor in the Butler School of Music and the School of Law at UT to talk about the evolving music business in the age of new media, challenges being faced by the music industry and music copyright issues.

Longhorn Life: How has the music business evolved from the time you stepped in to now?

Edward Fair: When I stepped into the music industry, we were evolving into the period of compact discs. The Internet has created a huge impact on the music business because it has changed the way people consume and acquire their music. It completely changed the way record companies operate. The companies changed the type of deals that they were entering into with artists, and the Internet also became a factor for whether artists would continue to sign agreements with record labels or would they now become independent artists.

LL: How has the role of the attorney changed over the years and what responsibilities does a music attorney have towards artists?

EF: When the music business changes then the legal aspects of the music business change. If a music attorney is going to do the right thing then he or she needs to keep up with all of those changes. You have to constantly try to educate yourself about what those changes are, not just so that you can explain them to your client but also because you are going to have to negotiate deals on the behalf of your client. We are now operating in a different fashion. We are not just attorneys but also consultants and business advisors. Sometimes artists have their own record labels, so we as attorneys have to step beyond what we have been trained to do, and just sell good, sound business advice.

LL: Which asset is the most important to protect in the music business?

EF: Copyrights are an important right to protect in the music business and right behind that are trademarks. Protection of copyright is extremely important. Before you put your name on an agreement, you need to have somebody take a look at it. If you signed some agreement that you didn’t understand, stupidity is not a defense.

LL: When does an artist need to hire an attorney?

EF: Artists certainly need an attorney very early in the process because the attorney is the person who is really going to be totally and unilaterally on the side of the artist.

LL: What are some of the things artists need to look for in an attorney before they hire one?

EF: There is no selection process for entertainment attorneys and music attorneys. We don’t have to do anything except pass the bar. I could have walked out of law school and I could have hung up a sign that said I’m a music attorney. If an artist or a record company is looking for an outside attorney they need to do some due diligence. They should do some background research and check to see how long the attorney has been in practice. Especially if you are in Texas, you can ask around.