This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Jay Cooper, Chairman - West Coast Entertainment Department, Greenberg Traurig, LLP.
As chairman of the entertainment department of the Los Angeles law firm Greenberg Traurig, Jay Cooper retains a remarkably balanced overview of creative and business interests for his clients.
A former professional musician, Cooper counsels such clients as Jerry Seinfeld, Katy Perry, Sheryl Crow and screenwriter David Seidler famous for writing the play and the screenplay for the film “The King's Speech,” for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay this year.
Cooper advises clients on such matters as management, label and music publishing agreements. He also oversees acquisitions and sales of catalogs; and deals with multi-media, internet, and intellectual property issues.
Furthermore, Cooper is recognized internationally as a leading expert on copyright law pertaining to music.
Cooper, who has a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University in Chicago, is the former president of both the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (since renamed the Recording Academy), and the California Copyright Conference.
He is also former Chairman of the American Bar Association Forum Committee on the Entertainment and Sports Industries.
Before beginning his law practice in 1956, Cooper worked with many of the major singers and bands of the day, including Frank Sinatra, Les Brown, Charlie Barnet, Perez Prado, Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, and Bobby Darin. He also played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for six years.
In 2009, in recognition of his six decade service to the American music community, the Grammy Foundation bestowed Cooper with the Entertainment Law Initiative Service Award.
I first heard about you in the ‘60s when you were representing well-known rock bands.
In the ‘60s, I represented the Monkees, the Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield. I represented Phil Spector for about 12 years, starting in the ‘60s, and also arranger Jack Nitzsche. I had that whole group of people. Then I was involved with Larry Spector, who was a business manager. He developed Ventana in Big Sur, a spectacular place. Larry represented Peter Fonda and Dennis Hooper. He brought them to me, and I made the “Easy Rider” deal. You know what the budget was for “Easy Rider?” $375,000 and they went over budget. It came in at $395,000.
The rumor was that Phil Spector put up some of the financing for “Easy Rider” so he was given a small part.
Phil didn’t put up for that one. The money was put up by Bert Schneider. His father (Abraham Schneider) ran Columbia Pictures. Peter and I went everywhere trying to shop this deal. Peter didn’t have anything written. He had this idea about these druggies who sold drugs, and went across the country on motorcycles. That was the story. Everybody turned it down, including (American International Pictures) Sam Arkoff who did all of the biker pictures. Then Peter was walking down Sunset Boulevard and ran into Bert Schneider, and told him his idea. Peter needed to go off to New Orleans to shoot the New Orleans’ sequence. Bert said, “Okay, here’s $25,000. Go ahead and do it.” Then they financed the balance of the picture.
You’re a pretty straight guy. What did you think when you saw the film?
I thought it was somewhat bizarre.
The New Orleans’ segment was shot first?
They went down there, and shot it quickly. When they came back, Peter and Dennis got into a gigantic fight because they had the wrong stop on the camera. It came out dark, and it wasn’t supposed to be. So they had a big fight that it was wrong, wrong, wrong. People loved the New Orleans’ scene even though that was not what they had in mind.
After “Easy Rider” you branched out from music to working in film as well?
Not long after that, I got a call from Talent Associates. Steve Binder was a fabulous television director. He had always wanted to do a label. He had talked to (TV producer) David Susskind (about it). The three owners of Talent Associates were David Susskind, Leonard Stern and Dan Melnick, and they had a television company going. Steve talked them into financing a label (Talent Associates Record Company, which launched the career of Seals & Crofts, and the Original Caste) and he asked if I would represent the label.
Then you got hired by Talent Associates for other work?
I guess they liked what I did because they asked me if I would start representing their shows. One of the shows was “Get Smart.” So I started doing the work on that. Another show they were going to do, and that I made the deal on was “McMillan & Wife.” I made the deal at Universal on that one. Then we did several (film) pictures. Then they did that Elvis Presley special (“Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special”) that Steve Binder directed. I did all of the work on that. So now, all of a sudden, I’m doing a lot of television work. I’m doing several movies because of Leonard Stern. He was a writer on “The Honeymooners” and was one of the creators of “Get Smart.” All of a sudden, I got involved in the movies that he was doing, and the television shows. So from that point in the late ‘60s, I got into all of that.
[Steve Binder grew up in Los Angeles, went to film school at the University of Southern California, and worked in radio during an ensuing Army stint. Later, he landed a job on NBC-TV’s “Hullabaloo” music show, and directed television specials for Leslie Uggams, and another with Petula Clark and Harry Belafonte.
After the Clark-Belafonte special, 26-year-old Binder got a call from Bob Finkel, an executive producer at NBC, to do an Elvis Presley special. Finkel wanted Binder to direct and co-produce it. Binder would go on to do TV shows with Mac Davis, Barry Manilow, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Michelle Kwan and others.]
The legal profession is currently being challenged by fewer major label artist signings, and smaller deal sizes. A tough time to be just a music lawyer?
I would say it would be a tougher time in music because there are fewer and fewer deals, and the deals that there are, the monies that are paid pursuant to those deals are much less; the royalties, and the advances are much less. As well, the record companies are encompassing—are grabbing--more rights, if you will. So yeah, it’s a tough time if you are just in the business of doing record deals, it’s a really tough time.
There are fewer deals around as labels’ 360 deals give them a cut of merchandise, touring and licensing revenue. Instead of making deals with four companies, an attorney is making a deal with just one company.
Have clients been demanding lower hourly fees and commissions?
I haven’t seen that. I think the general legal profession is finding that pressure. If you are representing corporations, the general counsels are very conscious of fees. They are asking for reduced rates. They are asking for flat fees. They are asking for caps. Generally, in the legal profession, there’s tremendous pressure on fees, yes. Is entertainment different than that? Maybe, slightly. I haven’t seen the tremendous pressure on the fees, but there is some of that, certainly.
The deals with major labels have become more complex.
They are a lot more complex, yes. Definitely a lot more complex. The reason they are a lot more complex is because record companies are asking for greater and greater rights. The other complexity is that records are being distributed in various ways that were virtually unknown 10 years ago. You’ve got iTunes that you didn’t have 10 years ago; and there’s the iPod; Android; records on Live365 (radio network); records on Pandora; and exploitation (of music) in video games. You’ve got exploitation in all kinds of different ways now.
In addition, you’ve got exploitation (of music) on television show, more so than probably in a long time. You’ve had exploitation in motion pictures. That still continues. So you have every type of exploitation. And you have exploitation of the recordings with greeting cards, and other merchandised items. Yeah, it’s all over the place.
It’s noteworthy that major labels took the breakage clause in older artist and production contracts and transferred it to a new media clause.
They did that for a long time. In the Allman Brothers’ case against Sony that was settled, they (the Allman Brothers) allege that on digital downloads that Sony was taking a new media deduction, and they were paying on 85%. It is interesting. That case was settled, but those are the allegations.
[The Allman Brothers Band recently settled a proposed class action case against Sony Music Entertainment. The Allman Brothers Band had alleged that Sony Music was not paying 50% of the net licensing and leasing income received from digital download stores, as the Brothers believed they are contractually obligated to.]
What is the potential impact of the recent appellate court ruling granting F.B.T. Productions a greater share of royalties from Eminem digital downloads and ringtones? Universal Music Group is saying that it isn’t a legal precedent.
I would disagree with that. I think that it is a legal precedent. The language that was raised there (in contracts) was very common to a lot of contracts. Not just Universal’s contracts, but that was common at that period of time in various contracts. In fact, someone has recently brought a class action suit on behalf of Rick James, so I think that it is precedent. Universal would like to tell you that it’s not precedent, but the court has basically said that language was clear and unambiguous, and that the digital sales fell within the class of licensing. It was clearly a license. That’s what they said, so I think that it is precedent.
Now, it is true that since 2003 or 2004, (when label contracts began to include specific language governing royalties for digital downloads) a lot of companies have since changed their contracts, and said that for digital downloads, “This is what we will pay you.” But certainly the contracts much before that didn’t say that. Basically, they talked about normal retail channels (in older contracts), and we all knew what normal retail channels meant. Normal retail channels were Tower Records, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and all of the other companies of that nature. (Contracts) said that other than normal retail channels, companies will pay for 50% for any records sold by their licensees.
Yes, I think it is precedent. Record companies will tell you that it’s not, but I believe firmly that it is. Actually, in 2003 or 2004, a number of us—24 attorney of us—sent a letter to all of the record companies—making that very claim which they all rejected, of course.
[There is considerable disagreement within the music industry over the potential impact of the recent appellate court ruling granting F.B.T. Productions a greater share of royalties from Eminem’s digital downloads and ringtones.
Label executives are maintaining that the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit only applies to the specific contract between Universal Music Group and F.B.T., and won't have any effect on other artist label contracts.
The dispute revolves around whether a music download should result in an artist royalty payment of 12%-20% of the retail price as for physical CDs, or if the download should be regarded as licensed revenue with the artist receiving a 50% royalty.
UMG has indicated it will seek a rehearing before a larger panel of Ninth Circuit judges.
Meanwhile, the Rick James estate has filed a class action lawsuit against Universal Music Group seeking damages for what it alleges are unpaid royalties for the sale of music through digital downloads and ringtones.]
Heritage acts have often been successful in opening contracts.
That’s true. Of course, it goes back to Peggy Lee’s case against Disney over “Lady and the Tramp.” Disney put it out as a video, and she said, “No, no no. You have to pay, man," and the court said, “yep.”
[In 1991, singer Peggy Lee, who had earned $3,500 for her six-song and voice contributions to the 1955 animated Disney film “Lady and the Tramp,” was awarded $3.8 million by a Los Angeles jury. Her contract with the Walt Disney Company, which had made about $35 million from video cassette sales of the animated classic, was written long before videos. At the time of its theatrical release, the film took in a higher figure than any other Disney animated feature since “Snow White.”]
With newer technology, rights are often unclear.
It is because it is very difficult to anticipate future technology. Did anybody in 1990 anticipate Napster? Or did we anticipate the internet the way it is? Or the way that records are being distributed today? Or music access? No. Nobody anticipated any of this.
As you know, under the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act, the author of a recording has the right to terminate the original transfer of copyright to the record company 35 years after that transfer. But “author” isn’t defined in the Act.
Well, that’s an interesting question. There is no definition of author in the Copyright Act. If somebody writes a song, it’s pretty clear who the author is. If somebody does a recording, it is not so clear. Is it the featured artist? Is it the featured artist, and the producer? Is it the producer? What about the arranger, the engineer, or the mixer? Who is really the author? That has yet to be determined. Ultimately, there’s going to be a fight over the definition of author (in a court case). In some cases, the record company is going to claim that they are the author.
[Under the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act, the author of a recording has the right to terminate the original transfer of copyright to the record company 35 years after that transfer. If a recording was created and released in 1978 (the first effective year of the current copyright law), the author can reclaim that recording in 2013, subject to various notice provisions.
However, the problem is complicated in that it is unclear at the present time who will be defined as the “author.” At some point, a court will have to define the word “author” in this context unless there is legislation enacted by Congress defining the same.]
This hasn’t been tested.
It has not been tested yet. My guess is that when the record company stands up and says, “We are not going to give it back,” that is when someone will file a lawsuit. Everybody has been sending their notices for recordings that came out in 1978, which will be effective 2013. That’s the 35 years. To my knowledge, there’s been no court action at the present time although an awful lot of people are sending their notices to the record companies saying that they are entitled to those masters back.
A continuing contentious issue is proposed legislation requiring terrestrial radio stations to pay performance royalties which the National Association of Broadcasters has been calling a tax.
They label it a tax. They have two things that they yell about all of the time. They label it a tax, and they say they are promoting the sale of records. Let me respond to that, as I have for some time.
First, we have to go back to the Copyright (Act) of 1909. In 1909, there was no recording industry. One of the rights that you have on a copyright—let’s forget about records for a moment—is a performance right. Choreography has a performance right. Music that you write has a performance right. There are a number of copyrights that have performance rights. Well, there was no record industry (in 1909) and, in fact, there was no copyright for a recording until 1972.
Notwithstanding that there was no copyright until 1972, Stan Kenton in the ‘60s argued there should be a performance right for records (Kenton led a group called the National Committee For the Record Arts to gain airplay pay). Recordings used to come and say “Not for broadcast.” Then Frank Sinatra came along in the ‘60s or ‘70s and tried to organize (a group in favor of performance fee for recordings). That failed. Finally, a recording got a copyright in 1972, but the NAB strongly opposed any performance right.
The argument by broadcasters to the record industry is always, “We’re doing you a favor by promoting records.”
Well, let me respond to this.
Radio play records to get an audience. An audience gets them ratings. Ratings get them advertising, and advertising gets them dollars. That’s why they play records. If they have a talk format, and they want to increase their monies, they will go to a certain genre of music to entice an audience to get them ratings, to get them advertising, to get them dollars. That’s why they play records.
Certainly, when recordings are played on the radio there is a promotional value.
When an artist performs on a television show, they are paid from the television company or the production company, and that (performance) has a promotional value as well. Certainly, when an artist does a concert, that has a promotional value, but they are still paid. So there’s no reason that the broadcasters, which pay a total of about 3% of $16 billion that the (radio)industry is (annually)—that goes to the songwriters and the publishers—should be arguing about providing a promotional value (to artists) while not giving a fee to them.
While the pop stations may have a little better argument that’s there’s some promotional value, 90% of the stations are now playing music that people aren’t buying anymore. They are playing music the audience wants to listen to and it gives them the ratings that they are seeking. So their arguments are really are false and hollow. It is just a PR campaign having nothing to do with reality. And by the way, your biggest promotional value today for artists is not radio, it’s the internet and television.
So radio is piggy-backing on the music industry.
Yes, they are.
[In the mid-1930s, many artists saw the broadcasting of records as competition for the live radio performances that they relied on for income. Bandleader Fred Waring led the charge for a performance royalty for recordings by filing a lawsuit against radio station WDAS in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, bandleader Paul Whiteman went after WNEW in New York, home of Martin Block’s enormously popular “Make Believe Ballroom.”
In 1940 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found on behalf of the plaintiff in Waring v. Station WDAS. Judge Horace Stern wrote for the court: “There is no moral or legal difference between tapping telephone wires for the purpose of ‘listening in’ than there is in using for broadcasting a phonographic disk made by plaintiff in defiance of the maker’s injunction written across that disk, to wit: ‘Not licensed for radio broadcasting’.”
The court ruled that Waring’s copyright privileges had been violated.
Although Waring proposed that stations pay only 10 cents for each record broadcast, publishers didn’t want to split their royalty profits from radio.
The final legal showdown over performance fees from radio took place in 1940 when Whiteman’s suit reached the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, presided over by jurist Learned Hand. Judge Hand ruled against Whiteman and RCA, a decision that shaped radio broadcasting to this day.]
Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson recently introduced a bipartisan resolution declaring that Congress should not impose any new performance fees on local radio stations. He said, “Congress should not impose taxes on small businesses in Nebraska and nationally which would threaten their financial viability,”
First of all, the performance bill that was passed in the appropriate committees exempted small radio stations under a certain amount of money. The stations up to $1.5 million (earnings) only had to pay $500. It’s preposterous. As I said, the total that radio pays for music is now only 3% (of their annual revenues).
With the U.S. lacking such a performance fee, it means that Americans are cut off from revenue from around the world.
Well because of reciprocity, we don’t receive (that) money. We have estimated that we are losing $100 million a year. That is tax dollars that we are losing. That is one of the things that we emphasize with Congress, the fact that there is a lot of revenue that we are losing—that the government would be benefiting from that money coming here—that we are not receiving. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong. But, it’s so tough to get these people to understand it.
Internet Service Providers have identification technology that can identify illegal music tracks. Does the music industry need legislation or an agreement with the ISPs so that they'll take an active role in cutting off the constant flow of illegal downloading?
Certainly they can (identify illegal music tracks) and we need to press them on this. There is, by the way, Section 512 (Limitations on liability relating to material online) of our Copyright Act (in sub-section I) that says the limitation on liability established by this section apply to a service provider only if the service provider has adopted and reasonably implemented and informed subscribers of a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of subscribers and account holders of the service provider system who are repeat infringers. There it is sitting in Section 512, section I. I don’t know why but we are not using (the clause) and that clout to go after them and to make sure that they comply with that. They know who the copyright infringers are. That section needs to be enforced.
The recording industry has never won a verdict against an online music service claiming protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The big problem with the DMCA is this safe harbor provision that services use to duck responsibility for illegal activity.
They are ducking it, and it’s not right. We need to put the pressure on them in that regard. There is technology out there that can identify the amount of illegal downloading going through each and every ISP. I know because I have seen it.
Why won’t the ISPs better govern illegal downloading?
The answer is that the people that are on (the service) are their customers. There are a high percentage of customers on that service for one reason or for a principal reason—that they can access this (music) product illegally.
It is highly difficult to police illegal sites when the internet is worldwide. Laws will eventually have to be codified internationally.
I would agree with you. That needs substantial co-operation between the various countries. We need to do that. We need to make sure that we have agreements in place with all of the countries to enforce it. The problem is that there are some countries, like Russia and China, that don’t necessarily want to sign on to international agreements concerning this fact. That’s where the problem is. If you have one country not complying, anybody can move their servers there.
Are you encouraged by China recently starting to tighten up their copyright laws?
I am limitedly encouraged. We will wait and see. That would be terrific. I have met with some people from here, and that’s what they are saying, and I am hopeful. But, in all fairness, even in this country there’s a lot of illegal action going on.
You represent Sheryl Crow, who reportedly sold her publishing for a reported $10 million….
First off, the number is wrong, but I’m not going to tell you what the number is.
[In 2009 Sheryl Crow sold her music publishing catalog of 153 songs to First State Media Group, a Dublin, Ireland-based investor in publishing assets. The Wall Street Journal said the deal was valued at about $10 million. Crow retains her songwriter's share of copyright, which means she will still participate in any revenue generated by First State Media Group.]
Under what circumstances do artists and songwriters seek to sell their catalogs?
Well, I have been involved with a lot of catalogs, and people sell for various reasons. Some people sell because, maybe, they have an opportunity to take that money and put it to other uses. Some people sell for tax reasons. Some people (sell) for, let’s say for the cost of money. If I receive what would be my current royalties over the next 20 years now, then I may be ahead of the game. Other people sell because (the catalog) doesn’t mean that much to them anymore for one reason or another. It’s “let’s grab the money while we can. It’s a good deal now.” There are all kinds of reasons why people sell. There’s no one reason. So I can’t point to anything specific except that each person evaluates differently. There are accountants and business people who make these kinds of calculations.
There are estate purposes, and there are living purposes and all of that. Does it mean more to them to get the money than to keep control of the copyrights? That is an individual decision. There are accountants and business people who make these kinds of calculations.
Another party might be able to maximize the catalog for the writer.
Yeah, for the remaining writer’s share. People have also sold the writer’s share too. I did one (contract) like that three years ago. You can sell your writer’s share if you choose to do so. Absolutely. The vast majority, 95% if not 99%, sell only the publisher’s share. But every once in awhile somebody sells the writer’s share.
If somebody is making a big investment, they will say, “We have to recoup this investment. Now if we buy it on a 15 times multiple or a 20 times multiple or a 12 times multiple whatever it is, we don’t want to wait 12, 15 years or whatever to get our money back. So let’s go out and really work this catalog and see if we can get our money back in 10 years or seven years or five years.” The harder they work on the publisher’s side to get their money back, that means the writer is benefiting from that because the writer’s share is increasing.
Publishers and songwriters often complain that after selling, that the publishing often gets “parked.” That there’s little exploitation of copyrights.
That happens too. I have had various scenarios. One is that it gets parked. Another is that it gets sold and resold, and is now part of a bigger (catalog), and doesn’t have the same emphasis. Sometimes, the (catalog) gets “shlocked out.” (The new publisher) will try and license it in every possible way and not necessarily in a good way. So, while there are positive results of a sale, there are a lot of cases where there are negative results.
Can songwriters and artists selling their catalogs be penalized under Section 409.A of the U.S. tax code?
I will tell you specifically where you have to be nervous or worry about it. That is with advances. If you enter into an agreement, and it provides for advances payable Jan. 1 this year, and Jan. 1 the following year. If you go in, and speed up the advances, that is where it could possibly be a problem. It has to do with that. But, if a songwriter owns their own catalog, and they are making an advance deal like an administration deal, it’s not applicable because they own (the catalog). (That section) is only applicable basically to employee type situations.
Were your parents happier that you went into law full-time rather than staying a musician?
Oh, I don’t know. I had great parents. My father was musician himself. They were happy that I became a lawyer, but I was doing very well as a musician. They never expressed anything contrary to that at all. I didn’t go into law right away. As soon as I graduated, I worked as a musician.
You graduated high school quite young, and played in bands all through college and law school.
(My parents) used to come and see me once in awhile where I was playing. They were very happy with that. They were fine. They just wanted me to not necessarily be a lawyer, but to get an education. “You have something to fall back on” philosophy. So they were very happy with what I was doing.
What was the first band you went out with?
The first band was a band you never heard of, Larry Fotine (Larry Fotine and His Orchestra). He was an arranger for Sammy Kaye. That was the first band I left Chicago with. I went to New York and the East Coast. Then I got a call from a band called Henry Busse (& His Orchestra) which was a well-known band. Henry Busse had been the lead trumpet for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra (on such hits as “When Day Is Done), and he had a big hit called “Hot Lips” (in 1934). It was a terrific band.
How did you join?
They had lost their lead alto player in the Midwest and I got a call. I was with this other band. I was doing a recording session with them in Cincinnati when I got the call. I quickly called around Chicago and found someone to take my place. My parents were kind enough to drive the person down to Cincinnati. He came in for me. Then they drove me to somewhere near Memphis, and I joined the Henry Busse band. Within two months, I was in California.
I started working around California. I left the (Busse) band. I got married, and I and went in and out of (different) bands. Then, I was up in Las Vegas, and I said, “I guess I will study for the bar in California while I was sitting in Vegas. It's 115 degrees (Fahrenheit) out, I may as well be inside.” So I started studying for the bar. I came back to California after I finished the gig in Vegas and while I was finishing up my last two weeks of studying for the bar, I got a call from Henry Busse, asking if I could come back to the band. I said that I couldn’t because I was studying for the bar. I never rejoined the band. Then he died not that long afterwards (in 1955).
You worked with many of the major singers and bands of the day.
I was one of those people (contractors) would call. My forte was reading the charts. I could go in there and read the charts at the first rehearsal. They would call me because they had lost someone, so I would go out (with bands) for a few weeks at a time. I usually worked wherever the big bands were. Go to Palm Springs, and I’d work the Riviera (Resort) Hotel there; or I’d go to Vegas with Sinatra and work the Sands Hotel (that operated from 1952 to 1996). There were a couple of places in town like The Mocambo, where you could have big bands for the big acts or the Moulin Rouge (that closed in 1960).
[The Mocambo was a nightclub in West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip that opened in 1941, and closed in 1959. It was owned by Charlie Morrison and Felix Young. With big band music, the club became one of the most popular dance-till-dawn spots in town. On any given night, one might find the room filled with the leading men and women of the motion picture industry. The club's main stage was replicated on the TV series “I Love Lucy” as the "Tropicana" Club. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were frequent guests at the Mocambo, and were close friends of Charlie Morrison.]
You began practicing law in 1956 because your musician friends were being busted.
This is absolutely true. The Mocambo would close down at 2 A.M. You’d pack up your cases, walk out the back and the cops would be there. They’d say to the trumpet player, “Open up you case.” I never got into drugs because my father who was a musician laced into me, “Never use them. Never use them.” So I didn’t use. But a lot of the guys kept marijuana in their cases or wherever. So off they would go downtown (to be booked). They’d call me, and say, “Can you help me out?” Or I’d be working on a record date, and someone would say, “I just got busted for possession.” I’d say that I wasn’t practicing, but they’d say, “Yeah, but you got a law degree.” So I started going downtown, and making motions for illegal search and seizure. I think it was called a 995 motion. So we would be sitting in court waiting for the cases to be heard. These musicians would say, “By the way can you read this record contract? Can you read this movie contract? Or this television contract?” Yeah, that’s how I got started.
[California “Penal Code 995: Motion to Dismiss the Information” is made by the defense attorney seeking to dismiss a criminal case before trial if they believe there is insufficient evidence at the preliminary hearing from which the judge could make a finding of probable cause.]
So I opened a small little office in Beverly Hills, kind of a space for services thing. An attorney Lou Most gave me a tiny little office, and I mean tiny. It didn’t have room for a pull up chair.
What music industry was around at that point in Los Angeles?
Well, there was Dot Records, Decca Records, RCA Records, Columbia Records and all of the studios. Everything was centered around Sunset and Vine. Everything was around there. Everything. So there was plenty to do.
Who were your early clients?
Other than the musicians who had the usual (drug-related) things, my first client of real entertainment substance was David Rose, whose family is still my client to this day. I got a call from David Rose, “Do you know anything about the copyright law?” My answer was always “yes.” No matter what it was. We practiced what we called “Door Law,” which is anything that comes through the door. At that time we still had the 1909 Copyright Act, which was very, very, small. So I grabbed a copy of it—I was supposed to go up and meet David and his manager and the other people on the other side—I forget what the issue was—up in San Francisco. So I took a plane, and I read the Copyright Act on the plane. When I got there, I was prepared. We solved the problem, whatever the problem was, and from that point forward I represented David Rose.
[David Rose was a British-born songwriter, composer, arranger, pianist, and orchestra leader. His most famous compositions were "The Stripper", "Holiday for Strings", and "Calypso Melody.” He wrote music for many television series, including “It's a Great Life,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “Highway To Heaven,” “Bonanza,” and “Highway Patrol.” In addition, Rose was musical director for “The Red Skelton Show” during its 21-year-run on the CBS and NBC networks. David Rose & His Orchestra’s version of “The Stripper” reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1962. Rose died in 1990.]
Your next client of name value was Nancy Wilson.
You will never guess where I got the referral. In those days, musicians all had answering services. In order to get people to book you—musicians were never home and we didn’t have cell phones—the only way people could reach you was through an answering service. Mine was called Call Nina. So the answering service would try to find you when they got a call. One day Nancy Wilson’s husband Kenny Dennis told the operator at Call Nina, “We need a lawyer out there.” The operator said, “You have to call Jay Cooper.” They called me, and she was a client for a long time. A great talent.
[Cooper was singer Nancy Wilson’s attorney and business manager. He also headed her production, and management company, Wil-Den, that also handled Sue Raney, the Checkmates and Guy Pastor.]
Today, you have a balanced roster and handle such entertainers as Jerry Seinfeld and Katy Perry.
And David Seidler who wrote “The King’s Speech.” Such a wonderful film.
Will “The King’s Speech” be adapted as a play, as it was originally intended by David Seidler?
The answer is yes, and I am negotiating that right now.
What else do you have in the pipeline?
Another interesting project is that I am doing a DVD project for Mel Brooks right now that is going to be fabulous. It looks as if we are doing a DVD deal.
Mel Brooks has such a rich history, dating back to Sid Caesar’s TV show “Your Show of Shows” in the ‘50s.
Can you imagine sitting in a room with that writing staff. With Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart, and Neil Simon? Can you imagine that room? They get into a room on Monday and Saturday, they are doing 90 minute live (TV) show. Can you imagine these guys sitting around? It had to be fabulous.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide: Celebrating 40 Years Of The Juno Awards.
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