Unless you are a lawyer, the term might not meant much to you as a music fan or artist before, but it will from now on. Today we have a fascinating conversation with Jeff Becker, an entertainment and media lawyer with an impressive roster of clients in the music industry. You will learn a lot from this interview! Also, just how pessimistic is Brad?
Guest: Jeff Becker
Journey through the stories that define the artists playing by the rules. Who are they? What are they? What will you see? The what? Which bands? This year? That matter? With Brad Steiner and Barry Courter. Forgot I was saying that last thing. Podcast, a podcast for Bonaruvians by Bonaruvians. Bonaruvian A, Brad Steiner, Bonaruvian B, Barry Courter. No Lord Taco today. Where in the hell is Lord Taco? Is he okay? It's cool outside. There's no rain. He's probably in the bus in the woods. He doesn't go. He doesn't go outside. He sits in a bus. In the woods. Yeah. Which is he takes it from the garage to the trees. That's pretty much it. So I'm excited about this week and it's mainly because we get to talk about an angle of this that we've been dancing around for a while but we never really actually engaged with because we're not that smart. I gotta be honest with you. What? If you'd have told me six weeks ago that not only would we be doing this podcast every week but we would have some pretty strong guests. Yeah. I would have. It's pretty good. We were struggling. But I mean Ed O'Brien, Larkin Poe, Chris Cobb last week and now Jeff. Good guy. By the way, not to jump too far backwards but last week's interview with Chris Cobb, I implore you to go back and listen to because it is such a, although it is a downer and it sucks, but it's reality to swallow and it gives you an idea as to where people's heads are that actually have to put these things into motion. So whether or not it's an artist who's struggling to figure out what to do for financials and what they do the rest of the year and their first quarter to the venues who have to actually implement all of this to now the lawyer who then gets to sort it all out contractually. I am excited about this conversation with Jeff who turns out I've known for a long time and I totally forgot. Yeah. Well, you make fun of me for that. So yeah, no, I, you and I have speculated about topics that we talk about with Jeff and turns out we were not as far afield as one might have thought for two goobers who were just talking on a podcast. But to get a guy and Jeff, I was really impressed with his resume. I mean, he's not just an attorney. He's not just an attorney. He is a music attorney who this is what he does. So really, yeah, we really could get for you for the show. We were backstage today at a I think it was Lollapalooza. Yeah, it was. And I just started talking and he's like, and I was like, so what do you do? And he's like, Oh, I'm a I'm the lawyer for a blank, blank, blank and blank artists that were playing that year. And I just my mouth went agape. And I was like, I've been sitting here slobbering over a gin and tonic making no sense to the lawyer for you. Yeah, kidding me. Yeah, such an idiot. He's a he's a member of the lawyers for Creative Arts, Chicago Bar, obviously Media and Entertainment Committee, American Bar Forum on Sports and Entertainment Law Recording Academy, the Chicago chapter. He was named billboards top music lawyer on on their list, not top lawyers put on their list in 2019, one of 40 Illinois. This is what he does. And he he talks about how he got into it, which is interesting. And then towards the end, we one thing we didn't ask him and I'm kind of glad we didn't because he doesn't have the answer anymore than we do is the future beyond other than some of the clauses that will be in contracts, which is was interesting. But now this was another fascinating. Yeah, look into how this world is evolving. Yeah, world that we all love so much. And we hope and we hope that through the the series of shows that we've done over the last few weeks, we've put all the pieces of the industry together for you to make the best decision decision, but you can understand the industry as well as you possibly can and all that has to go into it. Jeff Becker, our guest today on the what podcast. Hey, Jeff. How are you? I'm great. Thanks for doing this. You're very welcome. Yeah. Jeff, Jeff and I go way back to the hair cutting salon at Lollapalooza. That's I literally didn't even remember until this morning. We've we've we met like three years ago and this whole time I've been like, I totally, totally forgot. That's funny. Funny story. I do remember Chris Mangelis by chance. I do not know. He's a chef up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Yes, I do. I do know this guy. Yeah, I remember that guy. He was like a rock star at that place. Yeah, dude. He he he's like he has this traveling chef thing he does where he cooks for bands on the road. And then he's got that restaurant up there. And he obviously he knew Koop because of the restaurant world. And lo and behold, a few months back, I started working with this wonderful artist out of Wisconsin, actually New York, named Aram Ray. And she had recently moved to Green Bay to be closer to her boyfriend who turns out to be Chris. I'm like, small world again back to three years ago. I told Barry this before, I don't go to Lollapalooza just because I think it's such a great music festival. I do it because everyone that you could ever imagine to meet, you're going to meet there. It is the epicenter of the entire industry for a damn near a week. And I guess that's probably why you got into the work in the line of work, especially that you got into because you just love this so much. Well, yeah, I absolutely, 100% love music and the arts and being around artists. That's why I got into it. The Lollapalooza thing is hilarious because to me, I feel like that kid that never left my hometown and then everyone who comes home for homecoming and I go back to the high school football game and they're all there to see me. I could see everybody at one time because being an attorney in this industry, not in LA or New York, I find myself oftentimes having to go out to LA and New York or Nashville or Atlanta or Austin. And it's nice that that one time a year, everybody comes here and it makes it very easy to kind of hang out and break bread and have drinks with people. And I know that there's a major topic at hand here, but there is so much that I would love to talk to you about, just as the industry in general one day. But how did you get your start? Why did you decide entertainment law was going to be the thing that you dove into? It's funny. I think my start really, even before becoming a lawyer, was in high school, in junior high. I grew up playing an amazingly very good bad guitar, a very good bad piano. I sang and I was in the plays and musicals. I was in bad bands. I use different words when I'm not on the radio, so to speak, but nothing censored. I think the word you're looking for is dog shit. Pretty much. I usually say I play an amazing, the line is usually I played an amazing shitty guitar, right? And love the idea of being an artist and going out and trying to make it as an artist. The problem was I'm extremely risk averse too and didn't want to take the chance of actually making it as an artist. I wanted to have a job and a salary and benefits to pay for the mortgage I didn't have yet, the kids I didn't have yet. And ultimately that led me to law school and becoming a lawyer. And then I'd say I was probably about four years out of law school, young associate at a different law firm. And a guy comes in my office and says to me, Jeff, I was making dinner for my kids. My son was playing a video game. He paused the game and said, Dad, isn't that your song in the video game? And sure enough, it was. He was a house musician in Chicago in the eighties, wrote probably the most prolific speech of all house music that had been sampled and remixed by hundreds of people. It's still used by dance artists today. And that was copyright infringement. That's what I was doing in my life, just not for a specific type of person or industry. And I helped him out, got him some money, resolved the issue. But it was like a snap, like it was like a light went off, you know, because it was music and video games. It was cool. And I'm like, wait a minute, I can actually bridge my love for the arts and music with my ability to be a lawyer and help creatives. And from that point, I set off on a path to build a practice. Two things I want to jump in here. One, this is my elevator career day speech basically, I'm the same. I can't play the radio. I have three brothers that are musicians. I have no talent, but love music. So I found a way to be involved. For me, it was writing at a newspaper. And that's what I tell, you know, kids at career day, find something you love. Not everybody's the quarterback, not everybody's the pitcher, but they need lawyers, they need front office guys, they need marketing, all kinds of things. But just to let people know, you're a music attorney, but as I often do, you know, Google's everywhere. So I looked up Jeff Becker and you're very active in the law business in music, right? I mean, I looked American, I mean, Recording Academy, Chicago, Billboard Top Music Lawyers last year. Just, I'm just, you wouldn't say it. All of these things are previously bestowed upon me, my old jobs. Which brings me back to what I was going to say at the very beginning when we started Jeff. I used to say about Brad, he only likes two people and one is himself and the other is fluid. So if he doesn't remember who you are, don't be offended. I told Brad on my email this morning, it was, I'm glad that he reminded me as well, because I hadn't remembered that. But that's what happens in this industry. You realize that you could be one or two steps connected to almost anybody, right? At the end of the day, if you're out there and you're active, as you said, you know, look, I'm a lawyer. I explain to my clients, my primary job is to make sure you don't drive yourself off a cliff, right? And we do a lot of litigation as well. So when you have fallen off the cliff, helping you land as well as you can. But I don't think that's enough. As a lawyer that helps creatives, I try to find other ways to give back, to add value to their careers, besides just being the person to give contracts to and ask to negotiate deals. And that's how, you know, Brad and I met, just being out there, being social. I think that not only in music and almost any industry, people want to work with their friends, they want to work with people that they enjoy working with. And so from my perspective, and the way I built my business is very simple, don't be a dick, and don't look too hard for business. Go out there and be genuine, meet people, enjoy them as people, and eventually good things will happen. And that, I think, has worked out well for me in that we've been able to build this practice in the Midwest, which really is a national practice now. I'd say 75% of our clients are not in Chicago, right? They're all over the place. But when you were starting, how hard was it for you to gain the trust of insert artists here? And when did you finally feel as though you had a group of people that was good enough to sustain a business? That's a great question. Can I piggyback on that? Because it's kind of what I was just thinking. Brad and I, we all know artists. We all know young musicians who are very talented. And it's always, it seems like it's always the lawyer gets involved when it's too late or almost too late. They've already signed a really bad contract or given away their rights to something valuable, because they have no money, usually early on, or they don't trust people. There's all kinds of reasons with young creatives. So kind of piggyback on that, I guess, with Brad's question. So the way that I often describe lawyers, I always say lawyers are kind of like dentists. No one wants to go to the dentist. They're not fun to be around, oftentimes painful, not necessarily inexpensive, kind of sounds like lawyers, right? But I'll tell you what, you go in for a six month cleaning at the dentist, it's way less expensive and way less painful than a root canal. And in my world, it's the same thing. If you come to a lawyer early on, have them look over the contract and discuss things with you early on, that's way less expensive and way less painful than litigation, which is our equivalent to a root canal. And to me, going to a lawyer when everyone's happy and hungry, happy because nothing bad has happened yet and hungry because nothing good has happened yet, you find that everybody tends to be more humble about what their role is and whatever collaboration they've created, right? You wait too long and something big has happened, all of a sudden, the drummer, who I pick on drummers a lot because of my love for them, all of a sudden thinks their role is a lot bigger than it was at the time when they would have accepted a flat amount of money or a small percentage on something, all of a sudden they think well, my beat's the most important thing in this or a side artist all of a sudden decides they deserve a lot more money. So that's why I think it's important to start early with lawyers. I will say my career started in litigation, right? I was on the dispute side of things and I switched firms shortly after I met that gentleman who came to my office and said to my new firm, where I am now, I want to build a practice in entertainment. I switched firms primarily because my new firm is very big on business development and they understood the importance of encouraging young attorneys to build their practice. That's Swanson, Martin & Bell in Chicago. I almost started my own firm and I had friends at Swanson who said you should really talk to us first. So I came over there, I joined the intellectual property practice group and commercial litigation group, but then they encouraged me to find ways to build my experience and my relationships. So I read everything I could, I talked to a lot of lawyers that did this work to find backstops and people I could bounce ideas off of, but then I joined a really important organization called Lawyers for the Creative Arts. And Lawyers for the Creative Arts is a non-profit that provides free legal services to artists who can't afford them. And you ask how do you get people to trust you? It's a lot easier when you're not asking them to pay you any money and you're helping them for free. So I did this early on, I took on a few matters both to kind of get my experience but also to start building a client relationship base. And I owe a lot of my career to that organization because from the first case I had, it was a guy fighting with his uncle over who owned the rights to his mom's music. She had died, she was a songwriter, she was being administered by a major United States music publishing company that I won't name for purposes of today. But again, I helped this guy out and I was negotiating this deal with the publisher as well as his uncle. His uncle was the mom's brother and they were fighting over who owned the rights to mom's music. And I employed that rule I mentioned earlier, don't be a dick. And it worked really well because by the end of that deal, the uncle's lawyer was not following that same rule, the administrator, the publishing company appreciated the relationship that I had with them and we became friends after that. And then shortly thereafter, a major recording artist got sued in Chicago along with that publisher and all the writers and other publishers on that song. And they were putting together the defense team and the publisher said, you know, Jeff was great to work with when he was not our lawyer, we should make him our lawyer for this. So I got to join that team and that became a paying client. And this happened several times and word of mouth spreads, right? From that case, I've represented some pretty large artists in litigation from Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Chance the Rapper, Eminem. Never heard of them. Never. But what happened at that point was there are artists that are not- Keep plugging, man, keep plugging. Hey, man, listen, I hate mentioning things like that, but I mention it only because it's public record and I can, but more important than that, it all happened from the Midwest, right? And I started developing these relationships that fed off of each other. And then there would be artists you've never heard of before who said to me, Jeff, thanks for helping me unscrew what I screwed up. Could you help me not screw up in the first place? And that began the transactional side. That began, once you get burned, you realize the importance of not getting burned the next time around, right? Not learning, you've learned the hard way, let's avoid it. And that around, I'd say four or five years into doing this, and that goes back now probably eight years ago, we really started having this stronger client base where they started referring us more business. And that allowed me to expand our practice group into associates of paralegals and bring in other partners to do this with us. But what's so fascinating about that, tying back to what you originally said as to why you wouldn't become a musician, is what you just described was years of being risky. And you applied it to being a lawyer, but you wouldn't apply it to being a musician. And I think that the word that you're looking for is vulnerability. You didn't want to be too vulnerable and out there as a musician, and you just didn't see it. But you were willing to put your head down and work at a law firm until you figured out exactly where you wanted to be. And by the way, it sounds to me like, correct me if I'm wrong, but if you spent years doing copyright infringement, that sounds like for someone like you, the dullest thing in the world. I'll be honest, no. Copyright infringement is actually quite fun. Yeah, it's, look, it's anything that involves property of the mind to me is interesting, right? We're talking about, you know, creative works that have been, you know, developed by an artist or whomever, and that somebody else is stealing. I enjoyed that type of litigation more than a lot of other types of litigation that are out there. And no offense to my partners in other areas of law, but, you know, we have a big medical malpractice group, we have a big premises liability group, tort groups. And that's not the type of work that interests me. I was great in biology as a kid, but I don't want to spend all day studying medical records. I'd rather listen to the music and understand how similar these two pieces of work are. I teach music law at DePaul Law School up in Chicago. And it's some of my most fascinating conversations with the students are over infringement of copyrights in the music space. It's actually quite fun, but that's why I'm a lawyer. I get it. I mean, it's, you know, I tell, and people don't believe me, but we're talking about Bonnaroo when I tell them it's work for me. It's five days of work. I look at you. I used to work harder. I will admit that. But it, you know, after so many years of doing it, but I'd rather be doing that than anything else. You know, I mean, you get to hang out with cool people like you're talking about and, and be around things you're interested in, which is music. That's a huge part of it. So, and when you, when you go into work every day, not right now, but when you go to work every day, you have a, do you have an entire entertainment team at your firm and how many people you got and how many people are you currently actively representing right now? Well, we do have a practice group of about a half dozen lawyers. We work in film, music, television, literary rights. So we kind of crossed the gambit there. We do litigation and transactional work and it's, it's been great. We also have, do you have any radio guys? Because I know a radio guy may be looking for somebody. We actually have a couple of radio celebrities that we've done their deals for their negotiations with their, their broadcast teams. Absolutely. How long are you in 16 months? 16 months. I'll be talking to you, friend. I love it. Don't wait too long. Got to start those negotiations early. Good plans. But yeah, we have a whole team at our firm that can handle this stuff. Everyone from the partners on the high end, I oversee, I chair the practice group. I have a partner, Michelle Wall, who's the vice chair of the group. And then we have associates, partners, and paralegals underneath us. And that's just really, the idea here is to provide a team relationship with the client. So we can be as cost effective as possible as we continue to develop the client. You know, developing clients can't afford legal fees that much, but we try to make it as cost effective as we possibly can, right? And yeah, and I bet you, you have a ton of experience in figuring out intellectual property and copyright, et cetera. But I don't know if you ever got a class in law school for pandemic. Ooh, yeah. You know, pandemic law was not something that comes up on the syllabus, let's say. It will, won't it? I'll tell you what. So I teach music law in the fall every year at DePaul Law School up here. And we go through contracts, like we dig down, really nerd out on these contracts. And I'll tell you, I don't think we've ever spent a great deal of time on the force majeure provision. It's something that- I'm sorry, the what? Say that again? Exactly. That's what everyone's been saying to me for the last two months. The what now? It's called force majeure, F-O-R-C-E, M-A-U-J-E-R-E, something along those lines, I think pretty close. If you Google it, it'll come up for those listening at home, but force majeure, which is essentially describing an event that could not be anticipated, it cannot be controlled by either party, right? It's a contract provision that's generally in almost every contract, except it's towards the end, and people stop paying attention by that point in the contract. They're more focused on how much money am I getting paid? How long is this thing going on for? And they don't look at something as what they consider to be mundane or obscure as force majeure. I've got a friend of mine who's a stand-up comic, Pat Dixon. It's one of the funniest jokes in the world. He's like, the terms and conditions box at the bottom is sort of like the Bible. I just scroll to the bottom and say, I accept. Yeah, that sounds about right. You've got a lot of guys like that. So, okay, when you, and this is essentially why we wanted to talk to you, because this is such an unprecedented event for so many people. What are you advising your guys on? What is the top few things you're telling them and how to make it through until God knows first quarter of next year? Yeah, yeah. The first thing I say is, let me see the contract. Let me see the contract. And that's because this provision that we're talking about, the force majeure or provision of a contract, it's not standard. It's not uniform. It varies based on one document to the next. Some contract provisions don't have any reference to pandemics. Some do, depending on how old they are. What your rights are under the contract vary widely as well. So, you've got to look at the contract first. And just while we're on that part of the advice, I'll dig a little deeper on what this means. Force majeure clauses in a contract allocate risk between the two parties to the contract. They're intended to explain, hey, if something really unexpected happens or something that's completely outside the control of the parties, let's put a provision in here that talks about what happens to us in that situation. Who is going to be at risk for this? Who would be at risk for this? Are either of us at risk for this? And what are our rights? And usually, that clause comes with one or two different types of options. One is that the contract could be terminated with no consequences to either party financially. And the other is that the contract could potentially be suspended for a period of time while the force majeure clause exists. And sometimes those rights can be invoked by either party. Sometimes, depending how it's drafted, it might only be one party's right to do that. So, I usually start there by saying, let's look at the document. From there, right now in today's world, I have basically been saying, what's your goal? What is your common sense reasonable logical goal here? And let's see if we can reach some sort of reasonable compromise with the other party rather than trying to necessarily stick with the specific strict terms of the agreement. And that goes when my client is on the short end of the stick or on the long end of the stick, right? Because right now, you need to find compromise and reason amongst the parties. Okay, if I'm an artist right now and I've got Bonnaroo, Lollapaloo, I've got a string of festival dates coming up and they are suspended with the possibility and very good possibility of being canceled, how am I protecting myself from a major loss of income, a major loss of career options? What do I do? What do I do? Do I wait it out and wait for this to all get rescheduled? Well, that's interesting. So this question you pose to me really takes us outside of my role and wearing my hat as a lawyer into that common sense, don't sit on your ass and do nothing kind of mentality. From a legal standpoint, if the contract says there is a pandemic or really what happens a lot more often right now currently, a governmental order that prevents an event from happening, oftentimes, depending upon again, who you are as an artist and who you are as a promoter, the contract may say the promoter has no obligations to you and you can have to pay back the guarantee and they can terminate the agreement or suspend it for some period of time. If you're a slightly larger artist or have an agency that may have negotiated the contract for you, the contract might say that you the artist get to keep the guarantee regardless, but the promoter doesn't owe you any additional money. And that's where a lot of these conversations started. We'd have promoters calling us saying, hey, we have an issue here. We have a bunch of guarantees that we've already paid. We have to get this money back. And then the question becomes, are you really going to ask for that money back? Or is there something else you can do with the artist? Perhaps agree they can keep that money if they agree to perform for you at this rescheduled event, whether it's this fall or next year. That's where we started seeing a lot of compromise between the parties, looking at ways to work with each other so that when this goes away, everybody is feeling like they've worked together. Now, with that said, there's not a whole lot an artist is going to be able to do if the event is canceled. Maybe they're able to keep a few dollars from the contract negotiations. But after that, there's not going to be a lot of live performance going on anymore. And so I very early on, I actually had written an article we sent to our newsletter sent to our clients about force majeure, just to kind of give them the overview of what it means. But I ended that article by giving them a few practical recommendations about not sitting on your ass and finding ways to use this time frame to better yourself, right? To take these lemons and turn it into lemonade. Before I saw any online concerts, I recommended that you should start really considering putting on some sort of a virtual concert, right? Something that we've been doing now. I personally have been doing for the last five weeks. I started doing this thing called concerts from my couch, where I've invited a different artist on every week in Zoom. I would prefer as strong a audio and video system as I can get. Zoom is okay. It's not the best, but it does allow for interactions like this, where we can see each other and talk to each other. And we brought together these audiences for the artists where they could donate directly to the artist every week, money right in their pockets. And I'm either like you interviewing them. I need to hire you as a booker. You're getting better artists than me. Oh my gosh. Hey Jeff, just for my own, in this world, are you mostly representing individual artists? Are you also representing promoters? Are you also representing festivals? Any festivals? We run the gambit. We represent promoters and festivals and artists. In this current environment, and this is a totally naive question because I have no idea, does it feel like one group or the other right now has an upper hand? Or does it feel like because of what you've been saying, people are trying to figure out how to make it work for everybody? You know what I mean? Because we had a big debate a month or so ago about refunds and things like that and what it might do from the industry. But there's the bottom up side of it too. So I'm just trying to get a little... Yeah, it's interesting because you've added a fourth element to that, which is the fans. I believe Ticketmaster and Live Nation have been subject to some pretty big litigation right now, class action litigation about the refund policies. I know that South by Southwest caught some unfortunate press when they said they were not going to refund their tickets as well. And then sponsors are part of this as well. You have sponsors that are putting money into events and wondering what they're going to get out of this now. Again, all of that depends on the contracts from an upper hand kind of position. But I think that from what I'm seeing right now, festivals and promoters are in a really tough spot, in a really tough spot because their entire industry, what they're doing, their segment of the industry is all about live performance. It's all about fan engagement. And that's not going to happen anytime soon. You see, I think Pitchfork in Chicago was just canceled yesterday or the day before. Lollapalooza, they're still kind of holding out to decide what they're going to do in August. But that's a really tricky spot too, because I was recently asked about this. And from a Lollapalooza standpoint, their contract is with the city of Chicago, trying to decide what they're going to do. And their force majeure clauses exist as well. And look at that government order situation. Right now, nothing can happen in Chicago, because there's a stay at home order. But if that order gets lifted, what's next? We don't know what's next. Because if the governor here lifts the order, but still puts down another order that says no live events with more than 50 people, you can't do Lollapalooza or practically any other venue. So the promoters are still out of luck up here. Let's say it was 500 people. Let's say there's nothing. What in the world is a festival going to do if there's no longer a government shutdown at all? But you have artists who don't want to perform because they're feeling unsafe. Fans that don't want to go and do this and be there because they feel unsafe, you're no longer able to use those provisions. Yet financially, it would be a disaster to do this. And you also don't want to be the only festival putting something on endangering fans and artists. That's going to lead me to something else in a second. But let me just stop for a second. So when a force majeure is there, is there a way that obviously is some sort of tie to insurance? So if something were to happen at Insert Festival here, if they have that clause in some sort of with their insurance company, that can't just magically be ripped out from under their feet, can it? If an insurance company decides we're no longer covering you anymore for Insert thing here like Pandemic, would festival promoter artists have some sort of litigation opportunity against the insurance company? Or does the insurance company get the right to just say, no, we're not covering this? Well, that's a very good question. And that is very dependent on the insurance policy that you have with the insurance company. So much like contracts between artists and festivals, these festivals and promoters would have cancellation insurance with their insurance companies. And for a period of time, in certain contracts, depending upon when they were entered into, you may not see any coverage for pandemics or epidemics or quarantines like this. More recently, since you've seen things like SARS and other types of pandemics come up, a lot of insurance companies have stopped offering coverage for pandemics. And if you really want one, you need to get a rider that will cover it in an amendment or addendum to your policy that will provide you with that coverage. And that could be very expensive. So a lot of festivals you might find don't actually have the insurance they need. Because from a cost management risk benefit analysis, they said, we're not going to do this because let's be honest, we haven't seen a pandemic like this in any of our lifetimes. Is it similar? Is it similar to a homeowners? I'm trying to just make have it make sense for people. A lot of people don't have flood insurance. I live on a ridge. I don't have flood insurance. But if I get water damage, it doesn't cover it. Right. And that's always a surprise to a lot of people. You know, well, you have exactly right. Yep. That's exactly right. Okay. So looking at it from a homeowners perspective, if you live in a floodplain, you might not be able to get flood insurance. Or if you did want it, it would be a very expensive addition to your policy, right? Because it's kind of expected. If you're living on that plane, there's a good chance you're going to get a flood. And that's going to be on you. In this situation, because these types of events have started happening more regularly than perhaps they have over many, many years, insurance companies have said, Look, we're not going to cover you in that way, unless you pay extra for it. That's what it comes down to. Right. But but the city of Chicago, say, Lollapalooza, in the future, if they don't already are going to force you to have that kind of coverage from here on out. Because if you decide to to your point a second ago, if you decide to be the festival that comes back, and you all of a sudden get somebody sick at insert festival here, good luck. Good luck. I mean, you you're more likely going to get sued for the entire festival. I mean, you're you're pretty much done after that, right? Right. You very well could be this is a very detrimental event for so many different companies. And it's not just large companies like C3 or Live Nation, it's the small independent venues, you know, we have, you know, from restaurants to these the small venues, some of them can't withstand being shut down for what could be over a year or more. If you're focused on live music specifically, right? I don't know, I haven't really thought hard enough about whether or not the city would would require a compel C3 to have insurance that would cover a pandemic. But if they did, it would cost a boatload and almost not be worth sometimes maybe not a C3 or Lollapalooza, but it's going to shut down a lot of entities. Like for instance, you go to a small venue, we talked to Chris Cobb from exit in if all of a sudden artists start demanding that venues start covering for, you know, pandemic coverage, it is going to cost a fortune and nobody's going to be able to afford it. And if you do your cost of fan experience is going to triple. Yes, that is absolutely true. One thing I know from talking to people like Chris is the margins are so tight and there's only three or four ways to make money. So they argue, you know, a nickel here and a nickel there. Now you're throwing, you're throwing this kind of thing. Are you are you seeing artists? Will you do you think you'll see artists start asking for some sort of force majeure coverage from venues? So they're not on the hook of a lawsuit. I don't I don't know that the artist necessarily would be on the hook for a lawsuit. I think generally what about what about when when insert place here catches on fire and everybody starts running for the exits and that band is now on the hook for the lawsuit? What would have happened five, six years ago? But they were they were kind of shooting off. There's pyro at every other music festival. I'll try to simplify this as much as I can. There already are provisions in these artist promoter agreements to talk specific about force majeure. And I think artists are probably going to start with their agents looking closer at those provisions to talk about how they can be protected or have guaranteed income that would come even in the event of force majeure event occurs. Right. If they're more concerned that, hey, I'm lining up my next six months of touring and that's all going to go away from a financial standpoint, they're going to probably try to make sure there's some guarantees that they get that money either way. From a liability standpoint, whether it's the show doesn't happen because of a pandemic or fireworks, usually there'll be language in the contract that says, hey, if you're the more on throwing drumsticks out into the audience, if you're the ones shooting off fireworks, that's going to be in you artist. But if it's our, that's us. I mean, I know, but I'm the artist that has gathered 250 people here. One of them got sick and then transmitted it to 15 other people that was in the audience. Who who's liable then? Like for instance, if Lollapalooza goes on in August, which they're not doing, but if they do and somebody at Lollapalooza gets sick and then transmits it to something, something, something, I mean, insert person here has a lawsuit against C3, against the city of Chicago, against the artists that were there. I mean, it could, it would never end. Well, you know, that's an interesting question, Brad. And I think you're going to see that happen soon anyway. It won't necessarily just be in the context of musical events. And this is something that my, my brethren within the firm and the tort realm and the premises liability realm are going to be playing with a lot, I'm sure, which is a litigation that comes from this. And I think the question there becomes a negligent standard. Who owes the duty of care to the audience that shows up and have they fallen below the duty of care? I think that if you actually try to engage in audience in violation of court orders, which, you know, up here we're seeing happen, there's these churches that are holding sermons on Sundays well in, in, in, in excess of the limitations the governor's put on these churches, right? I think he said small gatherings of 10 people can gather for religious experiences and they're bringing in substantially more people than that. There's a good question at that point, whether or not you are violating some duty of care owed to your parishioners. And I think that it's going to be very fact dependent, very fact dependent on what the circumstances are at that time. What is the CDC said? What are the governments saying? And how are you operating? If you're not implementing reasonable standards to protect people, maybe you could be responsible. But I assure you of one thing, if I were representing the artist or the agent involved in this, I'm going to flat out tell the, the promoter or the venue, this is on you to maintain safety for the audience. And unless we do something negligent specifically, it's on you. And that's generally what's in there already, right? Venues have to provide reasonable security at these events and they're going to have to have insurance for things like property damage and personal damage unless we, the artist act in a negligent way. So I don't, I don't know that it will fall on the artists and I'm sure that there will be new contract language that deals with that, but how it falls out in the, how it shakes out in a lawsuit in a courtroom, we'll have to wait a little while and see, cause right now the courts are still closed. But you as a, but you as the lawyer would never, as of right now, I'm not going to say never, you would not right now start adding language into, into contracts that specify that you have no liability whatsoever. Should anything happen at insert thing here? Well, to that, and that's what I was going to sort of jump in and maybe I'm reading it wrong and the churches is a good example. Cause that seems like a, I don't know what the right word is. They seem determined to go against the grain type of thing. Whereas from my perception of talking to you and talking to Chris Cobb and, and, and Brad over these months and the people he's talked to and the people I've talked to. And again, I don't mean to put words, but it sounds like everyone in the music industry realizes this is an unprecedented, really weird time and that everybody needs each other. That's exactly right. They need, you got to have a musician, you got to have fans, you got to have a venue, you got to have promoter. And so it doesn't feel like there's this, uh, get back or me against you. And if anything, it feels more like people are realizing they need each other even more, which is the whole Chris Cobb, the whole independent venues association that they started. You know, one of the points he wants to make is we need national level guidelines so that Tennessee is not completely different than California or Illinois or whatever. So yeah, am I reading that wrong? Yeah, but I don't think that you're probably, you know, I don't mean to, to, you know, be a duck, but I don't think that you're being necessarily a good lawyer. If you say, Hey, everybody's going to be okay. I mean, I think that the job is protecting you against whatever is coming in the future that you can't necessarily see or feel. That's what I, I don't think he, I don't read it like everybody's going to be okay. Just get over it and trust. I get, I read it more like, how do we make this work for everybody? Yeah, let's, let's be clear here. I'm going to throw this out there because I hear what both, both of you are saying. And first, let me say Barry is correct that the immediate reaction to this, right? We're going to talk about drafting new contracts yet, Brad, we're talking about contracts already exist and we're all like looking up into the sky at the satellite coming towards earth. Are we all going to point at each other and say, that's your job to take care of, or we're all going to work together, you know, and, and to me, that's what we're all facing. I had a call with, with one of the major agencies that was representing several artists performing at one of my clients festivals this summer. We hadn't yet decided to cancel. We didn't know quite what we were going to do yet. It was still, I was still in the office, right? We hadn't had stay at home yet, social distancing, and no one knew what N95 meant, but I called this agent up and said, but I called this agent up and asked them, what are you, what are you guys thinking about this? And how do you interpret this act of God in your opinion in these contracts? And, you know, he does a lot of work with his roster at this agency for festivals in the Midwest. And he says, look, you know, we're right now, we're looking at this and saying, what can we do to be reasonable with the artists and with our festivals and everybody else? You know, this is right around the time Coachella was rescheduled to the fall and everybody was agreeing, we'll keep everything where it is. We're going to move the dates. Certain artists, we're not going to be able to perform because they had other obligations already set for the fall. They let them out of those contracts. This was no longer about enforcing strictly the agreements, but looking for a way to be reasonable to everybody. Now, to Brad's point on a going forward basis, yes, we, the lawyers, are likely going to be looking closer at certain provisions in the contract and proposing revisions to those in order to allocate risk in a way that helps our clients. And just like any other contract, whether it's a record label deal, a publishing deal, live performance, you're going to see negotiations that take place and there will be leverage. Bigger artists might be able to get away with things that smaller artists can't. Bigger companies will get away with it too, unlike smaller festivals or startups will. It's going to be a negotiation and a discussion. But you're right, Brad. I wouldn't be doing my job if I wasn't trying to protect my client. But also, I've never been one to over lawyer a contract to the point that it causes frustration and consternation between the parties. Protect my client, yes, but look for some reasonable middle ground that everyone feels good about getting into this deal together rather than finishing the deal and all being angry at each other. Do you have any artists that are flat out just scared to go back out on the road? Oh, yeah. We have artists that are scared to go on the road and we have artists that can't wait to go out and they're going out now. They're trying to plan different types of events. There's these drive-in performances that are starting up. I don't know if you've heard about those yet. I did. I don't know how that's going to work yet, but they want to drive in performances. Because Lord knows, nothing sounds more exciting than having a rave in a Toyota Tercell. Boy, oh boy, that sounds like a blast. Yeah. Yeah. I remember a few weeks ago one of my clients saying, I don't know that I'm going to be able to perform for the next year just because there's this concern. And look, they're not alone. The venues very well may not be able to open for the next year because of this concern of a resurgence. It goes down and like the flu season, it comes back again. And until the governments have a better understanding of what they're going to allow these entities to do, artists look at this and say, I don't know how I could step foot into these venues. And also saying not only that, they don't want to, not out of fear, but out of practicality. I think there was some statement by President Trump recently that venues should open up again, but socially distance. And I want to ask you if you've ever thought of an artist wanting to go to a venue where there's a pit of people on the floor that are all six feet apart from each other. It sounds miserable. That story about the venue in Arkansas that's opening, it's a 2000 seat venue they're letting 200 people in. It's not going to feel right. It won't feel right for the artists. It won't feel right for you as an audience member. Nothing about that. That's bad, but how do you make any money? You're counting on 2000. You need 2000 to make your margin. What is 200 going to do for you? And the venue is not going to make any money. They're going to operate a lot. How can a venue operate with 200 people coming with the staff they have to put in there? It's not going to work. It's extremely unfortunate, but that's why I think you're going to start seeing a lot more creativity in trying to find ways to engage besides a pure live experience. It goes back to, I know people are virtual concerted out already, but that's why those events themselves need to evolve. I personally don't like the Facebook live events or the Instagram live events. No offense to either of them, but they just feel very disconnected for the fan base. What we're doing is making it so that everyone's in the room. We have a waiting room in Zoom beforehand. I tell the doors are going to open in five minutes. We do the sound check with the artist and we make it storytellers. At each event, it's not recorded and then put online again. You show up and you see it and you leave like a real live event. We interview them. We ask them questions so the audience feels like they're getting more of an engaged experience. That's to me the creativity I brought to it. How many of these have you done? Who have you had? We've had five so far. We're doing our sixth one tonight. Tonight, it's every Thursday at seven o'clock central. We have a list of people that ask for the Zoom link. Our artists will put it out on their socials and provide the Zoom link to people that reach out to them. We don't like just putting the Zoom link out there so anyone can show up. Want to make it a little bit more special. Tonight, Raquel Castro is going to be on. She is an artist, a songwriter. She actually was on Songland last week on NBC. She won. The recording artist, her, has recorded her song and put it out last week. I love her so much. Really? She was great. Yeah. She was my Grammy vote two years ago. Well, she was fantastic. I saw her there. Amazing. Raquel was fortunate enough to have her song selected but she'll be on tonight. Again, she's putting on a half dozen songs and sharing her thoughts on the world right now. It's nice. Two weeks ago, we had a young band out of LA called Beauty School Dropout. Yeah, I know. They're a client and they were really getting geared up because they were about to head off to South by Southwest with a whole bunch of shows. It was going to be their moment too. A lot of these artists are missing their catch. But here's the beauty of what happened three weeks ago. They were on Zoom. They had a good visual, good audio, nothing perfect, but they had about, I'd say, 50, 60 accounts signed in, which equates to probably 150 people or so. Every account might have a few people sitting in their living room. This young girl, at the end of the show, what I started doing was I left the Zoom open so that people could interact with the band, actually talk to them. I call it backstage pass. I leave it open primarily so that people could donate so that the Venmo is still on the screen. But I realized what was happening was there'd be people on from all over the country, quite honestly, watching these artists. Normally, at the end of a show, you go backstage and five or six people can get back there, whoever your manager lets back there. This allows you to talk to your fans and anyone can watch and just see what it's like to interact. This one girl unmuted herself. She was a fan of the band. She said, hey guys, thank you so much for doing this. This was a really hard week for me. I just got fired from my job. They shut down the company. I have no job. She was a young girl living on her own. I live in a house with a wife and two kids. I have not been alone or bored for the last month and a half, but this girl's by herself. She said to the band, I really needed this. This actually made my week because I was having a really hard time. I started this to give the bands the ability to make a few dollars and interact with their fans. But I realized so much more was happening here with the people on the other side of it. The bands that have done this, it forced them to play around with their audio set up and their video set up. Now they're doing their own shows. You just struck on something that is probably going to be the future of this is instead of these large swaths of, hey, how can we move people all at one time, artists are going to have to go door to door to try and connect with human beings. Whereas I could go to a Lollapalooza or a Bonnaroo and immediately be overcome by the Alabama Shakes. If the Alabama Shakes try to do that today, they would need to be going from computer to computer to computer, trying to do it one at a time. We actually had a work planning meeting yesterday, and this topic came up because we did my father's 90th birthday on Zoom. It was not the immediate 20 of us. We had cousins in California, in Florida, in Indiana, and people we hadn't seen in 20 years. Relatively, that's a small group. You had 50 on that Zoom, but people are finding out. There also, as part of our conversation, people are talking a little bit more because they can with things like this. We don't know. Nobody can predict how long it will continue, but it's there, and it is to your point, Brad. The door to door is a figurative thing. I think Axe will find that out. Let's take that out, though. Think about this for a second. Door to door, it's interesting because the one thing that I realized about this is thatóshoot, I don't want to share my screen. Let me stop that. Oh my God. If you did the contract, we'd see. Yeah, right. There we go. Back to normal. I thought about this. Yes, smaller groups, perhaps, but the beauty of the events that we were doing is the artists did this from their house. I call it concert from my couch because I sit right here on my couch when I do it, and so does everybody else. I encourage them to get their whiskey, the bar is open at your house, go do it, but the artist is at home, too. That means the artist could put on, let's say, 20 of these concerts for 50 or 60 accounts at a time and not spend a single dollar on travel, a single dollar on hotels, and you can cap out, if you're a slightly larger artist, cap out how many people can come, put on unique shows for different markets. There's the word. There's the word I was going to use. When I interviewed Drew Holcomb when they brought the Moon River Festival to Chattanooga, we were talking about the curated festivals, the smaller tent, the 8,000 to 10,000, and that was the word. People that went wanted to feel like they had gotten a unique experience, which is exactly what you're talking about. I got to hang it. I mean, Brad even said his new BFF, Ed O'Brien, was in his living room three or four weeks ago. That's the thing. It's a unique, who else gets that, right? That's right. That's what it's going to come down to. Artists should probably start thinking about what their Wi-Fi setup is, their video and audio abilities are. I've seen artists connect right in through Ableton and Logic, and some artists just play a guitar or piano and directly into their microphone. I think our audiences also are a little more forgiving right now. Yeah, right now. But I do think that over the next month or two, you're going to start seeing other platforms, whether it's Facebook coming out with something else, or just somebody Zoom fixing what they have going on, or some other company that sets this up in a way that really does a great live show. One of our clients was on Red Bull Records, did a festival, I think, last weekend. It was really cool how they brought everybody together, but a lot of that's pre-recorded, because you can't do it truly live-live and have the live experience and have the quality also. If someone could figure out a way to keep the quality up, allow for this engagement, and then you can have a allow for this engagement, because you can't really do that very well on some of these social media platforms, that can be a really big help to audiences. Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. When Facebook Live started, Jeff, I thought it was a fascinating thing three years ago, and if you could see my office, you probably can't how cluttered it is, but that's what I've been doing is collecting. All of this is just what he's talking about. It's all stuff I've got. I don't see any clutter. Yeah, that. I think too, up there, Jeff. That's the thing to tell people. That's the secret. Yeah, it is. It is. Man, I can't thank you enough. It's such a fascinating conversation, and you tell the story so simply and so well. Just as a piece of curiosity, you ever been to Bonnaroo? I have not. I was planning on going to Bonnaroo this year. Stop it. No kidding. I'm not even kidding. Yeah, this was going to be my first experience, man. I'm kind of bummed about it. Look, the one thing I'll say is, as a lawyer, I get jealous of my agent friends quite a bit because they head down there, and my radio friends too. My good friend Norm Weiner goes down all the time. Norm's a good friend and a client. He's in our guys' group in Chicago. We've got a guy there. Yes, he is, and he's one of my favorite people and is always talking about going to this festival or going out to Colorado for that radio thing you guys do, and I keep saying, but I got to be in the office and look at contracts. It's hard for me to just jump from Lala to Bonnaroo to Coachella because I'm unfortunately somewhat the nerdy one, making sure nothing happens in the background, but I was looking forward to making my first excursion down this year, and sure enough, it'll be next Tuesday. Well, the dirty little secret that Norm won't tell you that I will is that we don't really have that much to do. We've got a lot of free time, but who are you excited to see if you're going to come down to Bonnaroo? Who are you going to see? Who's your top three? You know, honestly, I haven't even had a chance to look at anything. You're just going to go. At these festivals, I was just going down for the experience, and as soon as all these things started kind of canceling, I'll be honest. When I go to South By or even Lala, even in Chicago, I might see some of the big headliners jumping up there first, but I don't even sit down and highlight my roster probably until a day or two beforehand because I haven't had a chance to study it. Personally, my favorite artists are usually in the middle to bottom of the bill. It's these artists I start caring about coming up that I want to see. The headliners I've probably seen somewhere before, and they're fun. I'm not going to lie to you, Barry, and I've said it before, but I'll just keep saying it over and over. You just don't understand Lollapalooza. It's unlike anything that you've been to. Now, as a fan, it's different, but for us, it is a swamp. Once you get circling in the thing, you don't get out. I can't tell you, I maybe have seen on two hands Lollapalooza shows in, how many, six years? I've seen 10 shows at Lollapalooza. You get stuck back there, and you just don't get your hook. They get their hooks in you, and you don't get out. It's very frustrating. It's the truth. It's the truth. It's a fun time. It's a fun time. It is great. I will say this. I saw Lizzo this year performing at the Grammys. That was that in the South by right before that. I'd love to see an entire set of hers on a big stage. I'll tell you what else. Somehow, staying at home, my kids are discovering more music on their own, and my son has just started playing Tame Impala on a loop, which is kind of fun. It's good. It's one song, and I've exposed him to some more stuff. Figure artists, I think those would be fun to watch, a lot of fun to watch. Like I said, I love that middle to bottom of the bill. The audience were starting to come up. It's a discovery thing, right? Yeah. Yeah. Sure. Well, that's where this whole show started, man with it. Hey, dogs. By the way, thank you so much for doing it. How much did this hour cost us? What are you charged with my hour? It's really a question of what this hour cost me. You guys got this through a bono, my friends. Look, the only plug I'll make for us is this. Having built this practice in the Midwest and having worked with a lot of developing artists as they come up, I try to provide a way to make sure that my artists are able to afford legal services. We'll work with them. We do hourly flat fees percentages. It's a matter of what makes sense for us and what makes sense for them. We've got a great team to make it cost effective. If you're listening and you just have a question or two, give me a buzz. Otherwise, we can always work something out. Yeah. You're the best. Man, I appreciate it. Thanks so much. Yeah. This was so much fun. Gentlemen, you're so welcome. So thoughtful. Yeah. We'll see you soon. I hope so. I hope I'd actually see you in person sometime soon. I'll try to remember it next time. Take care, gentlemen. See you, buddy. See you, Dave. Bye. All right. There you go. Jeff Becker, entertainment lawyer for the... He's our lawyer now. I think that we officially hired him. I sent him $1 on Venmo and now... Yeah, he's committed. He's officially our lawyer. What did you think? What is your takeaway about the idea of the attitude of people right now? It feels like doom and gloom because we're in the middle of this thing, but as I mentioned during the talk with Jeff, it still feels to me, the positive that I'm getting is that it feels like most of the groups anyway realize they're all in this together and the independent guy who's playing to 50 people is important just as the 50,000 person act is in the grand scheme of things and the small venue is just not as just, but is important too. Do you feel like that or is it just me? I have no financial implications in all of this, so I just have an opinion. The way that I've gone forward is I'm pessimistic, but if something comes around and surprises me, I'm going to be really, really excited. That's just natural disposition, to be honest with you. And I'm trying my best to hold out hope and I'm trying my best to say positive. It ain't working for me. In what way though? So if I get surprised by something, excellent. I can't wait, but I'm operating in a pretty pessimistic space right now. In what way though, as far as how soon this will open or the future? Because I'm asking more about the future than I agree with you. Nothing is going to happen until late fall, if anything. Both, because I don't know, oh boy, how can I say this? The idea that I'm going to ever walk into the Tabernacle in Atlanta and be surrounded by 500 people, maybe it's because of where we are right now, it seems so unbelievably hard to imagine. And I don't know when that light bulb just turns back on. And I don't know when that ability just, and I don't know if it ever will. I'm trying not to be worried and I'm trying not to overthink it, but there's just something in me that feels like the idea of 80,000 people in a field, those days don't seem like it's, and even if you believe all of the stuff about coronavirus not being as bad as the flu, or it is so screwed, the psyche of humanity, not just in this country, but across the world, that I don't know how large swaths of people don't forever have their mind screwed on this. And at the end of the day, and I said this a couple of weeks ago, or maybe last week, the shows that are going to do really well in the short term, Kid Rock and Toby Keith, because they got a group of people who don't give a damn, who think all of this is nonsense and they're going to show up and give their shit to everybody, they don't care. Those are the people that are going to do really well. And as far as the really thoughtful and interesting ones, I don't know. Now I get what you're saying and I'll tell you what illustrates that for me. And I noticed this about a week ago. Not only are people wearing masks inside their own cars, they're staying well away from the car in front of them. Yeah, that's good. Their car is social distancing as well. Have you noticed that? I mean, it's the weirdest thing. It is a very strange thing. It's your point. It's inside of our psyche now. I don't disagree with that at all. Like for instance, you're probably not going to change the minds of hard... Let's just use Bonnaroo, for example. You're not going to change the minds of hardcore Bonnaroovians. They're going to show up anyway. But the fringes, the ones that people like Bonnaroo make their money on, the 20k that show up just because of the lineup or just because it worked out, I don't know. I don't see them showing back up to these things for a very, very long time. And here's where I... The crux of my thought process of this is that when we move on from COVID, there's going to be another one. Or there's going to be something else that screws up the next thing. And I hate to be one of these guys that's like the dominoes falling and never... Again, are we ever doing... But I've gone too long in my life to realize that if you give space for something bad to happen, it's probably going to... So what's coronavirus has done? What's next? We joked about it, but the more I've thought about it, it's not funny. You said a couple weeks ago, the idea of being in a field on a Friday night or a Saturday night with 80,000 sweaty people is one thing. But seriously, the idea of porta potties and those FEMA showers, that changes it a lot. I'm not a germaphobe, but we think about that when we're there before. Now it's... I don't know. I'm not ready to think about it too deeply. I'm not either. I'm not either. And I think that we all... I think that the optimistic part of us just loves the idea of doing something and that's fine. And we don't want that ripped away from us. And we don't want the opportunity to even feel that to be ripped away. Because if you tell me reality, then all of a sudden, I can't even engage my mind to think about the idea. I get that. But all I know is the second that this is all over and we move on or we get something back that's good, something else is going to come around. The next one is just going to be just as bad. I know, but even if it's not as bad, the psyche... It's so screwed with our psyche that the next thing that we think is going to be the world ender and we're going to be in quarantine in a week and a half, not a month and a half. I don't even think about it. I don't either. I think you need a hug. I just want to go outside and eat crawfish with people. I just want to go to a house. Go get on the floor with the dogs and just get a big hug with the dogs. All right. There you go. Hey, Jeff Becker was amazing. Check him out. Do all the... My favorite radio show in the world, the Bennington Show, my radio hero, Ron Bennington, always calls the people that reach out to his guests and applaud them and say thank you to them, the first responders. Boy, if we have a group of first responders that could reach out to Jeff Becker and say thank you for your time, that would be much appreciated because it's expensive. It's very, very expensive. I didn't even think about that until you said it. Man, yeah, he gave up. He just lost the car payment. Yeah, by the way, this was... I know you may be listening to it at a different time, but this ain't the weekend. This is midday in the middle. He just gave us a lot of time. Thanks so much for you for listening and for being a Patreon. No Patreon reads this week because Lord Taco's not here. So we'll double up next time on the What Podcast. See you then. Love you. Bye.