The music industry isn’t only glitz and glam, singing and dancing. One of the most important aspects of the music scene is having a good lawyer, knowing your rights as an artist and gaining a great deal. Without a lawyer you could sign your life away without really knowing what you’re getting yourself into. Today, I am introducing Olivia Lewis, a Paralegal at Sony Music and future trainee at Clintons.
Olivia had the music industry in her blood. Her Grandad had been a tour manager for the likes of The Jackson 5 and James Brown. Her Father also followed in his footsteps with a career in artist management. So it was inevitable for Olivia to have a thirst for the entertainment business.
Like many who have gone into this industry, it isn’t always as straightforward as you think. Her journey first started by studying a philosophy degree at university, but soon after realised that her true passion was to study law. During this two year period, she worked for a Prisoners’ advice charity and built up her experience within the Criminal and Media sector of law. She then moved on to Sony a month after graduating with her law degree and has been there ever since. She goes on to say “I was very much raised with the ‘you get your own job mentality’ and the root to my current role was through a recruitment company. I feel proud to be the first women in my family to work in the industry and proud that a woman is carrying on the legacy.” Admirable it is. It takes courage to firstly identify your passion, dedicate your time and put in the hard work to get where you want to be. Olivia is definitely a role model that I would look up to.
Her motivation for going down this rewardable career path started as a child, her ambitions whilst growing up, although very different, were to become either a professional dancer or a lawyer. She goes on to say “I did in fact initially want to be a criminal barrister, and although criminal law is still a strong passion of mine, I know that media and commercial law is right for me. Human rights are and will always be at the foundation of why I have chosen to be a lawyer.”
For those who are in pursuit of a career in music law, I wanted to find out a typical day within it. “Working in Legal within a company, you are essentially the support to all the departments. One team I work with a lot, is the sync department. They may ask me whether we are able to use a certain artist’s song for a certain project. I would then have to refer to the contract and look at ownership, as well as checking if there are any restrictions (it is common practice in the industry to need to check with the artist before placing a song in for example, a violent film). Another big part of my job is drafting remixer agreements. I will go back and forth with management and lawyers, as well as the A&Rs and MDs within Sony in order to get these negotiated. Like every job, there are also the not so exciting admin parts – making sure people get paid, filing contracts and setting up formalities for new artists.”
The sync department within music refers to the process of songs being combined with moving images. For example, the use of songs in your favourite Netflix series, or the intro to your favourite Sunday lunchtime TV show. A remixer agreement entails the creative process to make a remix of a master song with the rights being retained by the artist, with a fee also being paid to the producer for their contribution. There is a lot that happens behind the scenes, in which your standard music streamer bobbing along down the road with their headphones wouldn’t have even thought was a necessity. Which is what makes this side of the industry so interesting, and what makes lawyers so important.
Olivia has worked with some pretty big artists within the industry including the likes of Little Mix and J Hus. She says “I think my most memorable artist would have to be Koffee. I worked on her very first EP and knew as soon as I heard it how amazing she was. Getting to go to her first ever live show is something I will always remember.”
Personally, one of my favourite things about talking to people about music is being introduced to new music. I appreciate talent, culture and skill even if the genre of music might not be my go to. Koffee is 20 year old female Jamaican singer, songwriter, rapper, guitarist, with an obvious talent for creating music. Check her out below.
If you have read some of my previous articles you know that one of my favourite questions to ask in these interviews is about the challenges faced within the music industry as a woman. It’s not only for the benefit of my primary research for my dissertation (haha) but also out of pure interest of what I will have to face after I graduate in May. She goes on to say “I would say that my personal experience in the Music Industry hasn’t been too bad. I think this is largely to do with the fact that there are many female lawyers at Sony. I know unfortunately that this isn’t an experience that everyone shares. One thing I think is which often overlooked, is that there are many women who suffer in indirect ways. For example, not being invited to the football match where they are all discussing business or having to turn down a networking drink because you are not 100% sure of the person’s intentions.” It’s encouraging to hear that not every female within the industry has had a bad experience. Take note ladies and gents, Sony is a diverse workplace.
Which leads me on to the question of what advice would you give to other young female’s aspiring to be where Olivia is today. She says “You have to stay 100% dedicated. I did every extra curricular when I was at university, as well as pro bono work. Even when I had my full time job, I was constantly trying to progress, attending networking events, building contacts and starting projects, all with my career goals in mind. I have had to sacrifice and invest a lot to get where I am. Last year I didn’t even spend Christmas with my family as I had to prepare for my exams. I spent all my savings on going back to university and going to law school (and started a side business to try help). Not everyone’s journey is like this, but I’ve never heard anyone say it was easy! I truly believe you have to be willing to fight for it with everything you’ve got.” Nothing in life comes easy, and nothing in life will just appear for you without you putting in the work. I know that because my dissertation still hasn’t written itself, even after asking the Divine Universe to leave me a copy on my desk.
Olivia’s future endeavours include her moving onto to an actual law firm where she will be able to expand her practice to cases such as defamations (libel), privacy, TV and family. I learnt about music defamation cases within my law module of my music business degree. A defamation refers to a person making a publication of a statement that causes serious harm to someone’s reputation. There have been many famous artists who have sued for defamation in recent years. According to a JMW solicitor defamation cases have risen by almost 90% since 2018, with a lot being linked to social media outbursts. Yeah, you best think closely before typing your angry tweet, Facebook status or Instagram post, because you could get sued. If you’re interested in finding out more, you should definitely give defamation cases a search on google, you’ll be surprised by how many of your favourite artists have had run ins like this.
So what advice should a new and upcoming artist in 2020 take from Olivia before signing a music deal? “I think the best advice I could give is to get advice! Hiring a good lawyer is key. This is your hard work and talent, a lawyer is one of the best investments you can make.” You heard her gang.
Olivia’s projects don’t only consist of a wonderful life of a lawyer, she also runs an instagram page called The Free From Black Book. Here she provides content and works with brands to help those that are gluten, egg, dairy free (as well as plant based). As a vegan myself this page has been a great find, it allows me to explore what’s available for us environmental saviours. You can also find her on Twitter. You should take a read and give her a follow.