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#921670 - 09/12/11 04:21 PM Minor Legal Considerations  
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Aaron Corley Offline
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Are there any legal considerations that a songwriter should be aware of when working with minors? Specifically, I want to know whether there is anything I should know when collaborating with someone under the age of 18. Would a minor need a parent/guardian to sign a collaboration agreement and other contracts? Any information here would really help. Thanks,


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#921699 - 09/12/11 06:12 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Aaron Corley]  
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Mark Smith Offline
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Originally Posted by Aaron Corley
Would a minor need a parent/guardian to sign a collaboration agreement and other contracts?


#921720 - 09/12/11 07:48 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Mark Smith]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Keeping the parents in the loop would be the first, most important step. Most contracts are not worth the paper they are printed on and circumstances, especially with artists, change like the wind. So making sure their is good verbal communication
all the way around is the best. I would have a conversation with them and find out what they would feel comfortable with first before I got too deep into any sort of project.

Most is going to be a song by song, project by project endeavor.


#921773 - 09/12/11 10:18 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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What I mean by that is that everything hinges on the relationships you build with these artists and their parents, relatives, etc. Those people are always going to be suspicious of people, and when contracts start coming around, they are going to be wary, as well they should be. There is nothing that will prevent them from leaving you behind if some really good opportunity comes along, and sometimes contracts just become messy.

On songs, the only real thing needed is who are the appropriate writers on the song and that would be in any publishing situation. As far as representation, manager, type situations, you are best to consult an attorney.

I would say the thing to remember is that pretty much everything in music goes agonizingly slow, even when you sign a deal it is often a year or so before they see the light of day, or even more. I have known artists with record deals for 8 years before being dropped. So you will probably have time no matter what might come up.

Personally what I do, is make sure everyone is on the same page and I involve the parents in any way I can. even sometimes going so far as to include them in writing songs. Has worked out well at times.


#921895 - 09/13/11 11:38 AM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Hi Aaron, Welcome to JPF. In the U.S., minors, anyone under the age of 18, may not enter into a contract. That means either a written or a verbal contract, so think about all that affects. Yes, communicate with the parents, often and in depth. You're getting good advice (as always smile ) from MAB.


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.

Mike Dunbar Music

#921904 - 09/13/11 12:01 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Been working with a LOT of them lately. Every 14-15-16 year old now wants to be the next American Idol. And their parents want a retirement account. The truth is that most of them wash out pretty quickly. The first year or so it is exciting, everything is fun, etc. But then when it really gets into work they tend to fade out, especially when the rejections start rolling in.

They also will go through the falling in and out of love deal. You haven't lived until you work for months or years on some singer to get them to a certain level then they or their girlfriend, gets pregnant or just decides they have had enough. Then of course, the inevitable going with someone more connected and leaving you behind. It is a toughie.

But we have to work with them, it is the future of music. You just hope you plant enough seeds to have one or two sprout up over the years. And you have to hope that you contribute enough to what they do to make them want to remain involved.

Record companies like young people because in addition to their youth and exuberance, it is going to take a few years to season them up and for them to establish decent fan base. So as you are working with them, you are part of that development.

Whenever I see these kinds of "legal question" posts, I am always thinking "Check back with me in three years and see what they are doing at that point." With younger people if you can keep in contact with the parents or legal guardians, you are going to be doing about all that you can do.


#921929 - 09/13/11 02:45 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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AJ Love Offline
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Originally Posted by Marc Barnette
You haven't lived until you work for months or years on some singer to get them to a certain level then they or their girlfriend, gets pregnant or just decides they have had enough.

I've definitely been there and bought that T-Shirt a few times! While I have no doubt such a scenario happens alot in Nashville, I would imagine that at least there is a higher percentage of young artists willing to stick with it in Nashville. Out here in the boondocks of the minor leagues, there are tons of very talented people who drop completely out of music to raise a family. I know plenty of very attractive women with truly great singing voices who chose to give up on music in order to devote time to their kids and/or husband...

Last edited by AJ Love; 09/13/11 02:46 PM.

A.J. Love - Telecaster player & Songwriter
#921952 - 09/13/11 05:10 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: AJ Love]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Actually it happens a LOT in Nashville as well. There is a fairly large burnout factor here continually. There are about 300 people a week that move to town, which is offset by around 600 a week that move home, most having lasted around 3-6 months.

Everyone moves full of big dreams, and hometown visions of catching fire immediately. Almost as quickly, reality starts setting in as to how many people are here. Waiting all night to play one song on a writer's night, performing in the same clubs sometimes for years, seeing the same people, and virtually getting nowhere, is not the most conducive to having a good mental attitude.

You hear the frustration in many writers and artists' voices as they sink more and more as time goes dealing with the seeming futility. They tend to write more and more negative songs and of course no one wants to be around someone negative all the time so it feeds on itself like a forest fire.

When you toss in a VERY difficult job market (there are hundreds of applicants for even the most menial jobs because there are people constantly stepping to replace those that don't last) and the fact that savings go quickly as well as realizing you don't need just ONE job, but many jobs, and THAT takes you away from performing, writing, recording. Again, these are all part of the obstacles everyone has to overcome.

A lot of people come through one of the eight Universities in the area featuring some kind of music or music business program and think their high priced diplomas will ensure a position,when like most jobs, practical experience is the key.

They find that record labels are interested in FAN BASE, which is gained OUTSIDE of Nashville, so often being in town is more of a detrament than being out of town.

Then there are the same stumbling blocks as everyone else has, raging hormones, being attracted to people JUST LIKE YOU, can lead to the marraiges, families, and the inevitable peer pressure "YOU'VE BEEN THERE TWO MONTHS! HAVEN'T YOU MADE IT YET?"

It all can add up pretty quick. There are no easy answers and each person has to deal with it on their own level. But as I always say, it is 85% of what happens "off the field" that is paramount in doing this at all. Most people just can't stick it out. There is a quite thorough "thinning out the herd" effect here.

So that has led to the process I suggest the artists I work with employ which is a healthy balance of both. continuing their lives, passions, performing, family connections in their home towns, while making focused regular trips to write, perform, network and record, seems to work well. Coming here to interact with the industry, write new songs and get the inside "street credibility" is building your product or "getting the ingrediants for your cake."

By regular exposure to the higher level writing, the connections, the "back doors" that come from happenstance elements of this town (you might play in a round on a writer's show with someone who might lead you to a publisher's back door) give you a sense of "movement." The songs that are written are usually done with people who are farther down the line themselves and bring a sense of "where the bar is."

Then, going back to their local clubs, writer's nights, open mics, where they can perform those songs for their friend's and relatives, attract THEIR friends and relatives, build and expand their fan base, also keep the momentum going.

If it is played right, this can lead to some pretty good results. My involvement with several artists in Michigan have led to considerable successes here. Frankie Ballard, from Kalamazoo, is touring with Taylor Swift and on Warner Brothers, and another artist, John Maison, is in the process of recording his first CD for a new independent label. I work with around 15 artists from the Michigan, Wisconsin area, and around 35 in Canada. Most all of them are doing this process, and advancing in their own areas as well as in Nashville. Many are being played on local radio, getting larger and larger opening shows and are advancing on some pretty respectable careers. I was even contacted recently by American Idol on one of the artists I work with, asking why I had "told him not to do contests" (I didn't), and could I "assist them in convincing him to audition for the show" (I did).

There are ways to do this even in this day and age. But it takes a great deal of planning, a lot of focus and a great deal of work. At the end of the day, a lot of younger people are simply not willing to do that. We are in an entitlement generation and there are far too many people that think they can simply hang out a shingle (I'm a STAR!) and the Internet will do the work for them. The Net helps, but it is a FAR cry from the solution to everything.

A lot of steps in this day and age. But never overlook the people that might be in your backyard, never be afraid to help someone else, never forget that you could be just the inspiration that someone is looking for.

At the end of it, that is why we are all here.


#921956 - 09/13/11 05:27 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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AJ Love Offline
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once again a great post Marc and I thank you for taking the time

In your experience, of the ones who "stick it out" longterm in Nashville, do you find that a higher majority of them are focused on loving the craft of writing & playing music as their first priority as opposed to "trying to make it as stars or big players in the industry"?

A.J. Love - Telecaster player & Songwriter
#921958 - 09/13/11 05:38 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: AJ Love]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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They are ALL trying to be BIG stars. But if they don't focus on the craft, they can get lost in the shuffle pretty quickly. An interesting development comes through two of the people I have been mostly associated with recently, Steel Magnolia, and Frankie Ballard, both on major labels, and both doing some very impressive things. They both played the Grand Ole Opry last Tuesday.

In both cases, my involvement was very much in teaching the craft early. In both cases (well three, since Steel Magnolia is a duo, Josh Jones and Meghan Linsey) now not only are their own careers doing well, but they are getting cuts on other artists. They are besiged by offers to co-write and are getting more say so on what they record in the future.

Knowing the craft and the basics early are very important on that. Once things really kick up there can be an agonizingly slow build up then it hits like a roller coaster. Hearing all three of them talk about being so exhausted and hearing a lot of "MAB was right" is amusing but has prepared them for what they are doing now. It is said that "You have a lifetime to write your first hit, but six months to write the next" and that is pretty true.

When they are thrust into the spotlight, constant travel, press outings, demands on their time, public appearances, etc. "off the playing field of the stage or studio, doesn't leave a lot of time to write. They have to make the best of it when they get a chance. That is when the focus and preparation pay off, they are able to put their songs into practice much faster.

So a lot of people are not prepared for that. It is great to "be the star" but it is the "behind the scenes" stuff that is what they REALLY need to be aware of.

That's the equivilant of "how do you get a job without experience, how do you get experience without a job?" Any way you can. But you better be aware of a LOT of stuff. Because at the end of the day, when you get into some of these situations, it is not just your career that matters. It can be a lot of other people as well. Best to see the entire picture and understand it early.


#921961 - 09/13/11 05:45 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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AJ Love Offline
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Thanks Marc. I get the whole "everyone wants to be a star" thing. I suppose what I was getting at was: what are the distinguishing personality characteristics of those who stick it out in Nashville for years and even decades as opposed to to those who last 3-6 months and then give up and head home?

A.J. Love - Telecaster player & Songwriter
#921973 - 09/13/11 06:16 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: AJ Love]  
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There are a few. But I see it in the successful ones and see it lacking in the unsuccessful ones.

Perspective. The ability to get back up.
Everyone gets knocked down. All three of those guys, Frankie, Josh and Megan, as well as several others I work with, never made it past the first round in American Idol. They all kept going. They never put their eggs in one basket and always recovered stronger.

Staying at it all the time. Continuing to write songs. Performing them out. Testing their audiences. Playing tough audiences.Continually doing writer's shows,even when they didn't feel like it.

Differentiation and ability to LISTEN.
One of the biggest mistakes I see are people moving too fast, before they are really even aware of the rules of the road. Again, you hear it a lot in the types of songs they write.

You will hear over and over on writer's nights, three and four people on stage at the same time, in a round. They do almost the exact same song, same subject matter, even melodically the same. They are not listening to someone sitting three feet next to them. How are they supposed to know what the industry is interested in?

Many in this day and age are trying to be "Taylor clones." Not just Taylor, but any major artist they are influenced by. They dress like them, sing similar songs, sound and look just alike. They don't stop to think "Hey, there is already one of those."

The unsuccessful one's hinge everything on some "Meeting with a BMI rep or ASCAP guy." They are "Just about to sign a publishing deal.." They "ALMOST have a song OUT there!" They JUST GOT a HOLD!"
You find the ones who really have something going on, don't talk that much about it. The one's who have very little going on, do nothing BUT talk about it.

The unsuccessful ones are very "Self focused." From the songs they write to every way they treat other people, it is all about "Me Me Me!" The problem is that the music BUYING public wants to hear something about "THEM THEM THEM!"

The people who actually succeed are the one's who are always happy to help others. They show up for charity shows or someone else's show just to support someone else. They give new people a place to stay or help them in some other way. Advice or a name that might help them. They mention other people's songs instead of just their own. They include other people in their own shows, they help out with someone else's ride. They are not selfish. That endears them to others and sometimes at that non-ending fight for funding, that is the final deciding factor. They go the extra mile.

When working with Frankie, he would drive to Nashville from Kalamazoo Michigan after a Saturday night show. He would get in early Sunday morning, rest up a bit, then on Monday we would start work.We would write songs, record, continually do things. Three days later he would drive back early in the morning, and perform that night back in Michigan. Then he would play five nights a week, while at the same time, coming back and forth to Nashville.

That is the drive.

The people that stick this out, find the DRIVE.

The one's who move home, have the DREAM. Too often unrealized.

#922007 - 09/13/11 08:29 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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AJ Love Offline
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Thank you again very much. Wise words to definitely keep in mind. Not only is this good for anyone looking longterm at the music business, but also extremely helpful as far as characteristics to look for in potential collaborators

A.J. Love - Telecaster player & Songwriter
#922011 - 09/13/11 09:01 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: AJ Love]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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You always look at it one step at a time. The music business is like planting seeds. You plant a lot of them and hope just a few spring up. But you treat everybody the same, bring the same level of attitude to everything you do. Consistancy is the key.


#922138 - 09/14/11 11:54 AM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Many years ago, me and Helen (in a different life) took on the management of a 14 year old singer and as was then the done thing, we signed legal contracts with the singers parents.

We promoted her for 2 years and invested an awful lot of time and effort into her career and managed to get her signed with one of the big 4 with a recording deal.

They told her to dump us and go with their management team.

When she said we had a contract, they actually took her parents to court to prove that her parents were incompetent when the agreements were signed.

We ended up having to walk away, and two years later the singer, after a brief moment of fame, walked away from singing.

We learnt a few lessons along the way and would never manage again lol.

We dont have any bad feelings, as I said, it was an earlier life. but caution is the word I would use.

God Bless Roy and |Helen

'You Have To Kiss A Lot Of Frogs To Find A Prince'

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#922276 - 09/15/11 04:04 AM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Roy Cooper]  
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Brian Austin Whitney Online content
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Your story sadly has been repeated more times than we would all care to imagine. I think the sad truth is there are very few bulletproof ways to protect yourself when working with anyone underage as once they turn 18 and go to court, the court is inclined to set them free no matter what was done. And to be honest, I think it's better to err on giving kids freedom than tying them to a contract or agreement made when they literally didn't know any better. Sad but reality.


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#922304 - 09/15/11 11:29 AM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
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Tom Shea Offline
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I have completed two cd projects with a minor and am presently working on two other cd projects with minors. Before becoming a music producer, I was an attorney. So, I am inclined to be careful with the legal issues. I draft a simple, fair contract and discuss it with the parents. I urge them to have an attorney review the contract before they sign.


Thomas Shea

Thomas Shea - Songwriting

Justice - Songs

#922327 - 09/15/11 01:36 PM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Tom Shea]  
Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 5,070
Marc Barnette Offline
Top 50 Poster
Marc Barnette  Offline
Top 50 Poster

Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 5,070
Nashville, Tn.
You might also look at the picture from a broader perspective as to where you fit in. While we all would like to find that "Golden nugget artist" and be taken along the ride forever, that doesn't always happen. A career is a constantly evolving thing and there are people that fulfill certain aspects of that career but are not meant to go into different areas.

Every singer has a lot of people that are influencial to them as they go along. Most of those relationships will change and just develop into other things. For those "behind the scenes" sometimes the "next artist" that came about through that first one might be the one that you were meant to work with.

For my own involvement, I am kind of like the beginning personal trainer, when people are starting their journey's. I enjoy getting with someone who is beginning, full of fire and vinegar and sometimes difficult to deal with, and helping them focus and shape what they do, till they go to the next level.

But I have also seen a lot of the industry and there is a lot of that I don't care for. I don't ever want to be the "late night babysitter" that many managers become, dealing with all kinds of problems from getting someone out of jail for drunken conduct, or breakdowns of tour buses, or trying to get a promoter to pay money they feel they don't owe. I don't EVEN want those headaches.

I kind of like my role. I help them out, then kick them on down the road, and usually through those people, other's come along.

And of course if you write really good songs, and prove your worth, that feeds on itself.

So in dealing with artists of any kind, keep an eye on the larger issues. You don't want to stand in anyone's way because you really can't and it just engenders bad feelings. Just try not to get yourself too leveraged out. I have seen people take out multiple mortgages on their houses for "The next big thing" only to be very dissapointed when that artist moves on.

I think the mentor/artist or writer/artist relationship can be a pretty good one. And in this day and age, one of the only ways in the back doors. Just keep your eyes and options open. Stay in good communication and enjoy where it takes you.


#986541 - 12/04/12 04:52 AM Re: Minor Legal Considerations [Re: Aaron Corley]  
Joined: Nov 2012
Posts: 6
Michael Ofi Offline
Casual Observer
Michael Ofi  Offline
Casual Observer

Joined: Nov 2012
Posts: 6
Yes, there can be problems inherent in contracting with a minor.

In California, for example, a minor can disavow a contract (minors are said to be not competent to enter into contracts). When much is at stake, for example when a substantial label is signing a minor to a recording contract, the agreement will be put before the Superior Court. When/if the court "confirms" the contract, the minor will not later be able to disavow based on his/her minority at time of signing.

In practical terms, Marc's comments re lots of communication and involving the parents make lots of sense.

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