Celebrity producers talk about business of music

Canada’s music business elite – including Pink Floyd producer Bob Ezrin – will gather at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School on Feb. 5 to participate in a conference called Music, Money and the Law – An Insider’s Guide to the Business of Music.

Left: Legendary music producer Bob Ezrin  

“Music, Money and the Law will provide students, musicians and those interested in the business side of music with an opportunity to learn more about how the Canadian music business operates,” explains conference organizer Paul Chodirker, a second-year Osgoode student. “Panel speakers will include music publishers, managers, agents, entertainment lawyers and copyright experts. Some of these speakers include the manager of Our Lady Peace, lawyers for Avril Lavigne and Nelly Furtado, and VPs of publishing for Sony, Universal and EMI.”

The goal of the conference “is to give young musicians and students an opportunity to get a comprehensive education on the business of music,” Chodirker said in a recent interview with the Obiter, Osgoode’s student newspaper. “No where else in Canada will you get a one-day symposium that explains every facet of the business from publishing to copyright and from management to legal representation. I’ve been in a band since I was 12 years old and I would have killed for an opportunity to be in a room with basically everyone that I would need to meet to get my music to the public.”

The roster of speakers includes Bob Ezrin, Juno Hall of Fame producer and a 30-year music industry leader who has worked with artists like Alice Cooper and Lou Reed. The Toronto-born producer, arranger and writer  played a major role in the making of some of music’s most successful artists, including Peter Gabriel, KISS, Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails. He also produced Pink Floyd’s best-selling, critically-acclaimed album The Wall, which is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.

“Bob encompasses a rich legacy in rock music and is uniquely qualified to share his experience of the business of music, which is the theme of this symposium,” says Chodirker. He and fellow second-year law student Dan Goldberg co-founded the Osgoode Music Law Association (OMLA), which is presenting the conference.

The special one-day event, a first for the OMLA, is being organized with the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA). The conference will take place in Osgoode’s Moot Court.

Tickets to attend the symposium are available at Osgoode in the Mixing Area on Wednesday, Feb. 2 between 12:40 and 1:30pm. As well, you can purchase tickets at Steve’s Music Store on Queen Street West. Tickets are $15 for students and $25 for non-students. For more information, e-mail omla@themob.ca

The conference is made possible through grants from the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) Foundation and the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent On Records (FACTOR).

Excerpts from an interview with Paul Chodirker published in the Obiter, Osgoode’s student newspaper. Used by permission.

Obiter: How and why did you come up with the idea to hold this conference at a law school?

Chodirker: My co-founder and I are both long-time musicians and enormous music nerds who have spent far too much time caring about who wrote the piano part in ‘Layla’ for example. So, we wanted a way to combine this passion for music with our studies in law.

O: How did you get such big names in the industry to commit?

C: I was very lucky to have worked for the CMPA and make many connections in the music business [last summer]. The members of the CMPA, who are all music publishers, helped me get in contact with a lot of good people. Other than that, it was a simple case of me knowing who I wanted to have speak from my days in a band and e-mailing them about 1000 times asking for their commitment. In terms of getting Bob Ezrin, he happened to be friends with a member of the CMPA, who is VP of Publishing for EMI, and he simply convinced Bob to participate.

O: What can students look to gain from the experience?

C: Music is quickly becoming one of the more interesting and complex areas in the practice of entertainment law. Legal issues running through music include copyright conflicts, contract litigation and negotiation, royalty distribution and negotiation, and even employment law. Let’s just say, there are a lot of lawyers running around the offices of the major labels in this country.

O: Isn’t entertainment a small field in Canada?

C: I don’t know; define small. The growth of the movie industry within Canada was a major boon to the practice of entertainment law. As well, some of the music industries biggest stars have come from Canada and all have Canadian legal representation – this includes lawyers for Avril Lavigne, Nelly Furtado, Nickelback, Sum 41. While entertainment law is certainly a niche practice area, there is still a lot of work out there – just ask firms like Heenan Blaikie, Cassels Brock, Goodmans, Goodman and Carr.

O: Do you want to be an entertainment lawyer? Is that where the inspiration for this symposium came from?

C: My inspiration really comes from music. I grew up in Winnipeg and couldn’t get away from the rich music history of that city. My dad used to tell me stories of when he would go down to the community centers in Winnipeg and hear the Guess Who, who were known as Chad Allan and the Expressions then, and Neil Young, who was playing with the Squires. It can be hard for law students to find inspiration at school. So, I decided to simply combine my greatest interest with my studies and that is how this event was born. Whether I’ll be an entertainment lawyer or not remains to be seen…let’s just say I would rather be drumming for Neil Young on his next tour.

O: How did you get the funding?

C: I applied to both the SOCAN Foundation and FACTOR during the summer, while I was working for the CMPA. Both organizations were really keen on the fact that students would be organizing it and it was going to be held at a school. So, basically I used my skills as a former journalism student at Ryerson and wrote an application. Luckily, it was approved, otherwise, I doubt we would be speaking about this event right now.

O: Is this a one of a kind event?

C: This is a one of a kind event that doesn’t exist anywhere in Canada. Canadian Music Week and the NxNE festival have conferences, but they are expensive and don’t involve a one-day symposium that involves people from all parts of the music business.