Brief Interviews with important People
Who: Donald S. Passman
Why He's Important: Passman is the author of the recently updated All You Need to Know About the Music Business, long referred to as the music business "bible." He practices law with the Los-Angeles-based firm of Gang, Tyre, Ramer, & Brown, Inc. , was responsible for record-breaking deals for both Janet Jackson and REM, and has worked with Mariah Carey, Quincy Jones, Bryan Adams, Tina Turner, Randy Newman, and Tom Waits.
The Savvy Musician: "They're getting more savvy and sophisticated -- they're understanding the business better. I think that's healthy for everybody. I don't think it's fair to have a business where the people creating the artistry and driving the issues aren't knowledgeable about what they do and able to get everything they should."
On Technology: "Every time a new technology comes along, there's 10 or 20 pages added to record contracts. When I started doing this, they were 15-17 pages , and now they're 100 pages. They just get larger and more complicated, but nobody knows which way the wind is going to blow digitally. What makes it interesting is that everybody -- the musicians and the record companies -- are nervous about what they're giving up, and understandably so."
On His High Profile: "I can make it easier to get deals done. When you're doing more business with people and they need you for more than just one occasion, they're going to treat you better than if they're never going to see you again. It's no different than a plumber you call out once versus being a contractor and using the same plumber every day. If you have relationships, it's easier to get things done."
On What Joe Musician Needs To Be Most Wary Of: "The biggest mistake young musicians make is to sign long-term deals without any ability to get out if they're not successful. They'll sign management deals for two or three albums or five to seven years, and it's easy enough if you know to ask to put in a clause that says if I haven't earned a certain amount by a certain date or found a record deal, you can get out of the deal and move on with life. It sounds simple, but if you don't know to ask, it can wind up the biggest mistake of your career. It can also protect you from a manager who's grabbed on to a piece of you for your entire career even if they've done very little."