It turns out lawyers do have dreams beyond winning their cases. For Shamita Carriman, Esq., and Joshua Max, Esq., two lawyers with a passion for music, it was creating a defense for their entrepreneurial side resulting in a verdict that hopes to be music to the ears of grassroots, do-it-yourself artists.
How did you determine that a clientele you could reach out to and get business from absolutely existed?
I already had an entertainment law practice before starting this, so I had a good understanding of who my customers would be. I was constantly meeting struggling indie musicians who weren’t prioritizing the legal side of their careers. This was mostly because they couldn’t afford to financially and they didn’t really have the time either. Their priority was making their music. While yes, they would love to protect that music, the money they were earning was going toward putting out their music and the time, to making more music. Our system is broken, so I went out into the trenches listening to the music and to the people making the music and heard their needs.
What are you able to do different and better for indie musicians as Team Indie?
The legal world is rife with formalities, and when I first started working with indie artists in my capacity as a lawyer, I quickly learned that many of them were really turned off by formal tone and legal jargon. I try to make things simple. Brilliance lies in communicating things simply. An artist once told me that they preferred to work with the type of entertainment attorney that they can do business with over beers at a show. This sort of mentality is a major departure from the inherently formal tone of the traditional legal and business world that I was coming from. I had to quickly learn how to adapt my language and tone to communicate effectively with artists. We [make] a conscious effort to keep our language light, engaging and fun. Many artists [tell] us that we are “speaking their language.” I always try to create a relaxed atmosphere and use relaxed language. Copyright law is complicated and I try to pinpoint the essential things, the six most important things to them. I only try to give them the information that is going to be most beneficial to them.
How do you profitably meet your needs, while affordably meeting the needs of the musician?
Again and again I’d hear musicians tell me they wanted to take care of their legal and business arm, but that they didn’t have the means or an easy way to do it on their own. I’d hear this, but then I wasn’t seeing anyone solving it. The scariest thing I heard from many of the indie artists is that [they] ultimately decided to totally ignore their business and legal house altogether because of the lack of viable options to help them. [This] inspired something within me to help them. I was far from fond of the solutions they were employing to meet their needs. We keep our rates reasonable for a city that can charge $300 to $500 an hour. Understanding that my clients don’t have the right tools on their own and we do, we realized how much more simple it would be for them if we streamlined what they need online in fun and easy format. Understanding that they are motivated more by putting their art out into the world, I thought, how can I monetize the business to fix this problem? I want artists to make money off their art, to exploit it. To do that you need a paper trail and you do that by registering and protecting your copyrights. It’s too expensive to just go and find a lawyer, and you really can’t do it well on your own, especially when time is an issue. The bottom line is that most indie artists can’t fully support themselves when starting out. Many are working a full-time or part-time job and have to leave their music as a side project, and when they do try to focus on this stuff, their creativity gets zapped. That’s not efficient for them, but they do need to protect their brand and business. By bundling all these details together in one place and speaking about it in simple language, it’s easy for them to see value in our services.
In what ways are your researching and linking up with potential new clients?
Social networking has been a great medium to learn who my customers are. The best way that I’ve been able to learn who they really are [though] is by taking the time to actually go out in the field and build authentic relationships with them. My target customers are indie artists, so building relationships with them has entailed routinely going to artist showcases, concerts and festivals; heading to music conferences like SXSW and CMJ; and getting involved with the artist community through my side work with a music nonprofit called Women In Music where I serve as a Board of Director.
What kind of solutions are you offering your clients?
It’s really important that they have a basic understanding of how these things work together because their professional careers are completely framed by their copyrights, trademarks, business model and decision-making process for their deals. They obviously can’t all go to law school to learn these things and I’m sure that most of them have no desire to do so. I provide an educational aspect to help my customers. The result was creating Team Indie as a one-stop-shop to address all of these needs for them in an easy and affordable way. In 10-15 minutes an artist can use our forms to register their copyrights, trademark or business; they can instantly download sample contracts for deals they commonly need; and they have an opportunity to go to our free workshops on music law and business to learn about their business and legal affairs in an engaging way. We’re helping them with a targeted, holistic and sustainable way to handle their own business and legal needs with our hybrid of services.