I am still getting regular emails and phone calls from songwriters wanting everything from me to pitch their songs to asking my fee to review a Single Song Agreement they have been offered. Same with other artists. Most of the writers tell me how much “everybody” thinks their songs are hits and how although they have no money to pay me now I will be greatly enriched at some future date if I work for free now. Technically, legitimate record companies work for free at first. Personal Managers and Business Managers work for free now. Agents work for free now. Most entertainment lawyers I know in Nashville do not work for free now or later as a general rule. I suppose it is supply and demand in a free market economy. If we work for you on spec we cut into the time required to service the paying client – and as a general rule there are more than enough of those in a music industry city.
None of the foregoing artist “team members” are actually working for free. They are working under an agreement which pays them anywhere from 5% to 20% of an artist’s gross entertainment income for a number of years into the future. Very few of the established team members are interested in talking to artists who do not have something going on for them, although they might take on one or two development artists.
I have taken clients on a percentage basis, a practice common on the West Coast. I have one right now but that is about my limit during any given period of time. I wish I could help you all but there are people who depend on me for their day-to-day livelihood (including my mother - and between you and her she will win every time - :). And honestly, if you have nothing going for you then you probably don’t need my services now anyway. At least not until you have been offered some sort of Agreement for your talents. On the occassion that I do work on a percent the client is normally brought to me by a manager or other industry professional.
I am only writing for myself and as a method of education for the readers who are not currently in the mainstream music business. Nashville is not a town where many experienced entertainment lawyers work on a percentage basis. You certainly can ask them but don’t get your feelings hurt if you get a “no”. Just go to the next person until you find the one that shares your vision. And if nobody hears it but you and your family and friends then you might need to change your game plan and build a career as an independent.