Top Music Industry Lawyers Revealed

These 61 keen legal minds are on the front lines of copyright fights and superstar deals, led by the Bronx-born, Atlanta-based attorney who circles the world for his A-list clients. 

LAWYER OF THE YEAR

Joel Katz, 73

Chairman of the global entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig; University of Tennessee College of Law

Katz reels off flight times from his Atlanta home base like a baseball fan spouts stats: an hour and 32 minutes to New York; an hour and 12 minutes to Washington, D.C.; and four hours even to Los Angeles.

Billboard’s Lawyer of the Year certainly goes the distance. He went to China to meet with clients Alibaba and Baidu, and to Russia for United Music Agency, with whom he negotiated an agreement to license music from Universal Music Group (UMG), Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. In January, he traveled to Gabon, where his client, the Gabonese Republic, is building the African Music Institute with Boston’s Berklee College of Music.

“Music is not just about the United States,” says Katz, a father of two adult children who spends up to 50 percent of his time on the road. “If you’re sincere about being a lawyer who understands what makes this stuff work in these locations, you’ve got to go there and meet the players, just like you [need to] know them in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville.”

It’s in those music capitals where Katz is the go-to attorney for many top label executives, including Republic Records chairman/CEO Monte Lipman and president/COO Avery Lipman, RCA president/COO Tom Corson and UMG Nashville CEO Mike Dungan, for whom he negotiated a new deal in 2016. (Full disclosure: He also represents Billboard parent company Eldridge Industries.)

Last summer, Katz negotiated a $600 million pact to keep the Grammy Awards and additional Recording Academy programming on CBS through 2026. During this year’s Grammy weekend, he finalized, with Tim McGraw’s attorney Rusty Jones, a new record deal with Sony Music for…

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