Demystifying the Music Biz
By Hugh Hart
Published Apr 1, 2016 8:00 AM
Music attorney Dina LaPolt uses actual cases from her practice to teach students how to negotiate deals and draft contracts.
When she cuts deals for her clients, music attorney Dina LaPolt may be all about the money, but when it comes to her payment for teaching the UCLA Extension course “Legal and Practical Aspects of the Music Business,” the tough-talking lawyer turns into a softie. LaPolt donates her entire UCLA paycheck to the Urban Fitness 911 program for underprivileged youth.
“I’ve been in the music industry since I was 13 and never had to have a quote-unquote day gig,” she says. “I’m very grateful and feel like I have to give back.”
Every winter the New York native, who played lead guitar and sang in an all-girl group called Irresistible Impulse before earning her law degree at John F. Kennedy University, gives plenty back at Dodd Hall, where students imbibe her three-hour weeknight classes.
“I know what it’s like to live on the road, touring,” she says, “so when my clients complain that they can’t do five shows a week because the guy’s vocals are strained by the third show, I understand.”
Representing artists ranging from Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler to electronic music deejay/producer Deadmau5, LaPolt has more than two decades of in-the-trenches experience.
“I assign pages from Don Passman’s All You Need to Know About the Music Business book for people to read, but everything we do in class is real time,” she explains. “If I’m negotiating a record deal, I redact all the confidential information and put that contract up on the class website so we can all go through it together.”
LaPolt’s ability to demystify complicated music industry matters has made her a star attraction for show business professionals. Roughly two-thirds of her students work at companies in some part of the music industry.
Former students routinely use LaPolt’s lessons to advance their careers. 2002 alum Brad Rains is now vice president of brand partnerships at Atlantic Records and shows up every year as a guest speaker. LaPolt has also brought in Interscope attorney Erika Savage, Warner Bros. Records lawyer Damian Elahi and music clearance specialist Evan Greenspan to share their insider expertise.
LaPolt credits her longevity in a famously brutal business to a combination of analytic skill and personal warmth. “My job has two parts,” she says. “One is to negotiate deals and make sure the contracts are tight, but you know what? It’s a people business. So the second part is to make sure everybody loves me.”