From Lizzo's Lawyers to BTS' Esq.: Meet the Top Music Attorneys of 2020

7:00 AM 3/27/2020

by THR staff and Edited by Ashley Cullins

Here are the men and women who negotiate tours, brand deals and Hollywood roles for music's biggest stars.

Lizzo, Justin Timberlake and JLo - Getty-H 2020
Steve Granitz/WireImage;Jamie McCarthy/FilmMagic; Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

  • David Byrnes

    Byrnes engineered Beyoncé’s Netflix deal for Grammy-winning film Homecoming, with colleague David Lande, and her role in Lion King. He also oversaw the posthumous release of Mac Miller’s Circles and negotiated Blake Shelton’s contract for The Voice. "It used to be the lines were more clearly drawn between music and film and television, but there’s so much more crossover now," says Byrnes, who also reps Kelly Clarkson, Tyga and Pentatonix. "The lines are being blurred. Entertainment is entertainment. People who are truly superstar entertainers can easily move within the various mediums." 

    Please reboot "All In the Family, Good Times and The Partridge Family."

    If I could only eat one food forever, it’s "PB&J."

  • Damien Granderson

    Clients don’t get much bigger than Granderson’s: Kanye West, Cardi B, A$AP Rocky and J Balvin. The Beverly Hills lawyer put together West’s Jesus Is King and Nebuchadnezzar Opera album agreements, Cardi B’s Pepsi endorsement (which included a Super Bowl spot in early 2019) and Balvin’s “revolutionary” deal with Universal Music Latin Entertainment. “That essentially set him up as a superstar artist,” says Granderson of Balvin’s deal.

    Hollywood's 2020 priority "We all have to do our part to keep our community healthy, safe and supported during these hard times."

    My biggest challenge now is "My firm is focused on continuing to add value to our clients by staying on the cutting edge of the continuously changing landscape across music, tv, film, fashion, new media, technology and sports."  

  • Grace Kim

    Kim grew up playing piano, violin and guitar (among other instruments), so as soon as she realized there was such a thing as music law, she “made a beeline” for the field. After starting her career at EMI and RCA, she joined Grubman in 2005. A regular festivalgoer, in 2012, Kim met and signed a Minneapolis artist who could belt tunes, spit rhymes and play a killer flute — and the rest is Lizzo history. "I hate when people on their way to being established have shitty deals, so that’s the importance for me: to work with emerging talent, to prevent those situations from happening,” says Kim, who helped the now-Grammy winner ink a global publishing deal with Warner Chappell last summer.

    My biggest challenge now is "Work-life balance. Professionally, we're in an age where we're very plugged into everything and everything's streamlined; but because it is streamlined, it has the ability to creep into other parts of our lives, and it's very easy to find myself at three in the morning responding to things. It's harder to draw the line, especially when it comes to clients that you really care about. Even in 2010, most of our business was conducted through email — and now everyone's texting each other. I'm texting with my artists and managers the same way you would text with your friends. The lines definitely feel more blurred."

    Please reboot "Friday Night Lights the series. It was such a great story about family and friends and high school, but not masking it in a way that's too wholesome. It was a good balance of family and friends and high school but keeping it real as well."

  • David Lande

    Lande engineered Beyoncé’s deal with Netflix for her Grammy-winning film Homecoming and a pact with Adidas to launch her Ivy Park line of clothing, which “sold out immediately,” he says. He also negotiated Shakira’s Super Bowl halftime show appearance and Justin Timberlake’s return to the Trolls franchise, both as a voice actor and the executive producer of the sequel’s soundtrack. For breakout artist Rosalía, Lande renegotiated her recording agreement with Columbia Records and inked her brand partnership with Nike. He notes, “Her rise to celebrity has been extraordinarily fast."

    We've hit peak content when "I don’t think there will ever be such a thing. The amount of content available will only increase, enabling an ever larger diversity of interest in music to be satisfied."

    My biggest challenge now is "Coronavirus and the uncertainty associated with it. It has become increasingly difficult to plan and schedule for the future both for previously scheduled concerts and projects that need to be rescheduled and new concerts and projects. Sadly, from a health and financial perspective, the toll on many individuals in our industry could be very significant."

  • Dina LaPolt

    LaPolt has been “buried” in the deal for her client 21 Savage to executive produce the soundtrack to Spiral, the ninth installment in the Saw franchise. Meanwhile, she signed TikTok star Jadn (Jaden Hossler) and continues to represent Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj and Steven Tyler. On a personal front, LaPolt is 22 years sober in April and currently involved in saving the Log Cabin AA Club in West Hollywood — where she got sober in 1998 — from demolition.

    Please reboot Zoey 101

    If I could only eat one food forever, it’s "French fries."

  • Doug Mark

    Client Billie Eilish “exploded critically and commercially,” says Mark, who co-captains the singer with partner and “longstanding protege” David Ferreria. Elsewhere, Mark orchestrated an agreement for Guns N’ Roses to hit the road again, took on hip-hop group Shoreline Mafia, and sealed the deal for Flight of the Conchords alum Bret McKenzie to write the music and lyrics for the stage adaptation of Paddington.

    My biggest challenge now is "Mentoring our young lawyers to become great practitioners."

    If I could only eat one food forever, it’s "Ice cream, with some peanut butter thrown in wherever it goes well."

  • Kenny Meiselas

    In November, The Weeknd unveiled "Blinding Lights," the first single from his new album After Hours, in a Mercedes-Benz ad thanks to a partnership Meiselas arranged. The attorney also negotiated a major sponsorship with Verizon for the After Hours world tour, which (coronavirus permitting) kicks off this summer, and helped Lady Gaga launch her cosmetics line, Haus Laboratories, last September. Other chart-topping clients include Usher, Nas and Lizzo, whom he co-reps with Kim.

  • Aaron Rosenberg

    "I've been a busy bee," says Rosenberg, who "did a little thing called the Super Bowl" for Jennifer Lopez, orchestrated Ariana Grande’s world tour for Grammy-nominated album Thank U, Next and renegotiated John Legend’s deal for The Voice. Meanwhile, a "small artist" he reps has the one of the top album in the country, he says jokingly of Justin Bieber's Changes. Now, he's dealing with deals like those on top of navigating the pandemic, adjusting to a California law that reclassified many independent contractors as employees, and still working to make sure songwriters get paid for their content.

    Please reboot "The U.S. health care system, (but the softer answer I would give is NSYNC)."

    My biggest challenge now is "Practicing in the age of coronavirus. During dark times like these, music is important now more than ever. The challenge for those of us in the industry is to continue to keep the ecosystem for artists/creators alive so that they can continue to support the culture during these difficult times."

  • Jess Rosen

    Rosen repped Kenny Chesney in a stadium tour, Kacey Musgraves in an Amazon Christmas special, Brad Paisley for his ABC variety show Brad Paisley Thinks He’s Special and Reba McEntire in her return to Universal Music. The Atlanta-based dealmaker has earned a reputation for advising his clients, who also include Pusha T, Lady Antebellum, Thomas Rhett and YoungKio, on creative new business models.

    My biggest challenge now is “In a world where the technology keeps multiplying and changing, the issues of health and quality of life expand, the idea of human decency and respect gets lip service, it is to continue to deliver for the clients who entrust their careers, lives and creative works to me while being mindful of all of those things. I want to create the smartest deals, but not at the expense of any of the aforementioned things; my clients are people of deep integrity and it's important to them to honor those precepts while also staying at the forefront of our rapidly changing business.”

    If I could only eat one food forever, it’s "Pasta. After that there’s nothing else to say!"

  • Debbie White

    Few lawyers are known on a first-name basis among legions of music fans, but that’s what White is to ARMY, the dedicated international fanbase of BTS. As the U.S. representative for the worldwide sensation and its label, Big Hit Entertainment, she serves as a crucial cross-cultural liaison and renegotiates their deals to secure more favorable terms (this past year, that included distribution pacts with The Orchard and Columbia and an unprecedented merchandise agreement with LiveNation that included pop-up stores on three continents). With such a high-profile client on the other side of the planet, White works nearly around the clock, even during the pandemic. For her, working from home means dealing with tour adjustments for BTS, The Who and Melanie Martinez and clearing music rights for quickly-organized livestreaming concerts (such as Dave Matthews for Verizon’s Pay It Forward campaign) while staying in touch with Broadway clients, like the producers of darkened-for-now Jagged Little Pill and Pretty Woman.

    My biggest challenge now is "Not being able to meet with people in person. Whether it’s deal-making or maintaining professional relationships, face-to-face meetings are very important to me, and obviously this coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to that indefinitely and made computers and devices even more important."

    If I could only eat one food forever, it's "Spaghetti Bolognese from Madeos, crispy rice with spicy tuna, or New York-style thin crust pepperoni pizza. Can you tell that I’m hungry answering these questions?"

    A version of this story first appeared in the March 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.