is just one star being represented by entertainment lawyers here.
By William Poe
If the concrete canyons of Los Angeles, New York and Nashville are
pockmarked by the star-crossed tracks of hordes of entertainment
attorneys wheeling and dealing their way to the next Big Thing,
then being an entertainment lawyer in St. Louis must be a little
like wandering alone in the desert.
wasn't the last hit song to come out of St. Louis "The Cheater"
way back in the late 1960s? Don't tell Nelly that.
Williams the last significant writer to publish while living here?
Don't forget Stanley Elkin.
only major film to feature St. Louis produced more than 50 years
ago on a Hollywood studio lot? Well, millions of people saw "White
Palace" and "King of the Hill."
doesn't compare to the media capitals of Los Angeles or New York,
of course, but this river city isn't all past tense, either. We're
home to a fair number of musicians, writers, illustrators and
photographers, and even record producers. And they all need the
services of an attorney who knows their business.
definitely enough business in St. Louis to keep a couple of lawyers
busy," observes R. Emmett McAuliffe, an entertainment attorney
with Thompson Coburn, a law firm specializing in intellectual
property law. "And St. Louis really is becoming a mini music
mecca that I think will generate enough new work to prompt other
entertainment lawyers to come here."
Tip top hip hop.The nation's top rapper, Nelly, a University
City native, is represented by a St. Louis entertainment lawyer
Jeff Michelman of Blumenfeld, Kaplan & Sandwiess.
The nation's top rapper, Nelly, represents some of that new work.
A resident of St. Louis and native of University City, Nelly (Cornell
Haynes Jr. when he attended University City High School in the early
'90s) shot to the top of the charts with his first Universal-label
album, "Country Grammar," which has sold some eight million
Nelly's business affairs is Jeff Michelman, an entertainment lawyer
with the Clayton firm of Blumenfeld, Kaplan & Sandweiss. Michelman
serves as Nelly's general counsel and handles a range of matters
including endorsement and licensing deals and copyright protection
of the artist's music and persona.
In advance of the release of Nelly's second album, Michelman says
he has been working "on matters relating to that album, re-negotiation
of the record deal with Universal, touring, promotions, and product
by Michelman include actress Neve Campbell, who starred in the
"Scream" movies; the pop band, Hanson; Hollywood producer
Buzz Hirsch, best known for the film, "Silkwood"; various
authors and advertising agencies, and even himself. Michelman
just published his own book of love poems, "Peanut Butter
on Bagel or Breast."
around a Clayton corner from Michelman is McAuliffe, a lawyer
and music buff, who represents Devon Allman, the musician son
of legendary rocker Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band;
Nick Gilder, a Canadian singer-songwriter whose "Hot Child
in the City" song went to No. 1 in the U.S., and other musicians,
film producers, and authors.
and Michelman also occasionally "shop a deal" for an
unknown who sends them a book manuscript, screenplay or music
like the people and their work, I'll shoot it to contacts I know,"
As head of
his firm's intellectual property law practice, Michelman protects
trademarks and copyrights for corporations as well as artists,
and it was corporate work that led to his interest in entertainment
law. In the '80s, Michelman was representing Kangaroo Shoes and
their athletic shoes with a trademarked pocket when the company
began lining up endorsements. With Michelman's help, "every
major athlete in St. Louis was wearing the shoes," he says.
Michelman represents more than St. Louis artists. Part of Michelman's
client base these days comes from relationships he has forged
over the years with law firms in Los Angeles, where part of his
family lives. "There's irony with me being in St. Louis,
which is not exactly an entertainment capital" he says. "But
I can provide the same services and expertise as the West Coast
law firms at an hourly rate that is half or a third as high as
those firms. They send me deals to handle."
led to his representation of Hanson, a Tulsa trio of brothers
who paved the way for New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys,
and other bubble-gum groups that followed. (The Hanson's debut
"Middle of Nowhere" album was not long ago declared
an "Essential Album" by Rolling Stone magazine.)
Michelman managed trademarking, merchandizing and licensing of
the group's name as well as the phrase, "MMMBop," the
title of their first single, which now appears on apparel.
kind of fell into entertainment law through Kangaroo Shoes, McAuliffe
says he yearned to be an entertainment lawyer.
with a passion for music and was the guy in the neighborhood with
the biggest record collection (now numbering about 10,000). And
I would be at the Tivoli Theatre most every night watching movies.
By the time I was in law school at Vanderbilt, I took all the
courses I could on entertainment law," he says.
says he practiced law as a corporate lawyer and a litigator until
"it all came together about two-and-a-half years ago when
I began to pursue entertainment law full time."
those corporate law days, McAuliffe was plenty busy in the entertainment
field, but not much as a lawyer. He acted in small made-for-cable
TV films, wrote articles for Amplifier magazine, and penned
a book, "Pop Power" in which he rated more than 2,000
alternative pop records. Even today he hosts a three-hour late-night
weekend radio program,
Emmett McAuliffe Program", on KMOX radio.
about everyone likes music, reading books and going to the movies,"
McAuliffe says, "but my thing was completely over the top.
Eventually you figure out you should make something out of your
passion rather than fight it."
Music buff. R. Emmett McAuliffe, (above left) entertainment attorney
with Thompson Coburn represents rockers such as Devon Allman, (above
right) Nick Gilder whose "Hot Child in the City" went to No. 1 on
the charts and other musicians, film producers and authors.
Because of his longtime interest and personal contributions to the
field of entertainment, McAuliffe says he might have a leg up on
other lawyers who seek to enter the entertainment field.
especially, have a deep distrust of anyone wearing a suit,"
McAuliffe says. "And it would be next to impossible to be
an entertainment lawyer and not have a deep and thorough understanding
of the who, what, when, why and where's of the business."
who graduated from law school 16 years before 42-year-old McAuliffe,
certainly doesn't disagree, adding that even young artists appreciate
someone who "knows their way around the ropes."
The M &
M boys are more friends than competitors, and they share their
trade experiences when they get together for lunch, usually once
a month or so. Right now, they need to ask only for a table for
two. They would both like to add some chairs soon.
William V. Poe is principal of Poe Communications, a St. Louis
advertising and marketing communications firm.