Rock 'n' roll lawyers: niche work if you can get it

NICHE law firms have the music industry carved up among themselves and have pole position in advising virtually all the top UK stars.

It may only be rock 'n' roll, but with total revenues in excess of $40 billion worldwide and retail sales trebling in just a decade, pop music is proving one of the most durable industries to be in.

According to the latest edition of Rock Accounts, a yearly compilation of data on what stars earn and own, the smallest firms have the biggest slice of the action and nearly all are based in London's West End.

Many stars set up company vehicles to handle their income, and are shy about identifying their lawyers. But some do.

Lawyers to the highest-earners, according to Rock Accounts, include Eatons, whose client Eric Clapton is rated at number three in the earnings charts, with £5,880,000 (compared to more than £13 million the previous year).

Sheridans' clients Paul McCartney and Neil Tennant, of the Pet Shop Boys, earned £869,000 and £921,000 respectively last year, putting them at numbers 26 and 23.

Other top names include The Simkins Partnership (Mick Jones of The Clash) Lee & Thompson, acting for number two earner Elton John, worth £12.6 million last year and Queen members who collectively earned almost £11 million.

Other top lawyers for top earners include Russells, with clients George Michael and former Wham! member Andrew Ridgely. Burley & Co acts for Sting and former band The Police, and Compton & Co advises singer Sade.

Roger Whittaker, probably the list's oldest star, is represented by Nicholson Graham & Jones.

Among the few larger firms are Theodore Goddard for rock band Def Leppard. The firm is also known for advising The Rolling Stones.

The Stones and other top names are missing from Rock Accounts because of the “offshore nature” of their earnings, said Rock Accounts publisher Cliff Dane.

The lawyer of top earner Phil Collins (£24.2 million last year) is not named, but the singer-songwriter is thought to be represented by Nicholas Morris & Co. Other top music firms, such as Harbottle & Lewis, Clintons and JP Kennedy & Co, were also missing from the list.

Numbers of lawyers in music have “more than trebled in 20 years”, and now have “a quasi-business management role,” said Howard Jones of Sheridans. “It is one of the most expanding markets for lawyers and business generally,” said Jones.