Fetty Wap's Lawyer Sits Down With YMB and Shares Some Valuable Advice.
I think we are all familiar with U.S. rap superstar Fetty Wap who has had global hit records such as "Trap Queen", "My Way" and "679" to name a few. Here at YMB our focus is all about the professionals behind the stars and educating creatives on the legal and business affairs that will govern their career. So we sat down with the man behind Fetty Wap's success, the man who brokered and negotiated the big deals including his major deal with 300 Entertainment. Navarro W. Gray is certainly no rookie when it comes to deciphering the complexities of the music business with a roster of clients boasting some of the hottest rappers and producers in hip hop. In our exclusive interview with one of Hip Hop's most sought after entertainment lawyers he talks us through why he chose a career in music law, the most important areas in a record contract, what unsigned artists should focus on + more.
The more we got into the interview the more we were drawn in by his warm and relatable persona.
1. What made you pursue a career in entertainment law and what are some of the challenges you encountered?
I wanted to pursue a career in entertainment law because since I was young I had a passion for music. I started out producing music then later became a recording artist. I opened up my own studio and begin to distribute my cd’s. I had a lot of successful shows. I opened up for Jay-z, Outkast, Carl Thomas, Common and a few others. However, I had a lot of disappointing moments as a recording artist. There were a lot of people running scams on up and coming artists at that time. Thus, I begin to teach myself about copyrights, publishing, and the entire business side of the industry so that I could minimise the risk of being taken advantage. My largest challenge was breaking into the music industry as an attorney. I applied for jobs with multiple firms and got turned down over and over again. At some of the job interviews I had greater knowledge than the other candidates but just like other industries it is not always about “what you know but who you know.”
2. Who have you represented?
I represent multiple artists, producers, atheletes and models and have done business deals with various companies. The larger and most notable clients that I represent and can mention are Fetty Wap, Remy Boy Monty, Menace (Producer of Panda), Ricky Racks (Producer with credits on albums of Young Thug, Gucci, Migos etc.), NickEBeats (Producer of My Way), D-Stackz (Producer A-Boogie), Somaya Reese, Lady Luck, and Ayisha Diaz. I also represent several other entities and larger clients that I cannot mention due to a respect for their confidentiality.
3. From a legal standpoint , what advice would you give to the unsigned artist?
I would advise any and all unsigned artists to get their business correct. The music industry has shifted to a mostly digital platform and intertwines with the internet thus there are more ways than ever to earn money, but unless you have a knowledge of the new trends in the industry you could be missing out.
4. Do you think its important for artists to trademarks their names ?
I think it is very important. The registered trademark allows you to earn money off of an artist’s products, merchandise and likeliness that is associated with that particular mark. It also offers the highest level of protection for the registered mark.
5. When you are about to close a deal with a major record label for your client , what are the KEY areas you strongly negotiate?
I look at multiple areas. While everything in a contract is very important I immediately focus on the advance, publishing, mechanical licensing, and 360 component of the deal. I must re-itereate that every single word in a contract is important and one word can change everything. Those areas are just the areas that I like to look at first.
6. How soon do you think an unsigned artists should seek legal representation and how do they go about it?
An unsigned artist should seek representation as soon as they decide to take their career seriously. They would contact an attorney and get a solid foundation in place. Again, there are new ways for unsigned artists to earn immediate money off of their music and unless one is told about these techniques and ways they probably would not have a clue.
7. If you could leave us with 3 key tips for success in the music industry what would they be?
1. Adapt with the times;
2. Know your audience; and
3. Educate yourself about the actual ‘BUSINESS” of the music industry.