Go platinum — case closed

Entertainment lawyer founded business by combining interests

After graduating from high school, Paul Sanderson spent three years trying to make it as a fulltime musician.

“I was kicking around doing odd jobs and trying to make ends meet and one of the jobs I had was as a messenger of a large downtown law firm,” he says. “I went ‘Gee, maybe I could combine these two interests. Lawyers seem to get a lot of respect and musicians at the bar level don’t always get a lot of respect.’ So I’m going ‘maybe I could put these together.’ ”

As a lawyer at his firm Sanderson Entertainment Law, where the guitarist and songwriter for the band Blue Moon also keeps a guitar in his office, he says he still actively pursues both interests decades later.

In addition to focusing on the music industry, Sanderson says the firm offers legal advice in the visual arts field and works mainly in advising, negotiating and terminating contracts for managers, producers, labels and publishers as well as artists.

After nearly 25 years on Queen Street West, they relocated to Kingston Road and Main Street after moving to make way for a new high rise. He says he was also attracted the Beach because he was tired of commuting downtown and liked that he could now walk to work.

“The other thing that was a factor, my son is just a close walk from here … so it was another real perk for me to have him work at the firm and help out a bit.”

He says his paralegal Paul Irvine is also an accomplished flute, saxophone and keyboard player who toured with the likes of Corey Hart, and also produces and plays in Blue Moon.

“Another local celebrity here, Dr. John, the chiropractor down near Queen and Woodbine, he often sits in and plays harp,” he adds. “He’s the original harp player for Whiskey Howl so we have a real connection to the east end, let’s put it that way, yes we do.”

Sanderson, who wrote Musicians and the Law in Canada and Artists’ Contracts: Agreements for Visual and Media Artists says one of his career highlights came early on, when he co-founded Artists’ Legal Advice Services, which provides free legal advice to artists of all disciplines including dancers, writers, musicians and visual artists.

Another job perk, he says is getting the opportunity to meet well-known artists, attend events such as the Juno Awards and seeing musicians before they become household names.

Some of the contracts he’s worked on that stand out in his mind over the years include Edwin’s solo project after I Mother Earth, which he says was likely one of the most significant Canadian deals, and working with The Philosopher Kings, whose record went on to become platinum.

“I think in general what is gratifying is you get to work as part of the team,” he says. “You’re an integral part of it but often for brief moments.”

Although he says doing something successful like helping an artist stuck in a bad deal move on with their career is always a highlight, he says being an entertainment lawyer isn’t as glamourous as it looks on many TV shows.

“It’s a commercial document and the reading of the contract can be intensely boring,” he says. “I tell my clients that I’m bored too, it took me two hours to read this thing, 70 pages long, but once you bring in the human element and the negotiation, it brings it to life.

“All of a sudden it’s real and you’ve got a real client that you care about that you are advocating for and this affects their livelihood, their careers so if that’s glamourous, then I guess it’s glamourous.”


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By: Ann Ruppenstein
Posted: Mar 8 2012 2:56 pm
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto
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