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Henry Root: Music Junkie Follows Passion, Finds Law

Henry Root B&W.116

Henry W. Root is a partner in the law firm of Lapidus, Root, Franklin & Sacharow, LLP. He has over 25 years of legal and business affairs experience in the music and television industries. He began his legal career at MCA Records, Inc. after several years of touring with top internationally renowned musical artists as a tour manager and lighting designer. Mr. Root has represented recording artists signed to nearly every major record label, numerous award winning songwriters and producers, independent music publishers and independent record labels and the principal cast members of several reality television series. He has also overseen business and legal affairs for the delivery of programming to every major television network.

Henry Root is a life-long, self-confessed “music junkie”.  He realized at a young age that his future ambition was to have a role in bringing music into other people’s lives.  Hard work, long hours, and his unending passion for the music and television industries have made Henry Root one of the best known entertainment attorneys. Henry has been continuously employed since undertaking his first paid job at the age of 15, managing a high school cover band named “Evil Seed”.  From that early start, he went on to produce concerts in arenas, stadiums and amphitheatres during his college and law school career. In doing so, Henry built up both practical hands-on and business experience in the industry he has always been passionate about.

eMinutes:  How did you get started in the music business?

Henry Root:  At the age of 15, Eric Bazilian, a classmate of mine (a member then of “Evil Seed”), became my best friend and remains my best friend today. Eric is best known for having written the song, “If God Were One of Us,” popularized by Joan Osborne. He also founded the group the “Hooters”. I “managed” his band as well as two others during my senior high school years.

eMinutes:  Did you continue managing bands in college?

Henry Root: No. But having been inspired by Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book”, I wrote concert and record reviews for the school paper while I attended the University of Denver so I could get free records ahead of their scheduled release. I also was elected to chair the University’s “program’s board” booking and promoting concerts on campus.  In doing so, I met Bill Graham’s “mid-west partner”, Barry Fey, and was hired by Barry to produce concerts he promoted at the Denver Coliseum, Mile High Stadium, and to stage-manage his summer concert series at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

eMinutes:  Did you continue in the music industry in law school?

Henry Root: I applied to law school because I didn’t know what to do having earned a degree with a double major in Political Science and Sociology. I was having fun producing concerts, and law school was almost a second thought. When I was admitted, I was actually planning a career as a concert producer. I requested that they defer my admission for a year, but when I was told “no”, and that I’d have to re-apply and start the process all over, I decided to attend.

I attended law school for two years, while first continuing to work for Barry Fey and then starting my own concert production company, Terra Firma Productions. My first client was Jay Marciano, who now runs Madison Square Garden Entertainment. After two years of law school, I decided I enjoyed concert production more so I took a leave of absence and went on the road for five years as a tour manager and lighting designer.

eMinutes:  So how did you come to decide to resume your legal studies?

Henry Root:  I ended up touring with the opening act on a Van Halen tour in 1979, and decided I didn’t want to sleep on a tour bus anymore. It came to mind that maybe I could become a music attorney. So I applied to be readmitted to the University of Denver, College of Law and was accepted.  I travelled regularly to Los Angeles, seeking summer internship opportunities and was fortunate to find one in business affairs at MCA Records.  At the end of that summer, MCA hired me as a law clerk and I finished my third year studies in Los Angeles at Loyola Law School’s evening school.

eMinutes:  You worked the whole time you went to law school?

Henry Root:  Yes. I worked full time in the business affairs department at MCA Records during the days and headed off to night classes after the work day ended. Just before graduation, I was hired by MCA to replace a departing attorney.  So luckily for me, I had a job in the business and legal affairs department before I even took the bar exam.  Thankfully I passed the California bar exam on my first attempt.  I remained at MCA for about five years.

eMinutes:  And after you left?

Henry Root: I worked for a couple other attorneys for a brief period and then settled down here at the beach in Santa Monica with my own practice, where I have been for over 20 years. However, I have just started a new firm up the street with three other friends as partners and we’re about to move offices.

The new offices will be three blocks North of here, at 1299 Ocean Avenue. The new firm name is Lapidus, Root, Franklin and Sacharow, LLP.

My senior associate of 13 years, Lynn Quarterman, will come with me.  Lynn was first exposed to the entertainment industry through her position as a broadcast journalist at Detroit area talk radio station, WQBH-AM wherein she served as an “on air” news reporter and eventually News Director and Public Service Announcement Director. As a young attorney she worked in the litigation department of the entertainment law firm of Slaff, Mosk & Rudman in Los Angeles, CA where she worked on the credit attribution case relating to the motion picture “Sex, Lies & Videotapes”. She has spent time in Washington, DC working for the Media Access Project (“MAP”), a public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the first amendment rights of the public in the telecommunication, cable and broadcast television industries where she worked on issues such as the effect of indecency laws on cable television programming and the scope of  the “equal time” access rule in federal elections for presentation before the Federal Communications Commission in the course of its rulemaking procedures.

All four of the partners have backgrounds in the music industry, but have developed sub-specialties in various related practice areas within that industry (mine being in television production and talent in television series).

I first met Greg Lapidus when he was Executive Vice President and General Counsel and head of Geffen’s Business & Legal Affairs Department. Greg advises clients with respect to intellectual property matters related to the entertainment industry with a focus on music industry issues and has represented numerous divisions of the Universal Music Group, Disney’s Buena Vista Music Group, Apple iTunes, MTV/VH-1, NBC, Univision and Starbucks.  He has also represented, among other public service organizations, The Special Olympics, and the (RED) organization, co-founded by Bobby Shriver and Bono.

I initially met Darryl Franklin when he was a senior business and legal affairs executive for the Interscope, Geffen and A&M Records label group of Universal Music.  Darryl has twenty years of experience working in areas of media, technology and sports.  Prior to coming to the United States, Mr. Franklin was based in London where he served as Head of Business Affairs at EastWest Records (part of the Warner Music Group), then at Polydor Records and following that at Mercury Records. When Universal purchased Polygram in 1999 Darryl relocated to the U.S. to work at Universal.

I’ve known Jeff Sacharow since before he was Vice President of Legal & Business Affairs for Windswept-Pacific Music Publishing. Jeff has been practicing law since 1985, and specializing in the music business since 1987.  Jeff has developed a specialty in the area of music publishing, specifically in the area of the purchase and sale of music publishing assets.  He has represented both buyers and sellers in a number of the largest and most sophisticated music publishing transactions over the past several years, including most recently representation of FS Media Holding Co. (Jersey) Limited in its August 2009 acquisition of the Sheryl Crow catalogue.

eMinutes:  What are you going to do with this fabulous memorabilia? [Note: Henry’ office is covered with music memorabilia he has collected over the years]

Henry Root:  I don’t know yet. We call the décor here “everything my wife won’t let in the house.” “Yes dear, I love your autographed guitars, the Fillmore posters and platinum record awards, but they look better on the walls of your office”, she says. [He laughs out loud].

eMinutes:  At a young age, do you remember feeling inspired by anyone in particular?

Henry Root:  My father, whose work ethic always appealed to me. He’s an attorney. Both of my grandfathers were attorneys. My father met my mother while both were attending the University of Pennsylvania law school.  I’m a third generation lawyer on both sides of my family. As far as I’m aware of, to this day, my mother’s father was the youngest person in the state of Pennsylvania ever to pass the bar exam. I think the practice of law was in my blood and having the wonderful opportunities I have had in the music business allowed me to pursue both interests.

eMinutes:  Were either of your parents in the music business?

Henry Root:  [Laughs] No.  None of us can play a note or even sing on key. I think having always been passionate about music, finding a career in music law was a way to balance my personal interests with family expectations.  I don’t believe I would be practicing law if it weren’t for the music business.

eMinutes:   What is it that you love about the music business?

Henry Root:  Music speaks to me. I relate to the messages of the great lyricists and respond from the heart and soul to great songwriting.  And I love that it does the same for others.

As an example, in 1975 I was fortunate to produce the Rolling Stones stadium concert in Fort Collins, Colorado with Barry Fey’s other producer, Rick Wurple.  Months of work climaxed for me when Rick and I stood together next to the speaker stacks behind the Stones while they were performing  and looked out over a sea of heads of tens of thousands of people who, at that one moment in time and space didn’t have a care, trouble, or worry in the world.  Any of their wife problems, spouse problems, job problems, children problems, money problems – were all gone from their conscience as they were immersed in the music.  Rick and I looked at each other, hugged and our eyes teared up.

I then knew for certain that if I could be some very small part of creating moments in time like that where people can focus on the music and have no worries about anything but the music that was what I want to do for the rest of my life.  I like being a very minor part of creating those moments for other people.

eMinutes:  What would you say are the common misconceptions about your job?

Henry Root: (laughs) That it’s sexy, glamorous, and exciting.  After 25 years on the law side, I’m not in the clubs watching musical acts on the Sunset Strip anymore. I’m still passionate about music and love what I do, but it’s much more of an occupation now than an avocation.

eMinutes:  Do you have any advice for a young lawyers starting out? Possibly someone who is of counsel for a firm but wants to go on his or her own?

Henry Root:  Just keep the overhead low and plan carefully. Someone said to me if you watch the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

eMinutes:   What was the best advice you ever got about starting your own business?

Henry Root: (laughs) Don’t.

eMinutes:  What’s the most difficult part of running your own business?

Henry Root:  Cash flow management.

eMinutes:  You can’t count on people paying you on time?

Henry Root:  Certainly being part of a firm now should help level out peaks and valleys. But people don’t always pay on time, and some clients come and go. Some go and come back years later. A significant client of several consecutive years who produced a television series sponsored by a Detroit automobile manufacturer is not a client now because of the economy. On the other hand, I just consummated a large transaction involving the sale of a prestigious music publishing catalog and earned a significant fee. Sometimes it can be feast or famine.  The hardest part is making that a continuum, maintaining a balance, and having a staff that depends on me to keep it running. It’s a big responsibility.

eMinutes:  When you are hiring someone, aside from a great resume, what’s something you look for in a candidate?

Henry Root:  The single most important thing I look for is self-starting capability. Somebody that doesn’t need my constant oversight. I was very fortunate in how I was trained. My original boss at MCA records, then general counsel Bill Straw, said to me one day, “I hired you because I trust you and your skills.  If something looks wrong, it probably is and you should come to me discuss it. Otherwise, have fun.”  So I was given an immense amount of responsibility while I was only a 3rd year law student. They weren’t used to having people working at 6:30 in the morning.  They’d have to kick me out of the building at 10 PM.

eMinutes:  You chose to go in at 6:30 am?

Henry Root:  Yeah!  I was a kid in a candy store! I mean all the files were there and I could read them all.  So when I look for people [to hire], I look for those who have the same motivation, drive and ambition.  I look for people who are passionate, committed, have a “damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead” attitude, good judgment and great self-starting skills.

My background is in production. Approximately, fifty percent of my practice is in internet, television, and variety music special production work – often with performances by multiple artists. So you’ve got to get ten people on stage performing with all the rights cleared at the same point in time. That’s a massive amount of legal rights assemblage and risk management. That’s not, from a legal perspective, a lot different than me getting 175 people on five tour buses and three semis daily on an across the country tour as I used to do. I’m just juggling a different set of things to make sure the train leaves and arrives on time.

eMinutes:  How do you budget your time?

Henry Root:  With great difficulty.  I try and balance work with family, volunteerism and personal health.

eMinutes:  What’s a typical day in your life?

Henry Root:  I roll in here about eight-thirty AM after dropping my son off at the bus and hitting the gym. Coffee, check emails and faxes. Then look at my to-do list and start crossing stuff off.  I usually get out around seven PM.

eMinutes:  That’s a long day.

Henry Root:  Yes, it is.

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