Mercer Law, School of Music and Capricorn partner for entertainment law seminar

Griggs sitting on stage speaking to guests.
Entertainment Attorney Tim Griggs speaks to the symposium attendees. photo by Jessica Whitley.

Mercer University offers many unique opportunities to collaborate with and learn from others on campus and in the community. Because entertainment law is a practice area of interest to many law students, the School of Law, School of Music and Mercer Music at Capricorn recently collaborated to bring together a panel of entertainment-industry law professionals for a one-day seminar focused on intellectual property, contracts and labor law.

The group provided resources to members of the community, artists and students who were looking to expand their skills and knowledge about entertainment law.

“One of the great aspects of Mercer University is the range of academic units and divisions, and this event was a valuable opportunity for students to learn from expert panelists and recognize concerns from artists,” said Karen J. Sneddon, professor of law and dean of Mercer Law School. “I was delighted to have the opportunity to learn with and from my colleagues in the development of this seminar.”

Organizers of the April 13 event included Larry Brumley, senior vice president for marketing communications, chief of staff and member of the Capricorn Professional Development Series team; Gary Gerber, dean of the School of Music; Rob Evans, chief engineer at Capricorn Sound Studios; and School of Music alumnus Steve Ivey, ’84, self-proclaimed Capricorn Sound Studios “chief volunteer Bear.”

Ivey, Capricorn project advisor since 2015, played an integral role in organizing the symposium as part of the Professional Development Series at Mercer Music at Capricorn. Ivey began his entrepreneurial journey as a 20-year-old junior at Mercer’s School of Music. His international career in music spans four decades, qualifying him to share a wealth of knowledge, mentorship and employment opportunities. 

This musician, producer, music writer, speaker and author said, “Anyone who has had success in the music business will quickly tell you that talent will only get you so far, and then you better know the business, have a great entrepreneurial work ethic and surround yourself with a great team of professionals. With the Capricorn professional music program, I have been bringing in my colleagues of highly successful music professionals, and we are sharing our knowledge and path for others to come and hopefully emulate.”

The entertainment law seminar schedule was a collaborative effort. Students from the Mercer Law Sports and Entertainment Society were invited to contribute to the initial development of the program by suggesting topics they were eager to learn about, enhancing the overall educational experience for aspiring industry professionals. An expert panel of four with decades of experience in various aspects of entertainment law conducted sessions covering topics that included intellectual property copyright, elements of a songwriter/artist contract for recording, elements of an entertainment contract for performance, trademark law and negotiation for an artist recording contract.

Mercer Law alumni Vernon M. Strickland, ’06, and Rush Hicks, ’81, presented the first session titled “What is Entertainment Law?” Strickland has a background in engineering and law. He assists artists, athletes and entertainment companies with drafting contracts, protecting creative rights and resolving disputes. A former NFL player, Strickland contributes to community development through his involvement in various organizations and has been recognized for his leadership and professional achievements. 

Hicks has served as a business attorney for four decades. He operates his law practice in Nashville, Tennessee, and has handled recording and publishing deals for artists including Kelsea Ballerini, Alan Jackson and Paul Overstreet. Additional presenters were Tim Griggs, an entertainment attorney, educator, writer and researcher, and Cheshire Riglar, an entertainment and intellectual property attorney. Each brought his own perspective, whether that was litigation- or transaction-focused, to provide real-world examples to the audience.

“First, we discussed a little of the history of Macon and Capricorn studios and the impact the music of Southern rock had on the world,” Hicks said. “We further discussed how the musical industry operated 50 years ago compared to today and emphasized how technology had transformed how music is delivered to audiences. The transformation of delivery of music has also necessitated the industry to update the way it does business, including songwriters, artists and record labels.

“I particularly enjoyed speaking with the law students and giving them some insight into opportunities to work as attorneys in the business and how different the music industry is compared to other types of businesses.”

The final session of the day was a simulation of a negotiation for an artist’s recording contract. Attendee and Mercer Law student Mary Evelyn Brock, ’26, said the symposium was a testament to the brilliance of the legal minds shaping the entertainment industry. 

“Each speaker enriched our understanding of what entertainment law truly entails,” she said. “The simulation of a negotiation of an artist’s contract with a record label was a highlight, offering a real-life experience in the art of deal-making. It was a dynamic exercise that encapsulated the real-world challenges and strategies inherent in the industry.”

Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Jeannie Zipperer said, “We are thrilled with the success of the entertainment law symposium, a collaborative effort between Mercer Law, the School of Music and Capricorn studios. We are deeply grateful to our panel of experts who shared their insights on the intricate legal and business aspects of the entertainment world. This event provided a unique and invaluable learning experience not just for law students but also for performers and industry professionals.”

Mercer Music at Capricorn is a multi-purpose music venue in downtown Macon with a mission to leverage Macon’s music heritage to create Macon’s music future. In addition to being an active recording studio, museum and music incubator, Mercer Music at Capricorn has an educational component known as the Professional Development Series. 

The entertainment law symposium was the third in the series. It follows a music business summit held in February 2023 and an introduction to studio recording certificate program that was offered over six Saturdays in fall 2023. In the works for fall 2024 is a songwriting workshop and another introduction to studio recording certificate program.

According to Ivey, a few years back when the project of rebuilding Capricorn began, thoughts for the long-term success of the complex were that “Capricorn is where renovation meets innovation.” He said the rebuilding of Capricorn Sound Studios was a massive undertaking by Mercer and a lot of talented visionary people. 

“We renovated the original studio to once again be a world-class recording facility and keep its original feel. In the innovation category, we have taken the entire building in new directions as well, complete with a very successful music incubator program,” Ivey said. “We built a second studio which is multifunctional and large enough to record string sections and vocal groups and hold events and intimate concerts. It has full livestream capabilities and equipment to record overdubs and voiceovers. It works completely in line with the main studio, so you can record simultaneously in both rooms — which we have done, and it works to perfection.”

Mercer Law alumni Vernon Strickland and Rush Hicks address symposium attendees. Photo by Jessica Whitley.
Mercer Law School students, staff and panelists are pictured after the symposium. Photo by Jessica Whitley.
Attendees listen during the entertainment law seminar. Photo by Jessica Whitley.