Al Staehely  Music Lawyer

at a glance

Admitted to the Bar: 1970, Texas.

Education: The University of Texas School of Law, Austin, Texas, 1970. The University of Texas, Bachelor of Arts, 1967.

Member: The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The International Entertainment Lawyers Association. The American Bar Association and Texas Bar Association, Entertainment and Sports Law Section.

Practice Areas: Entertainment Law, specializing in the music and film industries; Copyright and Trademark Law.


Al Staehely is an entertainment lawyer based in Houston, Texas. He has specialized in legal matters pertaining to the music and film industries since 1979.

His clients include musicians, record labels, music publishing companies, and distribution companies. He handles various matters related to recording, publishing, sub-publishing, and licensing both domestically and internationally.

Staehely has represented film production companies, optioned life-story rights, and cleared music rights for films including the Academy Award-nominated documentary For All Mankind. He also represents clients with respect to litigation in all matters related to the entertainment business, including copyright and trademark issues.

In addition to his practice, Staehely has taught music publishing and music business law at both the Art Institute of Houston and St. Thomas University, also in Houston. He has also served as adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center, teaching Entertainment Law.

Staehely attends MIDEM, the international music industry convention in Cannes, France, each year.

making your way
in the music business

An interview with Al Staehely

As a musician, songwriter, and lawyer, Al Staehely is immersed in the issues facing today's music artists. Over the course of his long career in entertainment law, he has developed deep expertise in addressing how artists — and those who manage, produce, and publish them — can succeed in an era when new technologies and laws are dramatically changing the entertainment landscape.

After graduating from the University of Texas Law School in 1970, Staehely moved to Los Angeles and joined the band Spirit as lead singer, bass player, and principal songwriter. The group recorded the album "Feedback," which contained seven of Staehely's own songs.

Two years later, Staehely wrote ten songs for a Staehely Brothers album released on Epic Records. Later, Polydor released his solo album. Staehely's songs have been recorded by Keith Moon, Bobbi Gentry, Patti Dahlstrom, John Cipollina, and Marty Balin.

Following are brief responses to some of the most commonly asked questions Staehely receives from students and clients.

Q: Why does a musician or songwriter need an entertainment attorney?

A: Most musicians and songwriters usually need help early in their careers in several areas: 1) Protecting their creative works. 2) Defining and formalizing their business relationships with fellow musicians, songwriters, managers, agents, music publishers, record companies, and film and TV companies. 3) Making contacts within the industry. Experienced entertainment attorneys can provide valuable assistance in all these areas.

Q: What's the difference between a personal manager, an agent, and an attorney, and is there any crossover of roles? Also, please discuss their fee structures.

A: In the entertainment business, a personal manager is responsible for coordinating the overall career of his artist client. The agent is responsible only for procuring employment. The entertainment attorney is responsible for negotiating and documenting the various contracts that the artist client may enter into, as well as enforcing those contracts, if necessary.

The "catch 22" for new artists is that it is very difficult to find well-connected managers and agents to take them on as clients. Entertainment attorneys, through their relationships, can often fill that void, providing a conduit for the artist and bringing talent to the attention of managers, agents, record companies and film companies.

Managers and Agents typically charge on a percentage basis. Attorneys typically charge on an hourly basis, a percentage basis or some combination of the two, depending on the type of services provided and the needs of the client.

Q: I've approached record labels and publishers repeatedly, but I can't get my work noticed at all. Any advice?

A: Most record companies and publishing companies have a policy of not accepting and reviewing what they term "unsolicited material," i.e., music or literary works not submitted by a manager, agent or attorney with whom they are familiar. You will most likely need at least one industry professional from one of these categories on your team.

Q: With the advent of digital recording, entertainment law must be undergoing dramatic change. What are the biggest issues your clients face?

A: As with all products, entertainment or otherwise, finding effective distribution is often the stumbling block. Music companies are trying to adjust to the new technology and changing listening habits of the music-buying public, and that is altering the manner in which recorded music is being distributed and enjoyed. Downloading is increasing. CD sales are diminishing. The challenge to companies and artists alike is to adjust to the new business models and create new ones themselves.

Q: What inspired you to become an entertainment lawyer?

A: Law didn't lead me to music. Music delivered me to law. Like so many others, I played in bands while in high school (Austin, Texas), in university (The University of Texas) and in law school (The University of Texas School of Law). Unlike most others, I didn't practice law for almost ten years after graduating. I joined the group Spirit, wrote songs, recorded for Epic records and toured the world. Practicing entertainment law has allowed me to combine my "in the trenches" experience and my legal training to help clients achieve their goals and resolve their problems. It continues to be a very rewarding profession.

To learn more about entertainment law or to submit a question, you are invited to contact Al Staehely at 713.528.6946 or by e-mail to: