Britpop singer turned entertainment industry lawyer ideally qualified
When it comes to understanding the potentially brutal pitfalls awaiting aspiring artists in the music industry, Shoosmiths lawyer Carol Isherwood has been there, done it, and bought the T-shirt.
Steely determination led the one-time singer in indie Britpop band Pullover, pictured, to spend four years training as a solicitor following their demise after an all-too-familiar legal wrangle with a record label.
Isherwood, an associate at Shoosmiths working alongside partner Laura Harper for the company’s creative industries, she is now instrumental in helping up-and-coming bands and artists to avoid the very disputes which wrecked her own music career.
That said, she doesn’t “just do music”. “I do a lot of digital IP (intellectual property) and we act for a lot of fashion companies,” Isherwood told TheBusinessDesk.
“We deal in basic concepts of licensing, ownership and new licensing modelling.”
But there’s still a dreamy glint in her eye when Isherwood – raised in the Bury satellite town of Radcliffe north of Manchester until she and her band mates moved to London in the 90s – talks about her former career.
“We ended up with a nice deal with a little indie label and put out three singles,” she recalled. “The label specialised only in singles, but like many bands we wanted to put out an album.”
A bigger label then came along and promised Isherwood and her band-mates – who co-wrote their material – the world. “But they never delivered,” she said.
“They got into financial difficulty and we became involved in a copyright dispute. We got terrible legal advice and it basically killed our career.
“It was about 1997 and we recorded an album, but we couldn’t do anything with it. The label wanted £60,000 before it could happen.
“We did two UK tours and played at Reading in the era when the only big festivals were that one and Glastonbury. In the band, we had an amazing time.
“But our story is such a common one. It happens to many bands. Something like 1% make it.
“I learned a lot of hard lessons about the music industry and copyright and how it all works.
“After the band, I worked in music PR, then music management before deciding to become a solicitor.
“It took four years, two years at MMU to convert the degree I already had, then two years training. I’ve been a lawyer now for 10 years.”
Isherwood is now committed to raising awareness among young up and coming artists over the importance of understanding the potential legal problems in the music business, and is a guest lecturer at LIPA in Liverpool and BIMM (British and Irish Modern Music institute), which has a base in Manchester.
Based at the creative hub the Space Project, Shoosmiths has got a lot of clients there.
“It’s a place to be involved where we know what’s going on and we’re at the heart of it,” said Isherwood.
“I act for multi-national global brands and individual singer songwriters.
“My background helps me in that I understand what it’s like to have had a record deal, with a PR team and broadcast pluggers working with you. It enables me to empathise with our clients, and to understand how important it is to get rights protected.”
Shoosmiths has a Tier One ranking in the Legal 500 for media and entertainment, while Harper is ranked in Chambers.
Fees billed by Harper and Isherwood’s team are 49.8% up on last year’s figures.
The company acts for various music festivals, indie labels and bands including Skeleton Key Records and the Orielles, as well as for major brands on music matters, including commission, synch and sponsorship deals for example with the Iconix Brand Group Inc.
Shoosmiths recently advised clients on deals with Heavenly, Domino, Warner Chappell and were appointed as specialist arts legal advisers to Hull UK City of Culture 2017. The company also acts for TV and film production companies, including Karrot Entertainment Ltd.