I was working on an assignment recently and needed a source to talk about copyright law and I came across the law firm website of Atlanta entertainment law attorney John Seay. John represents a lot of musicians and artists. His practice is [from the website] “100% entertainment, intellectual property, and creative small business law.”
I knew John was an interesting guy when I saw that his office is located at the Goat Farm Arts Center. The Goat Farm site has been used for an episode of The Walking Dead and was used in the film The Hunger Games Catching Fire. [John says,“The Hunger Games scenes were shot right outside my office –there’s an Atlanta Film tour bus that stops right outside my office window and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the guides say that those scenes were shot right there..”]
John became interested in the Goat Farm after visiting clients there, and notes “I’ve become friends with a lot of people here so this kind of feels like my home away from home..”
John was a musician and a music journalist for about ten years before going to law school. He didn’t go to law school until he was 27. He graduated and spent some time at McKesson Corporation and Turner Broadcasting and 5 years ago before he started his own firm. John works with a lot of musicians but also works with television, film, and theater production companies and TV personalities. “I am essentially a small business lawyer but it just so happens a lot of the businesses are involved in the arts.”
You were a litigation paralegal for about a year. Is that what made you want to become a lawyer?
Not really. It was more in spite of that. The reason why I wanted to be an attorney and to do entertainment law specifically is I have an arts background and that job I felt would give me some insight and verify the law would be something I wouldn’t hate doing. I learned a lot and I felt it would be a good thing to do before applying to law school. It was working for a big litigation firm, which is pretty different from what I do now.
I notice you also have done some writing for magazines. Is that something you’d like to do more, or is law practice too time-consuming?
It’s too time-consuming for me to do now, unless it’s a marketing tool for the firm, but I love writing and I will always be a writer. The way I’ve kind of found to scratch that itch to write is by doing blog posts for my website and contributing to online publications, both as a marketing tool.
You’ve got a lot of upcoming speaking engagements. What do you like to talk about, or are you hired to speak on specific topics?
The topic on which I speak most regularly is careers in entertainment law. I had two speaking engagements yesterday on that topic. That’s something I could do in my sleep, by this point.
I’m going to be on a panel at SXSW this year talking about building your team as an artist. I’m excited about that.
I speak on a variety of music-related topics throughout the year in various places.
Are most of your clients musicians, or writer or artists?
It’s probably 70% music, and 25% Film and TV and other little odds and ends for the last 5%. On my website there’s a client page. Some of the bigger names that people may have heard of – Black Kids, the Wilson Pickett Estate, Lee Bains, Lazer/Wulf, Ralo, Mother’s Finest.
If you had a young musician here, someone with real talent, what would you caution them about in regard to the business side of the profession?
I find myself in that situation a lot. Education is a big part of what I do, in my law practice. I would point them to some of the articles I’ve written about collecting royalties for artists, so they feel they’re getting some compensation to encourage them to go forward. The most important things are be smart about your business, work with good people, don’t sign anything without consulting an attorney beforehand. Of course, all of that, even, is secondary to creating good and compelling art.
THE STANDARD TWENTY QUESTIONS
What is your full name?
John Eric Seay
Where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world?
I love Atlanta, but perhaps Vancouver or Toronto, somewhere up in Canada maybe. My wife and I are going to visit Vancouver next and perhaps go to Banf, which is a national park up there.
What is your favorite movie and why?
Hard to pick just one. I just watched Crimes and Misdemeanors recently and remembered how much I love that one. Blade Runner. Amadeus. I really like High Fidelity. It’s about music and relationships so it instantly appeals to me for those reasons. I like the typical guy movies like Goodfellas and all that stuff... PeeWee’s Big Adventure. I studied film in college so I have soft spot in my heart for Bergman,
Kieslowski, the French New Wave directors. I also like Italian horror films from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
What was your least-favorite subject in school when you were a kid?
What was your nickname when you were a kid?
I’ve had several throughout my life. I was Johnster and later on Dirty John…
Do you believe in God?
Probably not how most people conceive of it.
What sound or noise do you love?
The sound of a pedal steel guitar, a Hammond organ and as cliché as it may sound, my kids laughing.
If you could do anything other than what you do, as a profession, what would it be?
I’ve got my dream job but, other than that I could run a record label, I’ve got pretty good ears and business sense, I think.
If heaven exists, what do you think it is like?
I would hope that it’s you reuniting with all the people you were close to and being able to achieve some higher knowledge and peace about your life and the conflicts you may have had… eternal peace and knowledge and comfort.
Do you have siblings?
I have one older brother named Jeff, a professor of Engineering at University of Kentucky.
What is your favorite memory of childhood [something specific]?
When I was a kid my parents would drop off me and some friends at the local swim and tennis club and we’d stay there all day, playing tennis and swimming and eating. It was really a good time. I also vividly remember the hearing of my favorite albums for the first time as a kid. Things like that hit you much harder when you’re younger, I think.
If you had to choose between one week traveling around the USA by car, or one week traveling around Europe on a train, which would you choose and why?
Europe by train, although I’ve done that already. I just love Europe and seeing the culture there. I generally prefer trains to driving. The idea of going to Europe is a little bit more exciting to me although I’ve had interesting experiences traveling around the US too.
What inspires you?
The satisfaction of doing a job well.
Which holiday do you prefer, Christmas or July 4th?
Christmas -- just because it’s time around family.
What project or idea are you most passionate about, right now?
I’m doing a series of articles on artist revenue streams on Immersive ATL – a local online news source for artists -- and I feel passionate about it because it’s a way to educate artists and help them to track down music payments.
Do you know how to cook?
Yes, I love to cook.
What is your favorite thing to cook/eat?
Probably tacos, something Mexican related anyway.
If you could go on vacation anywhere in the world, for 2-4 weeks, all expenses paid, where would you go and why?
I would go to Scandinavia. I’ve always wanted to go. I’ve heard it’s beautiful and it’s expensive, so if someone else is footing the bill...
Who do you love the most in the world?
My wife and kids.
What question has nobody ever asked you, but you wanted to answer?
“How do you manage to stay so fit, juggling your family and work obligations?” Would be nice because that would mean I’m back in my pre-kids shape.