INDUSTRY PROFILE
Entertainment Attorney Scott
Keniley by Mark E. Waterbury

The passion for working with musicians in a professional capacity can sometimes crop up when one least expects it. Born in a small Illinois burg not far from St. Louis, Scott Keniley didn’t have much more than a typical interest in music. His engrossment was in the legal profession which he initiated by obtaining his law degree from the the University of Oklahoma in 1992. He was hired by a firm in Tennessee where he passed the Georgia bar exam and then pursued his initial legal passion of litigation. After several years as a litigator, Scott was asked by a friend to represent a rap artist concerning a record company that owed him royalties. “I took on the case and beat up on the record company,” Scott recalls. “I got him paid, and through his amazement and joy, he sent all of his friends to me.”
Scott began to delve into the world of entertainment law soon finding the fuse for a newly discovered passion had been lit. “I never really thought about getting involved in music or entertainment law before. Once I got into it, I found that it was the most complicated area of law that I ever faced. The more I researched into it, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. The constant study of it made me intrigued by trying to learn it.” Scott started learning as much as he could about the music business by reading various reference books and attending seminars. One conference he attended was the Southern Regional Entertainment and Sports Law Conference. The second year he attended the conference, Scott volunteered to be on the social committee. He then found out that the conference chairman was stepping down, so he offered to take his place. As a result he was able to meet and learn from some of the biggest entertainment lawyers in the world. Scott then began to work more exclusively with entertainment clients. He negotiated licensing or trademark deals involving music for such giant entities as Coca Cola and National Geographic. His negotiating skills were also put to use involving copyright licenses for the movies “Monster’s Ball” and “Traveller’s Prayer.” He was involved with arbitrations for a producer deal with legendary former Beatles producer Sir George Martin and a charity performance deal with Stevie Wonder. Even as his practice was booming, Scott was approached by Platinum Entertainment in 1999. A record label and distribution company, Platinum persuaded him to give up his practice and join the company as a vice president of their legal department. “I basically became a guy who was running a record company from all angles. I was involved in the business aspects, the financial aspects and the business aspects, and also signing acts.” Platinum had some solid names on its roster including Pete Townsend, Derek Trucks, and Kansas. Platinum was struggling though, due to overspending and not keeping up with some of the more modern marketing trends. Scott guided the company through a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, bringing the company through the restructuring with the new name of Compendia Media Group. Scott ensured that Compendia was on their own two feet and headed in a right direction before going back into private practice. “At one point in time, I was the highest ranking officer in the company. We eventually started building a new team to take the company into the future. The company was not only saved, but, just before I Ieft, it it really started taking off.”
Scott returned to private practice and began building a list of clients including jam rockers Leftover Salmon, as well as independent labels and figures in the professional boxing and wrestling worlds. His experience with Platinum helped him develop the indies he represents to avoid the business pratfalls that could lead to corporate bankruptcy. Musicians don’t always know the legal bumps and potholes that may lie in the road ahead either and that is why Scott is there to guide them through it, as well as advising them on more general ideas of how to grow their music career. “Bands and musicians should not try to do legal agreements on their own. I also let them know that it all comes down to marketing their careers. They can have the greatest music around, but if the world doesn’t know they are there, neither will the record companies. Bands need to learn how to brand their name and their style of music and make an impression with it. Pure talent doesn’t mean pure money; you have to market it.” Scott and some of his friends recently developed another resource to help musicians and bands. They created the Thirsty Melon event, which is part conference and part festival that will take place at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville on June 24th through the 26th. Two hundred bands will be showcased over the three days, which will also include workshops and panels featuring music business execs and personalities. “We are all about teaching these up and coming bands more tricks of the trade to help them take their craft to the next level. We are going to teach them how to make money; not necessarily how to get a label deal, but to get out and make money with their music. We are also going to put the bands in front of general people, so they have the chance to make some new fans.”
Even though Scott admits that when he was growing up he was only a casual music fan, he feels that in some ways that helps him be a better entertainment lawyer. He also really enjoys working with his clients, which makes him happier being involved with entertainers and musicians than he was as a litigator in the early days of his legal career. “To a certain extent I believe that being a more casual music fan and not an actual fan of my clients makes me represent them as a non-biased, objective attorney. I really like working with the clients. Being an entertainment lawyer is kind of a misnomer. An entertainment lawyer is just a lawyer - the difference is my clients are entertainers. It's a matter of me doing a job that is a lot more fun working with the types of clients I do than it would be doing the exact same work for others. It is absolutely very satisfying.”
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Scott Keniley’s advice for musicians: “Musicians need to perform live because that is the best way that they can support themselves. It’s not an issue, they have to do it. Ninety-five percent of bands - even the ones you hear on the radio - don’t recoup on their record deals. They don’t make money off their album sales so they have to make it off touring, merchandise sales and publishing. So play as much as you can to build up your fan base. If bands could push themselves like the record companies would, then they would not need the record companies.”
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