William (Bill) I. Hochberg

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Biography

“It’s all about the music,” says Bill Hochberg.

Not only does Bill represent music clients, he also writes about music topics for The Atlantic, Wired, and other publications. And as an attorney specializing in music and media law, Bill handles transactional and litigation matters for some of the finest creative talents and most innovative companies in the world.

“I have a litigation background that informs my ability as a transactional attorney,” says Bill. “If I’m working on a record contract, I know what things might be a problem from a litigation standpoint.“ Bill’s work has included representing the estates of Bob Marley and Curtis Mayfield in licensing, copyright, and international music law matters; Nashville songwriting icon Jeffrey Steele in establishing his Music Row publishing and production house; members of Guns N’ Roses and the Offspring in various group matters; Britney Spears on litigation related issues; and film composer Lalo Schifrin regarding distribution of his re-record of “Mission: Impossible” and other legendary scores. Bill’s clients have included award-winning recording artists, songwriters, producers, film composers, record labels, production companies, music publishers, talent managers, marketing companies, and the estates of pre-eminent creative artists, as well as up and coming creative talents who need a runway before they soar and excellent traffic control to avoid a crash.

Valuation of music copyrights and trademarks.

Much of his work relates to copyrights and trademarks. “It’s often evaluations of music, such as how much are hundreds of millions of Spotify streams worth to a client, or how does an estate evaluate music assets, as well as issues between band and label or between band members themselves,” he says. Just as Bill’s trial experience informs his contract negotiations, so does his deal making skill avoid costly litigation. “There’s a lot of variety in what I do. Ultimately, it’s all about the music.”

Multifaceted knowledge of the music world.

Bill, a musician himself, has a keen insight into the forces shaping changes in the music world, understanding the heart and soul of a musician and what their music means to them. Whether negotiating contracts or handling litigation, Bill knows what needs to go right, what can go wrong, and how to straighten out matters when they go sideways.

For example, Bill’s film composer and ad agency clients were sued by a company that had purchased ZZ Top’s publishing rights. The company insisted it owned a “boogie riff” used in a TV commercial. Bill found that ZZ Top had been sued unsuccessfully 10 years earlier by blues legend John Lee Hooker for stealing that same boogie riff from him. ZZ Top argued that many artists had used the same riff before Hooker. “I just took ZZ Top’s list of songs they used to defend themselves against Hooker’s claim and then turned it on the company that had bought ZZ Top’s catalog.” That copyright infringement lawsuit was withdrawn two days before a hearing on Bill’s motion to dismiss.

Using the law to help talented creators.

Bill’s successful track record as a contract negotiator and litigation strategist demonstrate his deep musical and legal knowledge and his keen interest in the creative process. “Copyright litigation is endlessly fascinating to me,” says Bill. “Attempting to answer questions like,‘When is it original?’ and ‘What is fair use?’ require more than just knowledge of the law. How your creative client came up with a song riff or lyric gets into psychology and how the mind works. It’s a piping hot topic right now in the music business world and has repercussions on the creative community.

Bill’s bottom line is his clients’ bottom line. “My job is to negotiate great music deals and to protect their creative works,” Bill says. “It’s all about the music … and getting my clients paid for the music.”

Professional Affiliations

Bar Admissions

  • California

Education

  • Northeastern University School of Law  (J.D., 1990)
  • Brandeis University  (B.A., 1982)