Music alumna Taylor named one of Billboard’s Top Music Lawyers for 2021
calendar icon28 Apr 2021 user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen
Lincoln, Neb.--Stephanie Taylor (B.M.E. 1999; J.D. 2002) was honored recently as one of Billboard Magazine’s Top Music Lawyers for 2021.
The leading music attorneys chosen for this list are nominated by their firms and peers and chosen by Billboard Magazine editors (see the article at https://go.unl.edu/izct).
With more than 20 years of experience in the entertainment business, including as a professional violin and fiddle player, Taylor has specialized her law practice as an entertainment and music industry attorney in Nashville. Her firm, Taylor Guttmann, PLLC, is a full-service law firm focusing on entertainment, media, business and intellectual property matters.
Taylor has previously worked for two large firms before starting her own firm in 2017.
“That’s where I found my success, really,” Taylor said. “Just doing my own thing and focusing. I have a friend who said, ‘I’m going to nominate you for this. I think you have so much interesting stuff going on, and they’re looking for diversity.’”
She is happy to be part of a more diverse recognition of the industry’s lawyers.
“The Billboard list used to be ranked,” Taylor said. “I would scroll through the list to see when the first woman would show up. So they’ve really shifted to focus on diversity and knowing that diverse attorneys also serve the diverse music industry. It was really nice just to be acknowledged as fitting a different space and serving a different purpose in the industry.”
It’s been a busy year for music industry lawyers, tested by negotiations and new business models from livestreaming and other challenges of the pandemic, in addition to other social justice issues.
Taylor’s clients were no exception.
“I’ve had some clients really shift focus and learn how to thrive in spite of everything,” Taylor said. “I think that’s the other thing that made me a person of interest is that I’ve helped my artist clients and my venue clients figure out how to move forward creatively in spite of an industry that was fundamentally shut down.”
As one example, Taylor’s firm reimagined the concert experience during the pandemic for its client, The Caverns (https://www.thecaverns.com), a concert venue known for hosting Bluegrass Underground in a cave at the base of the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee.
When the venue could no longer host concerts in the cave, Taylor worked with the team to develop a business plan to build an outdoor amphitheater adjacent to the cave. The venue began hosting outdoor concerts starting last October with a sold-out run by Americana artist Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Guests enjoy the show from socially distanced pods. Concessions and merchandise are ordered through an app and delivered contactlessly to the pods.
“We were one of the first venues in the world to launch this pod-based concert model, so this was new territory. I had to interpret the CDC guidance and put it into application just like any other company was doing at that point in time,” Taylor said. “How do we create a safe environment? So I spent a lot of time becoming a little bit of a medical expert. What a law degree teaches you is how to do research and learn anything.”
They found some things that worked well.
“The fans like the fact that their beer is delivered to a cooler in their pod,” Taylor said. “The fans also like the fact that there are fewer people in the venue so they have a direct sight line to the artist. So it’s created a new model for us in a lot of ways. Will it be the long-term model? Probably not, but we certainly succeeded.”
The venue has artists booked throughout this spring and summer.
“We’re hoping to be indoors by fall, maybe, still in limited capacity,” Taylor said. “It just depends on how this virus plays out. It would be great to get back into the cave because that’s the magic of the venue. But the Cumberland Mountains are pretty beautiful, too, so sitting under the stars and being able to see that view, it’s a different experience, but it’s still embracing the nature of Tennessee, which has always been a focus of ours. Just to create that camaraderie of music and nature together.”
Taylor said the pandemic has made her appreciate the experience of live music even more.
“Is there any feeling as good as being at a live show when there’s magic?” she asked. “You can’t recreate that. You can watch streaming music or live music on television any day, and you never get that feeling—just the goosebumps moment when something really amazing happens. And I guess that’s why I’m in this business for those moments of magic. I really do miss it.”
She got that feeling again when she attended the Jason Isbell show at The Caverns last October.
“It was magical,” she said. “You had to just sit there and take in the music. And for me, it was the added layer of just seeing our team succeed. I just had to be there. I’m proud of what they all did, and I’m proud of the fact that we are a mom and pop operation. Our entire crew is made up of independent local people who come on weekends and service this venue. It was also really meaningful to bring jobs back to the people in this underserved community. They’re smart, talented, caring people. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Taylor said her experiences at Nebraska helped prepare her for her career.
“When you say, ‘In our Grit, Our Glory,’ I really did learn that the grit that we, as Midwestern people have, to overcome, to find a path forward, that’s what makes or breaks you,” Taylor said. “And I’ll tell you, I look for that in the artists that I sign as clients. Overwhelmingly, people who are resilient and driven and focused are who I’m compelled to work with and to work for.”
And people see that in Taylor as well.
“You can come from a little town in South Dakota, go to the University of Nebraska and create your own path,” she said. “Nobody handed this to me. I didn’t start at a big firm. I’ve had to earn every piece of it. And truly, I think the journey has been the best part. There is no limitation as long as you surround yourself with smart, good, talented people who are going to help you figure that out.”