Two decades ago, consumers could hear live music at concerts, listen on the radio, watch TV, or purchase records, tapes or CDs at a retail music store or mail-order service. Since then the music industry has been turned upside down, and continues to evolve rapidly. Now, the most popular options include downloads from digital stores like iTunes or Amazon, online music and video streaming services, satellite radio and online CD stores. As a result, the revenue stream for performers has fragmented, and artists need attorneys who know how to negotiate for their income and fight for their rights.
Miami attorney David Bercuson has centered his legal practice in this challenging entertainment environment. “You have to understand the legal issues in this new age, educate clients and be an effective advocate. Every day is filled with different issues,” says Bercuson, whose office is near Dadeland in south Miami-Dade.
As an entertainment lawyer, Bercuson is regularly invited to concerts and parties, and his office is filled with gold records and memorabilia from clients including Flo-Rida, Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias and KC and the Sunshine Band. That’s because stars in the music, TV and film industries appreciate his legal skills and experience.
“I wouldn’t do anything without discussing it with David, says Farruko, a rapidly rising star in the Spanish language music industry whose first two gold records are already on Bercuson’s wall of fame. “I would find a way to give him a new lung if he ever needed one and preserve him like Walt Disney [in a cryogenic chamber] so he is always available.”
A Leader in the Field
Today, Bercuson is one of the most highly recognized attorneys practicing entertainment law in Florida. His diverse client list includes U.S. and international music labels, artists, as well as South Florida television personalities like Cristina Saralegui, Jim Berry, Eliott Rodriguez, Ambrosio Hernandez and Adamari Lopez.
Known as a tenacious advocate for his clients, Bercuson is also experienced in domestic and foreign music licensing and obtaining recording or publishing deals for artists. In 1998, he was instrumental in bringing MIDEM, the world’s most important music conference and market, to Miami for three consecutive years.
“I’m fortunate in that my clients typically come to me by referral,” he says. “Sometimes a manager, publisher or record label has taken advantage of them. Other times, they simply want to have the best possible contracts in place for the next stage of their careers. I help them achieve those goals.”
Born in Chicago, Bercuson moved to South Florida at age 11. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Tulane University and his law degree at the University of Florida. He recently celebrated his 44th wedding anniversary with his wife Marla, who is director of business operations at the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. They have two daughters and six grandchildren.
“My early career was spent in commercial litigation,” says Bercuson. “I wanted to grow my practice, so I called The Florida Bar in the late 1980s to sign up for their referral service. Commercial litigation had the longest list of attorneys, so I put my name down for entertainment law. It was the shortest list and I had just represented a musician negotiating a contract for a performance on a cruise ship. Business grew exponentially from there.”