Music Lawyer Dina LaPolt Talks Fifth Harmony Strategy, Aerosmith's Competition at Billboard Touring Conference

Billboard

Donned in rock 'n' roll-appropriate black attire and an "I Love New York" T-shirt, Dina LaPolt doesn't fit the image of the stereotypical stuffy lawyer -- and she would have it no other way. 

The woman who has handled legal matters for Steven Tyler, Fifth Harmony, the estate of Tupac Shakur and Deadmau5, among others, sat for a candid Q&A session with The Hollywood Reporter staff editor Ashley Cullins at the Billboard Touring Awards and Conference at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills on Nov. 10. Among the revelations of the 30-minute talk: how being "bold and taking risks" is a daily requirement of her job and how routinely she goes to bat for her clients, handling every crisis imaginable. "I have flown therapists out to talk to artists, I have had to talk to kids and wives and baby mommas -- I have done it all," LaPolt said. "It's all about helping people. The only difference between me and a hooker is my rates and my services."


LaPolt's no-nonsense manner made for an endlessly entertaining discussion, even when addressing serious issues like artist safety. Recalling the shooting of The Voice alum Christina Grimmie at a Florida meet-and-greet earlier this year, LaPolt described similar issues with overzealous fans. "I had a client who had this guy that was creeping her out on Twitter. The manager called me freaking out, saying that this fan is threatening to come to a show. I said we should get a restraining order against this guy, but then learned that there needs to be minimal contact --  a degree of physicality in -- or it will impede on the guy's first amendment rights."

Never one to take "no" for an answer LaPolt worked her magic and got a temporary restraining order. "For every time someone told me I couldn't do something ... my ass wouldn't be sitting here right now," she said, later adding, "I have been told that a lot in my career: You can't open up a law firm; you can't go up against Death Row Records, they kill people; you can't sue the Department of Justice."

Speaking on matters related to touring, LaPolt said that music lovers don't just listen to one genre anymore, and selling tickets for an act like Aerosmith is competing for dollars that could just as easily go to Katy Perry.

Crediting terrestrial radio -- "it reaches 116 million people a week, more than having a No. 1 song on Pandora, YouTube, Spotify and Sirius XM [combined]" -- and downplaying the impact of festivals, LaPolt said having the experience of being a headlining act is key, even in the world of pop. "Having a hit at pop, even though it's a big market trigger, it doesn't make money," she said. "Touring makes money."


Fifth Harmony, she said, is a perfect example of building a fanbase the old-fashioned way by starting with a mall tour and growing to playing venues of 5,000. "That's a good and healthy trend," she said. "Pop music is starting to develop itself in touring." 

That leads to important negotiations like radius clauses which prevents an act from playing within a certain proximity after being booked to play a festival, or VIP ticketing, she said, which also drives revenue.

"For $900 you get a seat in the first three rows, you get a platinum pass to get you nowhere except to meet the drum tech on the side, some free hot dogs and a Coke and a pin that tells everybody else in the audience that you are a dumbass," she said. "Just kidding, but the point is, touring is hit or miss, and we are all competing for the same fan."