Maggie Lange knows her tunes from her torts
Published in 2005 Massachusetts Super Lawyers magazine
on October 21, 2005
Updated on August 24, 2015
Maggie Lange sits at her Yamaha grand piano holding a 45 rpm that her band Dish cut in the 1980s. She points to herself in a photograph on the record sleeve: big hair, dark eye makeup and a fierce stare.
Old fans might not recognize the 50-something Lange today: fresh-scrubbed face, sporty hair and cotton golf shirt. She’s not only a music lawyer but also one of the best entertainment and media lawyers in the city. “I think I’m a good music lawyer because I know both sides of the desk,” says Lange, who spent 15 years as a musician before entering the legal world.
Born in Michigan to a musical family, Lange learned to play piano at age 4. At the University of Michigan she earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, followed by several years of study at Berklee College of Music, where she joined a jazz band. Lange bounced around Boston clubs and music groups before ending up playing keyboards and guitar for the band Dish. John Carter (producer for Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” album) signed the band to Capitol Records, and the group seemed destined for stardom. A Newsweek photographer trailed band members as they rode in limousines, ordered custom-made stage outfits and made the rounds on the rock circuit.
But when Carter left Capitol, remaining execs didn’t share his enthusiasm for Dish and shelved the album. “Most contracts don’t obligate recording companies to release records, which comes as a huge shock to so many people,” says Lange. “But sitting on my side of the desk, I know it happens all the time.”
Dish broke up, and Lange, at age 39, entered Northeastern University College of Law. “I wasn’t set on going into entertainment law. … I just gravitated there,” she says. A familiar name on the cover of her entertainment law textbook — Martin Silfen — brought her back to her days in the band. (Silfen had been the attorney for Dish, in addition to Aerosmith, REM, Dave Matthews, Blondie and others.) Lange called him, and he offered her an internship. In 1994, Lange joined Perkins Smith & Cohen, specializing in entertainment, copyright and trademark law. She represented musicians (including Tom Scholz, the creative force behind the band Boston, and the Irish group Rubyhorse), as well as producers and independent record labels.
In 2004, a year after making partner, Lange did what she calls “the irrational, unreasonable thing.” She resigned from Perkins Smith & Cohen to become manager for her client of eight years, Rubyhorse, which had made it big with its hit “Sparkle.”
“We’re best of friends,” says Dave Farrell, the band’s lead singer. Lange’s experience in the music business makes her extra compassionate, he says. “She’s done more in this city for poor, downtrodden musicians than anyone else.”
For instance, in addition to working with established musicians, Lange counsels young artists who are struggling to get a foothold in the business. “I’d say that more than 50 percent of the people who call me don’t need a lawyer, or have money for a lawyer really, but they need to talk about what’s going on and how they should proceed,” she says.
Today Lange is an independent lawyer who remains of counsel at Perkins Smith & Cohen. She continues to handle Rubyhorse and also works with Wilkins Management, which manages the careers of Harry Connick, Jr., Branford Marsalis and others. In addition, she teaches music business and management part-time at Berklee College of Music.
Her career goal is to give musicians a better chance of having something she didn’t have with Dish: a lengthy career. As she puts it, “The longer they can go and not sign stupid contracts, the longer they can play, and the longer we can enjoy the fruits of their labors.”