Musical Neighborhood blog series: attorney Michael Hoisington

Remember the song from Sesame Street that goes “Who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet each day…”

Well, I am currently looking for employment somewhere in the music industry and I don’t really know how to go about finding such a job. Ever since I was 16 I have only worked in areas of IT or computer programming, so my career guru/coach Michael Porcelli and I hatched a scheme to make this difficult job search fun and educational, with a little bit of cross-promotion thrown in. We decided I should go ask some of the folks already working in my musical neighborhood what their careers entail.

Now there are a lot of jobs related to bands and music, from retail sales to band management, legal and financial services to promotions to music production. Thus I am going for breadth first in this search (Computer Science pun intended). This is my first in a series of blogs, which are essentially write-ups of interviews with friends and acquaintances already sustaining themselves in music-related careers.

First up, I interviewed Michael Hoisington. He and I met when his band, the Mike Michaels Program, was playing on St. Patrick’s day at Winston’s along with Danny and the Tramp, also known as “the band that hasn’t kicked Ezekiel out yet.” Michael and I started talking and we’ve been going to each other’s gigs ever since.

Michael works as an intellectual property (IP) attorney with the law firm of Higgs, Fletcher & Mack, one of the most established firms in San Diego with about 70 attorneys. Under the umbrella of IP, Michael deals with trademarks, copyrights, Internet domain names, and “entertainment law”, which is the application of the aforementioned services to the entertainment industry, plus the drafting and negotiation of artist contracts.

Michael’s day typically consists of a lot of multi-tasking. He has about 100 emails a day coming in, many of which deal with the trademark matters that make up about 70% of his business. He and his assistants conduct international trademark searches for individuals and companies, looking for prior “blocking applications” by other parties. He works with international partner firms to dig deep on the legal specifics relating to a particular country. This results in a decision on whether or not to file the trademark for each country of interest to the client.

Another portion of Michael’s work is conducting litigation if there is a complaint by his client regarding trademark violations (such as the copying of product names in the case of a current client who makes audio equipment). He also oversees settlements, deciding on the fair amount for someone to be compensated for the unauthorized use of their original written or recorded material (copyright violations). You know, I think I would actually be flattered if somebody stole my music for financial gain. Once that passed, though, I would definitely call Michael and stick it to them.

I asked Michael how he got started in law. He told me that in the 1980s he was full time in a hard rock band, Nightwings, along with his brother. They were signed with a booking agent out of Los Angeles and toured in the US and Canada. With a strong desire to compose and teach, Michael eventually went on to earn a degree from UCSD in music composition. However, he became disenchanted with the idea of teaching at the UC because of the amount of politics involved in higher education.

Michael also had an interest in law and wanted to combine it with his love of music, so he began law school, taking any class that could overlap somehow with the music industry. I asked what it takes to become a lawyer and he stressed that law school is very intense (which I already know, as one of my friends is in the thick of it now). Someone must score very well on the LSAT–Law School Admissions Test–to even be considered. Just from talking with him in person, I know that Michael must have scored very well indeed. I trust both his aptitude and his sense of ethics and genuine care for people. He’s been an attorney for over 11 years now and still loves his work, especially the international component of what he does. He is even currently learning Mandarin Chinese!

The Mike Michaels Program came about following the death of Michael’s brother in 2006. He said they were very close, like twins, and with the loss of his brother he felt compelled to start writing and performing again. Though he didn’t say it directly, I inferred that the songwriting helped him to work through the loss and to honor his brother’s memory.

During this time he joined a band as a guitar player and was performing solo shows as well. Wanting to play his own songs with the power of a full band (I know that feeling), Michael found a bass player, Will, who coincidentally lived right near him in Jamul. They picked up their drummer, Brad, from Craigslist and have been playing shows featuring their original music ever since. TMMP recently competed in the KPRI Battle of the Fans at Casino Pauma and I am excited to see where they are going next!

You can find more information on the band here:

Michael’s profile at Higgs, Fletcher & Mack can be found here:

So since I am supposed to be doing a job search, I did take a moment to check in with myself on whether I am inspired to research more on a career in entertainment law. Although my Briggs-Myers personality type says I’d be perfect for it, and I do have the requisite ability to work with people of all dispositions and to be patient with details, for some reason I still just don’t feel the pull. But it’s good to know I have someone I can go to if I ever need legal services for Ezekiel Jay.

Coming up in the next few days, interviews with event coordinator Cathryn Beeks and producer/engineer Ben Moore


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