by Art Levy
Updated 6 months ago
Paul Quin was a professional drummer long before he became an attorney.
Most recently, he worked a three night gig at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's Council Oak restaurant, drumming alongside guitarist Shaun Hopper. After each performance, Quin didn't get home until after midnight, but he was back at his desk — cluttered with papers, two sets of drumsticks and a box of cereal — by 7 a.m. the next day.
He was tired but happy.
"Drumming keeps me sane," says Quin, a partner at Tampa's Saxon, Gilmore, Carraway & Gibbons, who typically plays about 10 shows a year. "When I don't play — and there are times, between family and work, when things get too hectic and I can go weeks without playing — I find myself getting testy, short-tempered. Musicians need to play. It isn't a want. It really is a need."
Quin, 49, grew up outside Liverpool, England, and started playing the drums at age 9. His older sister sings, and he started performing with her band at 13. By high school, he was already on the road with a rock band. Later, he took jobs of all sorts, including as a fill-in drummer at notoriously rough clubs around Liverpool in Great Britain's industrial north.
"At the end of the night, the concert secretary, the member of the club who booked the band, would, if the artist had not sung "Sweet Caroline," he would sing it, all out of key and out of tune, while people waved their arms around," he says. "And then he would thank the band, but before he would thank ‘Paul on drums,' he would thank Mary for making the pies, so I knew where I stood in the pecking order. The pay was about $45 a night."
Convinced that he might never be able to make a living playing drums, he went back to school. After graduating from Manchester University, he moved to the U.S. for two reasons: He wanted to study American history, and he wanted to do it in a music capital such as New York, Nashville or Los Angeles, just in case he wanted to give the music business another try. He settled on Louisiana State University, near New Orleans. He got married during grad school, which convinced him to pursue a law career rather than a drumming career. His first firm — Shook, Hardy & Bacon — sent him to its Tampa office. He moved to Saxon, Gilmore, Carraway & Gibbons in 2004 to develop his entertainment law practice.
"Tampa is not the best place to be a music lawyer, but having said that, I have many contacts in the music industry because I've been doing it for so long," he says. "I have a ton of clients in New York. I have a ton of clients in Nashville. I have a ton of clients in L.A., and I have clients in the U.K., too."
Quin also works in tort law, medical malpractice, products liability and other areas, but about half of his work is representing musicians, including many drummers. His challenge is getting his clients fair deals in an entertainment industry that traditionally favors the record labels.
To help artists, particularly young ones, navigate the industry, Quin joined the board of a national not for- profit educational group called The Sessions. The group hosts up to eight seminars a year at universities and large conventions of musicians, including the National Association of Music Merchants annual trade show. The idea, Quin says, is to educate young musicians so they don't make the same mistakes that young musicians typically make when signing contracts, making band agreements and copyrighting their work.
"I made terrible mistakes when I was a young musician," he says. "I mean, I signed stuff without reading it — consistently."
Quin says it "means the world" to him to be able to help young artists. He's also grateful just to be involved in the music industry — despite never becoming the rock star drummer he once hoped to be.
"The greatest people in the world are musicians," he says. "I love being around creative people. I like having drummers as clients because I can talk to them about the law and I can talk to them about drumming.
"I got a great compliment once from a drummer who couldn't remember my name. As he was calling around to people, trying to find me, he was saying, ‘You know, I want that guy that doesn't look or act like a lawyer, but he's a lawyer.' And they were like, ‘Oh, you mean Paul.' "