Entertainment lawyer pens parent guide for kids in entertainment
January 30, 2016
Although Steven C. Beer is an entertainment lawyer and former manager of Britney Spears, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga during their early careers, he wasn’t prepared for what would happen when Max, his middle son, auditioned for a part in a production of Neil Simon’s "Lost in Yonkers."
"As the unprepared stage parent that I was, I let him go out for an audition, because I thought it would be a fun, after-school experience," Beer told The Park Record during an interview at Park City Mountain on Wednesday. "What do you know? He pulled in a part."
Max was cast as the young boy in a coproduction by the Paper Mill Playhouse, the Cleveland Play House and the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Florida.
"The only thing was it required him to leave school and go on tour, and we hadn’t thought that through because I have a full-time job and my wife has a full-time job," Beer said. "It’s basic stuff to read through the aspects of an audition call before you put your kid up there."
The Beers seriously considered rejecting the part and putting Max into therapy.
"He would have been so upset with us, but at the 11th hour, my parents, who were retired, saved the day by dropping everything and going on the road with him," Beer said.
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The experience inspired Beer to write his book "Your Child’s Career in Music and Entertainment: The Prudent Parent’s Guide from Start to Stardom." The book, which was published in September by Allworth Press, an imprint of Skyhorse, is available now at amazon.com , barnesandnoble.com and bookstores around the country.
"I had this background, a huge head start with entertainment law practice and artist management, yet, when I became a stage parent, I felt a little unprepared," Beer said. "And if I was unprepared, I could only imagine how ill-equipped the thousands of other parents who are supporting their kids in music and entertainment are. Given the stakes involved, it concerned me."
So, he decided to write down the experiences and share them with others.
Another reason why Beer wrote the book was to help other stage parents maneuver the show business maze that will be set before them and their children.
He also wanted to destigmatize the words ‘stage parent.’
"Unfortunately the title ‘stage parent’ has taken a bad rap, because there are some really good parents who want to do well by their kids," Beer said. "In contrast, people seem to have a much better feeling about soccer parents and other sports parents."
The main reason sports parents have it easier is because most don’t have to worry about their children going professional until their kids turn 18.
"There is also an established path for sports," he said. "You play in the travel team, the rec teams, high school and then recruited to college. It’s safe. There are coaches and you know the path to success."
It’s a more random and arbitrary path for stage parents and there really isn’t a support system in place for them, according to Beer.
"The plight of a stage parent is challenging," he said.
In contrast to a sports parent where there is a whole social structure, the stage parent feels isolated.
"If you’ve ever been outside an audition room where a [child] is going up for a part, there really isn’t a warm-and-fuzzy feeling between the parents because the business is so competitive," Beer said.
Writing "Your Child’s Career in Music and Entertainment" also fit within Beer’s job as an artist advocate.
"As an entertainment lawyer, my practice concentrates on film, television and music and the goal for the book is to share information from stage parent to stage parent," he said. "It’s not a legal book. It’s really a guide for parents whose kids are serious about pursuing a career in music and entertainment."
Although his background as a former artist manager helped Beer with the book, he did learn a few things during his research.
"First, this is not a hobby, nor is it an extracurricular activity," he said. "It’s a profession."
Secondly, he learned about labor laws, keeping on top of financial agreements and education requirements for the child that the parents are responsible for.
"Another thing I learned from the get-go is that there are differences in the roles for parents in the world of theater and television and film," Beer said. "There are premiums when it comes to theater. There is a guardian for stage shows and parents are not welcome anywhere close to the rehearsal or performance space."
That’s quite the opposite in film and television.
"There is an active role for parents within that realm, but you wouldn’t know it if you weren’t active in it," he said.
Since he was in high school, Beer had always wanted to practice entertainment law and be an advocate for artists.
"I would read stories about musicians and actors who had success in their careers but were encountering hardships, financial or otherwise," he said. "I saw that there wasn’t a support system that really worked for artists. And I thought I could help."
During his years representing young artists such as Aaron Carter, Meredith Grace and up-and-coming Finnish pop singer Peppina, who played the Sundance Film Festival’s ASCAP Music Café with the band Motopony earlier this week, Beer had to reevaluate his perception of success.
"Many artists define success on their own terms," he said. "What I might think is reasonable and appropriate, based on precedent, may not fit their definition of success.
"My oldest son was in a band that had gotten popular and catching the ears of producers, but he and his bandmates didn’t want anything more than to write, record and play songs for their friends," Beer said. "He didn’t want to do anything that would complicate that, and he, at 17 at the time, educated me about artists right to define success in their own terms."
Last Tuesday, Beer appeared at a book signing at the Utah Conservatory, founded by Dr. Frederic and Debra Cook.
"We reached out to the conservatory because it is a very respected school and a mecca for talented kids and their parents here in Utah," Beer said.
What really struck Beer was the conservatory’s mission, which is about cultural enrichment.
"It’s not about getting the part or becoming a big star," he said. "It’s an appreciation for the arts and the enrichment in that life-changing education. The Cooks and the faculty get that. I almost wish that more people on the coast, who are famous for their arts education, would embrace that same ideal."
For more information about Steven C. Beers and his book "Your Child’s Career in Music and Entertainment: The Prudent Parent’s Guide from Start to Stardom," visit stevenbeer.com .
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