I was fortunate enough to meet David Braun at his home in Santa Barbara last summer while we were filming an interview with him about the many ways the modern music business has evolved and is continuing to do so. His perspective on just how big the business has become and insight into what the world of recorded music looked like before I was even born was truly astounding. Even when he was poking a little bit of fun at me about my white belt and “not too shabby” golf game, I was aware of how fortunate I was to get to sit down with someone so profoundly influential on the record industry. What struck me most about David though, while I sat in his home admiring the life he had created for himself, was just how cool he was. I don’t mean cool for a guy in his eighties, I mean straight-up cool. Funny, quick-witted, personable, a bit cheeky at times and smart – really smart. I shouldn’t say I was surprised, given his staggering resume, but it still took me back a bit. I wish I had the chance to get to know him even better and he will undoubtedly be missed by not only those that knew him, but the millions of artists whose lives he’s influenced without their ever knowing it.
David Braun, a prominent music lawyer who represented such superstars as Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, George Harrison and Michael Jackson, died Wednesday in Santa Barbara after a long illness. He was 81.
Among his survivors is his son Lloyd Braun, the former chairman of ABC Entertainment and head of Yahoo’s Media Group who is now the founding partner of entertainment company BermanBraun.
During the golden years of the record industry, before digital downloads and piracy began eroding physical sales and transformed the economics of the business, David Braun was able to dramatically improve the standard phonograph record and music publishing agreements on behalf of his clients.
Many of the concepts considered standard today were achieved through his negotiations, including rights of reversion, advances inclusive of recording costs, limited-term foreign publishing rights with substantial advances and considerably higher royalty rates.
Braun was raised as an only child in the Bronx. His father owned a candy store, and he worked in the business with his parents. He attended Columbia College and Columbia Law School, obtaining a joint B.A. and J.D. degree in 1954. He joined the law firm of Pryor, Cashman & Sherman shortly after law school, where his initial experience was in television, representing writers, performers, producers and advertising agencies.
Early in Braun’s career, Albert Grossman, a talent manager working in the folk music scene, introduced him to Dylan, a new songwriter who needed representation. Grossman called the Minnesota transplant the “next Frank Sinatra.”
Soon, Braun would represent Dylan as well as fellow legends including Diamond, Harrison, Jackson, The Band, Peter, Paul & Mary and Judy Collins.
In 2008, when Braun was given the Entertainment Law Initiative Service Award from the Grammy Foundation, Diamond called Braun “one of the great figures in my life” and said he showed him that “you could laugh and be serious at the same time.”
Braun joined the firm Hardee, Barovick, Konecky & Braun in the early 1970s and moved his practice from New York to Beverly Hills in 1974. Many of today’s most prominent music attorneys developed their skills working for him, including John Branca, whose client list would include the likes of Aerosmith, The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Leiber & Stoller and The Rolling Stones.
Among Braun’s notable achievements was negotiating the Beatles settlement on behalf of Harrison (he is seen with Harrison as the musician signs the settlement agreement in Martin Scorsese’s recent documentary Living in the Material World); co-producing (with the late promoter Bill Graham) The Band’s farewell concert The Last Waltz; and negotiating Jackson’s deal for his iconic album Thriller. Braun also was involved in the founding of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Braun left law in 1981 to become president and CEO of PolyGram Records. Two years later, he resumed his practice in Los Angeles.
In addition to his son Lloyd, Braun is survived by Merna, his wife of 57 years; sons Kenneth and Evan; and eight grandchildren.