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RAINMAKERS: BRANCA
TAKES HIS CUTS

Rainmakers 2020, our latest collection profiling top players in the biz, is due in Q4. To mark its impending arrival, we reach waaaaay back into the archives for this classic excerpt from our piece on John Branca, Partner and Head of the Music Department at Ziffren Brittenham, and “the world’s #1 music lawyer”—and who are we to argue with Marquis Who’s Who?


Branca graduated from the UCLA School of Law in 1975. He didn’t take a particularly straight path to get there.

His mother was a dancer, and his father, the Honorable John R. Branca, ran a baseball school, served two terms in the New York State Assembly and became chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission in 1983. When his parents split and his mother left Mount Vernon, N.Y., for L.A., Branca stayed behind and followed in his father’s sports-oriented path. Baseball was #1, for playing and card collecting. Today, he owns one of the world’s most notable baseball-card collections.

“Baseball’s lure transcends the game and players,” Branca wrote in the 2002 book, What Baseball Means to Me. “Babe Ruth is as much a part of American history and culture as Abraham Lincoln or Elvis Presley, as much a part of any kid’s dreams. And like any great sport or form of entertainment, baseball—and its collectibles—offer a wonderful diversion from everyday reality.”

“My mom told me, ‘You’re either going to go to college or you can get a job.’ I didn’t want to cut my hair, so I took the GED and went to L.A. City College.”

When he turned 11, Branca joined his mother in Los Angeles, and soon started to display a passion for the guitar and songwriting; at 13, he had his first band—The Other Half, who cut an album for GNP Crescendo—and by 16, his Pasternak Progress band secured a deal with Art Laboe’s Original Sound label. They opened for The Doors and were regulars at Gazzari’s on the Strip. Like most kids, he was dabbling in drugs and showing little interest in school, even getting expelled from boarding school. He put his energy in the band until his mother gave him the “get a job or go to college” ultimatum.

Branca did well at Los Angeles City College and transferred to Occidental as a junior, majoring in political science and graduating cum laude. After matriculating at UCLA School of Law, he worked for Kindel & Anderson in estate planning; he also repped the UCLA Foundation, deepening his connection to the university. During basketball season, he can be spotted in his courtside seat at Pauley Pavilion, decked out in Bruin powder-blue and gold. He was happy to have a job, but he knew the fit wasn’t right.

Time did a cover story on Elton John the summer he graduated, and in it the piano-playing superstar talked about not being able to spend all the money he had earned, as well as his investments in real estate, art and his new company, Rocket, which had a goal of paying artists higher-than usual-royalties.

“I instantly recognized it as what I should be doing,” Branca says.

He secured a job at Hardee, Barovick, Konecky & Braun, initially reviewing contracts for the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and George Harrison, and subsequently negotiating innovative tour contracts. David Braun took Branca under his wing and gave him his first face-to-face task with an artist: Talk Dylan out of investing in a project with a friend from Minnesota. It meant spending a lot of time with Dylan at his home in Malibu.

In 1978, when he was 27, Branca got his first client—his second-favorite band: The Beach Boys...

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