International music and entertainment attorney Charlie Sanders has served as an adjunct professor in the NYU Steinhart Music Business Program since 1993, focusing on introducing students to the broad range of global opportunities and ethical challenges that face every music industry professional. His longtime clients include the Songwriters Guild of America and many well-known individual songwriters and composers. He is likewise an advisor to the international music creator group Music Creators of North America (MCNA) and its global affiliate, CIAM (Paris), and counsels many other music community non-profit groups, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the National Music Council, and The Native American Music Association.
For nearly two decades (1986-2004), Sanders served as Counsel and Executive VP to the National Music Publishers Association, during which time he oversaw the collection and distribution of over $4 billion in music royalties. Sanders also specializes in freedom of information, free speech, and fair use issues, and has participated in nearly every landmark music industry Internet litigation of the past twenty years. He is licensed to practice in New York, California, and Washington, DC, and before the US Supreme Court. He is a graduate of NYU School of Law, where he served as a Brown-Derenberg Fellow under legendary copyright professor Alan Latman.
Among Sanders’ related music industry pursuits, he is a former chairman and thirty-year board member of the music industry’s leading social justice outreach group, WhyHunger, the recipient of a 2014 Emmy Award for the copyright education short subject “Copy Kid,” a three decade Grammy voting member and former governor of NARAS, and a platinum award-winning producer, musician, and author. He is also a former editor of the seminal entertainment industry treatise “This Business of Music,” and writes and speaks frequently on issues of importance to the US and global music community (including panels at SXSW and MIDEM and as a contributor to Billboard Magazine, CNN, and other broadcast media outlets).
In addition, Sanders is one of the most widely travelled ski mountaineers in the world and among the few persons ever to have recorded off-piste alpine ski descents on all seven continents. He was elected as a member of the board of the United States Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2012, was granted membership in the globally renown Explorers Club in 2018, and is the author of the popular, award-winning history of the US ski troops in WWII, “The Boys of Winter.” He is similarly a co-author of the recent book “Passion for Skiing: The History of Snow Sports at Dartmouth College.”
Why Did You Decide to Work in the Music Industry?
There is nothing I ever wanted to do professionally other than work in music, especially with songwriters and composers. I’ve been lucky enough to do that both as an attorney and a musician for basically my entire career, and I never stop appreciating it. I know there are people out there who pursue careers outside of the music, entertainment, and arts communities, but I have never actually dealt with any of them personally.
What Do You Like Most About Teaching?
I love the intellectual interactions I have with the students, and sharing with them the amazing history of the music community and its contributions to social progress and culture around the word. I learn as much from students as I hope they do from me. Teaching is certainly one of the most rewarding things I do.
Do you have any class tips for students?
Think critically, and always be prepared to enthusiastically participate in dialog. This is a very social business, and learning how to express yourself orally and in writing in appropriately humorous, engaging, and intelligent ways are essential skills that grow stronger with practice.
What are your career tips for students?
Try to be the most educated person you can possibly be, about the past, the present, and the future not only of your field, but of the larger world as well. Those with a huge appetite for learning, and the desire to graciously share the knowledge they’ve gained with others, are best able to make the projects on which they work more successful and fun. Folks like that stand out as the people you want to work with, so be one of them.
What is your favorite music?
I’m extremely eclectic, with a true love and appreciation for the song as well as the record. On any given day, I may listen to the Benny Goodman Band, Muddy Waters, Arturo Sandoval, Springsteen, the Cure, the BoDeans, the Jayhawks, Florence + the Machine, Tosh, Bruno Mars, and Offenbach. All in one sitting. You don’t get programming like that on AM radio anymore (though I’m not sure you ever did).