Taking the PULSE-- Attorney navigates through the world of 'entertainment'

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Attorney Joe Bellanca is as familiar with country music as with courtrooms, with bands as with bailiffs, with rap as with recusals, and with hip hop as with hearsay.

Bellanca, principal of Bellanca & Associates in Birmingham, has teamed with fellow Michigan State alumnus Mike Riccobono to run PULSE, a full-service music and film management and consulting firm. The two advise clients on personal and career management, touring, licensing, merchandising and sponsorship, and represent Detroit country band Annabelle Road, the Rochester-based band Bear Lake; hip hop artist Vito Polizzi who goes by the moniker V.P; and the Troy-based soul/rock/R&B band Greenstreet.

PULSE also has formed a strategic alliance and is now joining forces with Grand Circus Media, owned by Grosse Pointer Joe Choma and the company encompassing Bellanca, Riccobono and Choma will be known as Grand Circus Media. As a first priority, GCM has signed Ann Arbor-based rock quintet The Juliets to its roster.

"We're excited about the new addition of this unique and incredible band," Bellanca says. "They've already blown away fans in the United States and in Europe with their last album, and we look forward to increasing their buzz internationally."

Bellanca's law firm specializes in entertainment law, applications for the Michigan film and digital media production tax credit, and intellectual property as well as business and commercial law and criminal defense.

"I love that it's different every day and each day poses a new and exciting challenge," he says. "It's an amazing feeling when somebody accomplishes their goals because of the advice and guidance that I'm able to lend."

The holiday season tends to be more of a down time in the music industry, because of buying trends which show that people are buying mostly music they know - such as Aerosmith, Eminem, Kid Rock, and The Eagles.

"They're not really interested in new music at that time," he says. "Spring brings a lot of new releases and ramping up the summer touring and festival schedule."

While Bellanca loves music, he won't be joining his bands onstage any time soon.

"But I'm amazing at Guitar Hero," he says with a smile. "I took piano lessons as a kid but would rather be outside playing baseball than practicing. I should have listened to my parents."

In Bellanca's view, the Detroit entertainment scene is under-appreciated on a national level.

"Eminem and Kid Rock are two of the highest grossing artists in the last 10 years and then you add Bob Seger, Iggy Pop, MC5, and The White Stripes to the mix, too. Those are just the superstars. There are a ridiculous amount of talented artists from Detroit that are blowing people away every day - Bear Lake, The Juliets, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jessica Hernandez, Prussia, Danny Brown, and many more," he says.

"I encourage people to head out to the venues in town and catch some of these acts before they blow up and you're paying top dollar to see them. Spend some time at The Magic Bag, Majestic Complex, Fillmore, Emerald Ballroom and the other great places here - you'll be amazed at what you see and hear."

The film industry coming to Michigan was huge, Bellanca says, helping the state realize an influx in revenue from a source that was not there prior to the inception of the incentives.

"To have the incentives and subsequently the film industry pulled out from under us is sad. There are many trained and skilled workers that were working on sets as crew and even on-screen talent, which was a huge goal of the incentives - train Michigan residents, spend money locally, create a buzz about Michigan and stop the brain drain while bringing a new industry to the state. The incentives were working and Michigan didn't even have a chance to reap the benefits. The trickle-down economics were completely ignored when the incentives were repealed, not to mention the hype and positive reactions that Michigan was receiving across the country and globe.

"I'm confident in Senate Majority Leader (Randy) Richardville and the team that's working with him to bring back the incentives and additional work for Michigan residents. The current $25 million cap is a start."

A Shelby Township native who once considered a career in sports medicine, Bellanca earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University, and J.D. from Cooley Law School in Auburn Hills. As a law student, he worked for Sports Management Network Inc., and clerked at Bellanca, Beattie and DeLisle in Harper Woods.

An unpaid internship at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights further whetted his appetite for working in the entertainment field. In 2004, after his internship, Bellanca started working at Freedom Hill as the marketing coordinator, a position he held throughout law school, and after graduation in 2008, returned as general manager.

"Unfortunately Freedom Hill didn't open its doors last year and was dormant all summer, which is a shame," he says. "The venue is amazing and the personal attention that every patron received was second to none, not to mention the lineups, sound quality and intimate setting of a venue that is close to home for many.

"I have since moved on and greatly enjoyed the relationships that I have built with clients in many different aspects of the entertainment industry," Fellanca said. "From social media entrepreneurs, Open Connection Media, to national recognized recording studio Metro 37 Studios in Rochester Hills to the many artists, musicians, and others that make up this incredibly innovative and trend-setting industry in our state is phenomenal. Each one of my clients inspires me in their own way and I'm happy to be a part of their ongoing success."

Bellanca, a member of the Italian American Bar Association of Michigan and Macomb County Bar Association where he is treasurer of its Young Lawyers Section, gave back to Cooley by taking part in the "Lunch with a Lawyer" program.

"I haven't done it this year but I hope to in the near future," he says. "I love speaking with students and hope to inspire them to follow their passion."

Bellanca and his wife Maureen, a trademark and copyright attorney, live in Birmingham and are expecting their first child in January. In his spare time, Bellanca enjoys attending live sporting events and concerts, spending time with his family and friends, and traveling.

Published: Thu, Jan 26, 2012

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