Maryrose Maness’s continual push for learning, teamwork, and innovation has helped keep Warner Music Group and its employees in harmony. Having been with the company for more than a decade, the senior vice president and deputy general counsel oversees multiple practice areas, including employment, privacy, records management, and trademarks and domain names. She also advises on employee relations, wage and hour, disability, affirmative action, OSHA, immigration, and benefits matters.
Maness may not be a musician herself, “but from a very early age, I had a keen interest in entertainment and the arts,” she says. “I took ballet for many years, I acted, and I played the clarinet. So when I first went into law, I wanted to figure out how I could utilize my creative side.
“Of course, it wasn’t until twelve, thirteen years ago that I figured out how to accomplish that,” Maness adds with a laugh. “I started networking and asking folks for advice, and just a few months after I started networking with Warner Music, there was an opening in the legal department. I had the job within a month.”
One of the “big three” recording companies and a world leader in the music industry, Warner Music is renowned for the quality of both its artists and its teams. In fact, Maness prides herself on her ability to create high-performing legal teams through a skill that is all too often overlooked: interviewing.
“I really do think it’s a skill you have to learn and fine-tune,” the SVP emphasizes. “When I interview people and ask why they want to work here, I often hear about how much they love music.
“And it certainly doesn’t hurt to love music,” Maness acknowledges. “The people who work here are so passionate about music, and they show it in everything they do.”
But to be part of a top-notch legal team, Maness says, you also have to have a passion for the complex and ever-evolving legal structures that surround that world of song.
Maness specializes in employment law, performing nearly all of the company’s day-to-day legal work in addition to providing guidance for other practice areas and working with Warner Music’s leadership to manage key business decisions and strategies.
Even at this point in her career, however, Maness continues to develop her skill set. She frequently branches out into unfamiliar practice areas, such as mergers and acquisitions, to learn as much as possible.
“In our legal department, it’s so collaborative. Nobody really feels like you’re encroaching on what they do if you simply want to participate,” Maness enthuses. “Everyone is very open to teaching you a new aspect of the law, so you can really get involved in as many areas as you want, even though you do have a subspecialty.”
“You can have all the right policies in place, but on top of that you still have to engage with your employees, your managers, and your leaders.”
That knack for adapting to new areas of the law has served Maness well in recent months as she and her teams have worked to adapt to AB-5 legislation. This ruling from the state of California sought to curb “particular practices in certain industries. For example, some individuals were being paid as independent contractors when they should really be employees of the company,” Maness explains.
AB-5 has “sweeping” implications for just about every company operating in California, Maness says, and she and her colleagues have been working hard to find internal solutions so that Warner Music can remain compliant. But they’ve also been working on an amendment to the legislation, one that “specifically addresses the music industry and the needs of our artists and provides a fair and balanced solution that will benefit everyone involved.”
Maness and her team often tailor their work to the unique environment inherent to the music industry, she says. Recently, they developed and delivered a live antiharassment training program geared toward the specific issues seen in the music world.
“We wanted all of our employees and managers to be able to relate to the material,” Maness explains. “There is so much in the media about harassment claims, and we really wanted to educate our workforce on how the company feels about it, the position we’ve taken, and the reporting mechanisms we’ve put in place.
“We also just wanted to engage everyone across the company on these issues,” the SVP continues. “You can have all the right policies in place, but on top of that you still have to engage with your employees, your managers, and your leaders to understand what’s on their minds and how you can address things proactively.”