After years of creating under strict record labels, artists are coming for what’s rightfully theirs
The music industry is seeing a spiritual rebirth, of sorts, as of late. In the past decade, dozens of artists have come forth regarding sexual harassment and abuse from positions of power, as well as the unfair ownership of the artist’s recordings and source of profits.
Years ago, high profile singer Kesha came forth with allegations of sexual assault and abuse against her longtime producer Dr. Luke. Since then, increasingly more female artists have come into the spotlight to address their issues and grievances against those who have taken advantage of them during their professional careers.
Despite the significant changes in conducting business and how much of the music industry is looked at now, this march for justice in the music industry doesn’t stop at allegations in the #MeToo era.
Artists have taken it upon themselves to reclaim the rights to their master recordings, also known as their “masters.” Masters are essentially the complete, original recordings of music that are distributed to publishing services such as Spotify and Apple Music for streaming consumption.
Aside from unusual or extreme circumstances, the owner of such masters receives the majority of the compensation from master recording consumption. Furthermore, most record label contracts require that the label owns the artist’s master recordings in exchange for a hefty payout afterward.
While many may be unaware of the severe threat of others owning an artist’s master recordings, superstar Taylor Swift has had a very public ongoing battle in which she has tried to regain control over her masters. The masters of her earlier albums were purchased by Scooter Braun, who then sold them to another company in a deal worth more than $300 million.
While many artists would have thought that all hope is lost and given up, Swift has chosen to take another route. She recently announced that she will be re-recording all of her earlier music, in which she will own the masters, and will distribute the new versions across all streaming platforms in the coming year.
While many artists, especially female singers and songwriters, have long been stuck under the powerful grip of the record label industry in unfair positions, many are coming to claim what’s rightfully theirs to own.
Others have faced more personal and traumatic hardships from those in powerful positions of the industry, yet they too are seeking out justice and fighting for what’s morally right. While there’s no doubt that substantial progress has been made over recent decades, there’s hope for more changes to be made in the coming years.