Updated: Oct 7, 2020
One topic that has been flying across social media lately is artists owning their “masters.”
Which musical artists actually own their masters?
A “master” is a term used to refer to the original sound recording copyright of a song. When an artist records a song, he or she is also creating an original sound recording protected under United States copyright law. With the landscape of the music business constantly involving, many artists, particularly those signed to major record labels are brokering deals to retain ownership of their sound recordings. Record companies are in the business of selling and distributing recorded music.
Here's the Twelve Artists Who Own Their Masters.
In 2019, R&B King and Pop singer Chris Brown signed new deal with RCA Records, becomes one of the youngest artists ever to own their master recordings.
“This new deal structure between Brown and RCA Records, will undoubtedly enhance the release of new Chris Brown music, content, and much more throughout 2019 and beyond,” reads a statement from the label released on Jan. 4.
Brown’s first album under RCA was 2012’s Fortune, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and has since been certified platinum. Following Fortune, he dropped four additional albums for RCA: 2014’s X, 2015’s Royalty and Fan of a Fan: The Album with Tyga, and 2017’s Heartbreak on a Full Moon.
The Brooklyn, New York “Mogul” demanded control of his Def Jam masters when he became president of the label in 2004, according to The New York Times.
“Being able to own my masters has been really cool,” the “Level Up” performer said at the 2019 Makers Conference Q&A, according to Entertainment Tonight. “When I see opportunities come, I’m like, ‘Yes, I want that.’ To have that freedom and flexibility has been amazing.”
In 2019, the “UK” rapper 21 Savage, signed a lucrative deal with Epic Records back in 2016 which allows him to retain one hundred percent ownership of his masters. Similarly, R&B singer SZA signed an attractive deal with RCA through TDE which enables her to retain full ownership of her masters. He tweeted ‘I own 100% of my masters’
Chance the Rapper
“That’s why I’m independent,” the three-time Grammy-winning rapper told podcast host Joe Budden in 2018. “I’m independent because I own all my recording rights and publishing rights and distribution, everything.”
In May, 2020 “I waited and calculated for 4 years,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “TO BE MY OWN BOSS ... I OWN all my masters/publishing/royalties etc ... This may not mean nothing to y’all, BUT SEEING MY RECORD LABEL AT THE BOTTOM UNATTACHED to a Major label is what we have worked this hard for ...#TemperatureRising ON EVERY MAJOR PLATFORM OUT NOW!!!”
Tory also stated In the interview with genius "To be 100 percent, there's so many labels offering me so much money, like millions of dollars," he said. "I've gotten offers that are life-changing offers, but I don't care. I already own my masters and publishing and everything. So I don't see any reason to give that to somebody else."
Russ proves that owning your own masters is not only ideal, but feasible.
"First platinum plaque on my Tunecore," writes Russ. "There’s still money in selling music. You just have to own it." Say what you will about the man, but he speaks the truth in this instance. With tools like TuneCore at your disposal, it's easier than ever to retain possessions of your own masters. It's becoming an increasingly accepted reality that anything other than full ownership will likely lead to some hurdles down the road. Do your due dilly.
Russ shows young artists proof owning your masters pays off.
Rihanna has proven herself to be a business woman over the past few years, so it's no surprise that she took control of her masters back in 2016. In a Vogue interview it was revealed that after fulfilling her contract with Def Jam she created her own imprint named Westbury Road Entertainment on Universal's Roc Nation label. She obtained all her old albums' masters in the process. Perhaps her close ties with Jay-Z, who acted as CEO of Def Jam from 2005 until 2007, helped in the deal.
LL Cool J
LL Cool J made himself clear when he tweeted "FYI. I own my music masters. past present and future." He added, "Ps. I've owned them for over 20 years...."
Stevie Wonder gained control over all of his proceeding masters after a deal he signed with Motown records in 1971.
Iggy Azalea has taken control of her own fate.
Iggy doesn't have the rights to all of her old music, including her No. 1 hit "Fancy," but she's not making the same mistake twice. "I'm so happy to own my master for this new album (In My Defense), They really do ppl crazy dirty on ownership of their intellectual property in the biz," she said in a 2019 tweet.
In 2020, Yo Gotti officially owns all his masters.
The “Dopechella” rapper took to Instagram to announce that he’s out of his deal and owns his masters. This makes his album title a full-circle moment. “Drop My Album, Out My Deal, Own My MASTERS …. ALL IN DA 1st Month of da Year 2020 GONE BE DIFFERENT,” he wrote. CMG and Roc Nation were tagged in the post because those are the organizations he’d be dealing with.
Telling all of his fans that he's untrapped in every sense of the word. It's not just the title of his new album... it also describes his current situation in the industry.