How to Own Your Master Recordings | If you Really Can

The question of owning your Master Recordings as an Artist has been a bone of contention forever if I may say so. Most artists, if not all artists want to own 100% of the rights of ownership of their works. But in practical reality, is this really possible?

This ambition of 100% ownership of Masters has in many cases led to in-fighting between record labels and artists. In most cases, artists and artists’ associates accuse record labels of extortion, deceptions, and rip-offs, etc. On the other hand, Record labels accuse artists of ignorance to terms of their contracts, cutting ties, and eventual litigations.

Whether one is ever right or wrong in this matter of Masters’s ownership, one thing that remains constant is that this matter cannot be ignored, squashed, or swept under carpet. Whichever side of the aisle you stand, there will be certain factors one has to look at when dealing with this issue either as an artist or as a record label.

Before we even proceed, let us tick the below bullet points:

  • What is Master Recordings?
  • Who makes or create a Master Recordings?
  • Whats involved in the creation of a Master Recordings?
  • Who should truely be entitled to 100% Ownership of a Master Recordings?

The above are just some of the key factors that will affect the discussion around 100% ownership of master recordings. Although there are many more depending on where you coming from, but I believe the above is a generic measurement when it comes to ownership of master recordings. Now let’s get to it:

how to own your masters
Master Recoding’s

What are Mastering Recordings

For the sake of simplicity and for general understanding of the term: “Master Recordings”, I will not want to get into technicalities that will deprive some of us of understanding this crucial term and the very backbone of the music industry.

Master Recordings can be defined as the original completed works of music recordings as performed by the artists and as produced by the producer and most importantly as written by the author which is the songwriter.

Who makes or creates Master Recordings?

If you look at the introduction of Master recordings, you will find 3 principal actors already, which are the Artists referred to as performers, the author who is the composer, and the producer who put the written works together and as performed by the artist. The fourth element of this ownership claim is the “sponsor” otherwise referred to as “executive producer” of the work.

Therefore, in the first place, these 3 principal actors plus the sponsor who took the financial burden of paying for the cost of the project called “music production”, have given you an indication of who can also claim ownership.

However, in some instances, the author may not be included nor would the sponsor be included, that is if the artist had funded the cost of production. This is where the artists themselves are the composer of the music piece that has now become a full song after production.

What’s involved in the Creation or Production of a Master Recordings

Judging by the above explanation and the indication of principal actors involved in making a song or album, it will only be fair to put into perspective, what are the ingredients and process of producing a musical work. The below will be a general or generic perspective as productions vary.

Now, Let’s say you are a solo artist and you would like to put out your first Single. And you are keen on ownership of your Master Recording. Here are some of the factors you would have to consider:

  1. Music composition or songwriting: You would like to be sure from onset, how you got your written song. Do you have to write the song by yourself? Or do you have to recruit the services of a songwriter?
  2. Music Producer service: Who will be the music producer or co-porducer? Do you have all it takes or do you wanna solicit the service of a professional music producer?
  3. Recording Studios: Where will your music be recorded, mixed and mastered at? How the cost of studios bookings and related coordination efforts be paid for? Where will the money comes from? You or a sponsor or a record label?
  4. Micellaneous Costs: Other pre-production to production and post production costs involved in the production process are to be seriously taken into consideration as well.

When considering ownership of a Master Recording, all of the above need to be considered in totality.

Additional Implications on the Process of Owning Masters Recordings

Before you say hey! There could even be more than meet the eye when it comes to the issue of who should inherit 100% of any Music Masters Recordings. This additional aspect will include your outreach parameters such as Marketing, Publicity, and Promotions.

All of these are very crucial to the success of an artist. Some would even argue that they are the most important aspect of the music industry when it comes to building a successful career for the artist.

Who should truly be entitled to 100% Ownership of Master Recordings?

For artists, If you look carefully at the above explanations, it is very crucial for an artist to note that before going “hey-wild” on your record label, crying foul about rip-offs, make sure to understand the implications.

The above-listed players in the production process, are all eligible to claim ownership of your music recordings. But the question of 100% ownership will really be the responsibility of an artist or the sponsor to decide.

For example, if a sponsor or a record label decides to invest 100% of cost into a music recording, then obviously, such sponsor might claim 100% ownership from the onset as we all know, that your music has become his business either as a record label or as an independent sponsor.

On the other hand, if an artist has all the financial clout to pay everyone off, the issue of percentage in ownership may be cut off, therefore the artist can negotiate 100% ownership of his master recordings. This is the interesting part of the music business once an individual or a company understands that music is a business in an industry called, “Music Business” or Music Industry.

Another very important opportunity of owning your music master’s is that you have the financial clout to buy back your master recordings from your record label.

Other Music Rights to to be Considered

Besides the Music Master Recordings Rights, there are other rights to be considered. Although they are rights but have different meanings so your music business manager, will help you to understand them and find ways of applying them to your music career. These includes:

Because every music project is a business on its own, it is then very important to understand what it takes to produce, distribute, market, and promote your music. So that when the dollars start raining in, you already know what’s at stake. This is very crucial to running a smooth sailing music career as an artist.

Conclusion

The above indicates possibilities of owning your master’s recordings, at hundred percent of ownership. Many other factors might also contribute to your ability to own your Masters’ Recordings but you may have an idea of what it takes to fall into the category of the very few artists worldwide who own their master recordings.

Please leave your concerns and comments below. And remember to share this article with all your social handles. You might just be saving someone’s music career.

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Artist Promotion

Christopher Odiley

Christopher Odiley

Christopher Odiley is a music industry expert with a special focus on talent development, music consulting, music production, and music publishing. Christopher Odiley is also a talent manager infusing mentoring into his artist management duties. The Founder and Executive Producer of Morgeez Meia Agency trading as Morgeez Records based in South Africa and Nigeria respectively

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