Tension in the Industry: An Analysis of the Conflict Between Recording Artists and Record Labels over the Rights to Music Ownership


In a standard record deal, record labels require that recording artists sign over the rights to their master recordings to them as a form of repayment for investing in the artists’ careers. However, artists feel that this mandate is too controlling with respect to the music into which they pour their time, talent, and emotions. The owner of the rights to an artist’s masters has the ability to use those recordings in any way he or she pleases and also gets to direct the distribution of profits generated from those recordings. Thus, for a variety of reasons, there is great tension between artists and record labels over the ownership of artists’ masters. Throughout the history of the music industry, artists and labels have been embroiled in this controversy, which has reached peaks when incredibly famous and successful artists such as the Beatles, Prince, and Taylor Swift have chosen to speak publicly on the issue. However, official legal and industry standards have yet to be decided. Nevertheless, it is certain that this debate has had and will continue to have wide-ranging effects on the music industry while involving various stakeholders, but it remains to be seen how the outcomes of this struggle between artists and labels will change future deals between the two parties and the music industry as a whole.



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