Artists are taking ownership of their music by cutting out the middleman
Before artists were able to use social media and SoundCloud to take promotion, distribution and recording into their own hands, being signed by a record label was considered the gold standard for a successful music career. The internet and home studios offered musicians, like Edwin Samuel, known to his fans as Ed Mac, significantly more freedom.
A topic that has been flying around the media, especially social media, deals with artists owning 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, an original sound recording is also created that is protected under United States copyright law. As the landscape of music is constantly changing and evolving, many artists, especially those who signed to major record labels, are looking to retain ownership of their sound recordings. For many years the standard record deal saw to it that artists forked over all their rights within the round recordings in exchange for royalties.
Music the Ed Mac Way
Technology has always been the driving force behind the music industry. With the development of music streaming services and other social media platforms, many artists are able to deliver musical content directly to their fans, effectively cutting out the middleman. Independent artists like Ed Mac essentially gave Chris Brown and Beyonce the leverage needed to renegotiate their record deals, as these artists are no longer bound by the traditional record contract. Just like Ed Mac these artists own their master recordings.
Born on the 13th of October, 1988, songwriter and hip hop artist Ed “EMACULIT” Mac firmly set his sights on obtaining a Grammy the independent way. His album, Summermac’n Vol.3 features “Xxplosive” by Dr. Dre and “Get on the Good Foot” by James Brown among other hip hop artists. The bouncy, yet heavy hip hop tunes stay true to Hip Hop culture, exploring controversial subject matter within the context of the song. Building on the success of the previous album, a follow up album, Summermac’n Vol. 4 graced SoundCould with sultry, atmospheric hip hop sounds.
As the owner of his independent content and CEO of ELIV8 LLC, Ed Mac seems to have a leg up even over veteran rapper Nas, who learned the value of owning his masters the hard way. Nas was very candid in an interview with the media about not owning the master recordings for 4 of his albums. This lack of ownership cost the rapper a collaboration opportunity with legendary recording artist Prince, who fought against major record labels for many years before his death. Prince would not contribute to any recordings without obtaining ownership within the master.
Maintaining Ownership and Sound Integrity
Most producers are familiar with negotiating ownership within the performance copyright. This process is sometimes referred to as “securing publishing splits.” As a common practice the sound recording copyright typically is divided equally between artist and producer, with each party receiving a 50% share. Things get a little more complicated when one produces a song for major recording artists such as Lil Nas X and Chris Brown.
With many artists trying to retain ownership within their masters, artists could attempt to get producers to transfer their sound recording rights in order to have more control over their song catalogs. This tactic is not new and has been well-practised within the music industry. Artists such as Macklemore and Tyler the Creator caught on the trend early and rejected lucrative record deals. However artists such as Ed Mac prefer to cut out the red tape from the get-go, being an independent artist from the start affords them full creative authority and ownership over their work, effectively preventing the problem Lil Wayne and Lil Uzi Vert had about feeling trapped by their contracts and having their music held hostage by a record label for multiple years.
As the music industry keeps evolving and new methods for producing and publishing music become available, traditional record labels are becoming increasingly obsolete. Musicians no longer need labels to distribute their music, yet the percentage of royalty labels tend to offer still seems to reflect the CD production model of the past, motivating artists like Ed Mac to find their own path in the music industry.