Kanye West’s most recent Twitter rant was aimed at the music industry at large. He shared images of his music contract and let everyone know that he doesn’t own his masters. Masters are the original song file, and for the most part, when you sign with a major label, you are often signing away the ownership of your song. In fact, many artists sign what is called a 360 deal. This means the record company owns a piece of everything you do, from the current song you’re signing away, to the song you didn’t even write yet and the deals you make outside of music. Kanye wants out of this deal, and he wants to own his own music, as many artists do. From the late Prince to Taylor Swift, musicians struggle to make all of the money they feel they deserve. Now, Kanye is hoping to pose as a cautionary tale for young musicians everywhere hoping to make it as big as he did.
Was Kanye’s Rant Helpful?
Is Kanye going about this the right way? On one hand, these tweets brought awareness to an issue that a lot of people aren’t aware of. Even if you had a vague understanding of unfairness in the music industry, his tweets give a more in-depth presentation of the issue. Now, young artists can look over his contract and decide if that kind of deal is for them. On the other hand, West’s frequent Twitter rants make it difficult to take him seriously. Even some of the tweets he included around this topic could cloud the message he was trying to convey.
Our expert, Isabella Bedoya, began her career in the artists and repertoire (A&R) division of a major record label. Her job was to find musicians to sign to her company’s label. Her insider advice is simple: Get a good entertainment lawyer and try not to sign any long-lasting deals. If you want to own your masters as Nicki Minaj does, you have to negotiate. Or, you could skip the major deal altogether.
Alternatives to Major Labels
Bedoya founded The Fame Hackers when she realized that the artists she was signing to the major label were already 60-70% of the way on their own. She realized that if they are good enough to be signed at that level, they should be good enough to go it on their own without getting trapped in sticky, big-business deals. Now, Bedoya works to guide those musicians on the path toward success and shows them that it is possible for musicians to make it independently, especially in the age of social media. Independent artists own everything they make, freeing them of the pitfalls that Kanye West warns about.