Recording artists often talk about who owns their masters. These are the master recordings of the songs that they’ve created. They’re made during the process of recording the album.
People may assume that the artist would simply retain these rights, but this is not always the case. The record label could own the masters, or someone else could buy them. In the famous case of Taylor Swift, her masters were sold off when her original record label was sold to another individual. This means that she lost control of her masters. But why does this matter?
You can’t always monetize your own creative works
If you don’t own your masters, then you may be limited in your options when trying to monetize the works that you’ve created. In Swift’s case, she talked about not even being able to play certain songs at different performances because she didn’t have the rights to those songs. This could also be an issue when trying to sell those rights to movies and TV shows.
There are different ways to address this. Some people choose to buy their masters back. Others will just record new versions of the same songs. They still have the rights to those songs, but they need to create new masters and go through the whole process again.
Needless to say, this can get very complicated, and there is a lot of money at stake. For some artists, it could be the difference between millions of dollars. If you find yourself in this position, it’s essential to understand all of the legal options that you have in the steps that you can take.