Kanye West Is Challenging Universal For The Master Rights To His Music

By Paula Gallagher··  2 min read
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Kanye wants his masters. Nope, that doesn’t mean he’s applying to grad school. Kanye wants to own the master rights to his music.

Kanye has been tweeting up a storm over the past couple of days about owning his masters. 

“Masters” is music industry jargon that refers to the rights and ownership of a song. It stems from the “master recording,” the original version of a song. Whoever owns the master rights has control over things like who streams the song, if the artist can perform it live at an event, and any profits from the song.

Usually, music industry contracts are set up so that the record label — not the artist — owns the master rights of all music made during the contract. The artist receives an advance and a percentage of the royalties. 

Kanye has decided that he’s fed up with not having control over his music. And he has decided that these contracts are not just business agreements that need to be renegotiated, but they’re actually the shackles of slavery.

He’s not interested in an equal partnership with Universal or Sony. He wants to own his songs outright.

Kanye said he has 10 contracts with Universal and then proceeded to tweet screenshots of each page of each contract, asking for “every lawyer in the world” to look them over. He’s also frustrated that Universal won’t tell him what it would cost for him to buy back the rights.

Yesterday, Kanye spoke with a member of the board of directors for Universal owner Vivendi, Katie Jacobs Stanton. Kanye said it was “a perfect first conversation.” Kanye also reached out to Arnaud de Puyfontaine, Vivendi’s CEO. 

I’m sure the executives are anxious to contain the situation, because if Kanye is willing to do this...

...then there’s no telling what he’ll do.

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