“If you don’t own your masters, your masters own you.” – Prince
Master of my domain
Prince’s immortal words still ring true today, as evidenced by Taylor Swift’s public struggle to secure her masters recently played out online. It’s an insane thought that an industry heavyweight like Swift, who has the influence to still sell actual records in today’s world of streaming, wasn’t powerful enough to succeed. Yikes.
Prince was an icon and a legend; the industry owes him for shining a light on the power imbalance studios use to take advantage when signing fresh talent. Prince famously raged against this exploitation in an epic battle against the music industry, to give more royalties to artists and get studios to relax some control over contract terms. Other artists like Jay-Z and Rihanna have followed Prince’s lead and secured their masters, while Kanye West is currently in legal proceedings to reclaim his.
Step aside, grandpa
Billboard’s “presumed” mistake at including Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road in their countdown perfectly encapsulates how irrelevant and rigid traditional music studios and distribution channels have become. Radio stations were pulling the track from YouTube for airplay because the industry was still debating whether to categorize the song as country or R&B. It wasn’t a good look for Billboard, who removed ‘Old Town Road’ from the country charts. Justin Bieber is a product of YouTube and Billie Eilish got her start on SoundCloud – both channels that circumvented the traditional demo recording route of yesteryear. It seems that the digital age has rendered music studios the dinosaurs of their own industry. For decades, they’ve claimed our cultural past, but now artists can break free and use other platforms to reach audiences.
The revolution. Music democratized.
In either case, be it fighting for the creative rights of your own heart and soul, or bypassing detached offensive members of the old guard, the music revolution will be propelled by technological democratization. This is why Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road could not be stopped from galloping to the top of the charts. One day, artist will begin their careers owning their masters, or at the very least, sharing them with their fans – a much more tolerable prospect than sharing with unconscionable labels. Democratization technologies like Vezt, Inc, where fans can invest in and own their favorite artists’ music, will become the antithesis to what is happening in today’s music industry.
At the very least, with a song rights sharing portal like Vezt, artists will be able to substantially monetize the rights they do have; giving them the ability to better financially position themselves in future battles against labels or in owning their masters outright from day one. Fans can validate an artist’s music without feeding into the music industry’s BS.