Reclaiming master recordings is a celebratory moment for every artist.
The feat empowers artists by reclaiming ownership of what is rightfully theirs as they now own the copyrights to the original sound recordings of their favorite tunes.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, “‘By definition, that makes it the most authentic superior sonic account of the song.'”
Not only that but owning one’s masters can be the stepping stone to creating wealth for future generations, thanks to royalties earned each time a song is played or duplicated.
Although there is no fine print to the accomplishment, artists including Anita Baker, Rihanna, and Frank Ocean, have used their voices to earn back their master recordings.
Here’s AfroTech’s inside look at their journeys.
Rihanna, the Barbados native who entered the music scene at the age of 16, rose to fame quickly, thanks to jams such as “Pon de Replay,” “Unfaithful,” and “Disturbia.” Rihanna cemented her legacy as a pop culture icon after her eighth studio album “Anti” with addictive singles including “Work” and “Needed Me,” which sold 11 million copies worldwide, PEOPLE reported in 2021.
Over the years, Rihanna has soaked up expertise to help her make the best business decisions, which explains how she became a billion-dollar powerhouse, as AfroTech recently mentioned.
After fulfilling her contractual obligations with Def Jam Recordings in May 2014, she created her own imprint, Westbury Road Entertainment, under Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, Vogue reports. The move was brilliant as it allowed her to obtain the master recordings of all her albums from “Music of the Sun” to “Anti.”
Frank Ocean remains a known gem among music lovers, and his melodic music makes the soul sing. Los Angeles Times reports Ocean had quite the debut, selling 131,000 copies of “Channel Orange” during its first week. The album sold over 700,000 in pure album sales and received its flowers — earning Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2012 Grammy Awards.
Despite all his success, Ocean wanted to break ties with Def Jam, as AfroTech previously told you. Over the next four years, he worked under the radar to release one more studio album, which would fulfill his contract.
New York Times reports “Endless” was a byproduct of his contractual duties. Then, Ocean shocked the world by releasing a second project less than two days later titled “Blonde.” The project debuted through Apple Music, and although not confirmed, rumor has it that Ocean received a $20 million payout, as previously reported by AfroTech.
Additionally, Ocean reportedly paid back his label the $2 million advance to secure ownership of the master recordings of “Channel Orange” and “Endless” — checkmate.
The “Sweet Love” singer Anita Baker secured her records after over three decades in the music industry. Last year, Baker tweeted she was working toward the ownership of her master recordings. Baker had outlived all her contracts. What’s more, the Grammy-award-winning singer also asked her fans not to stream her music until she owned her masters.
After an extensive legal process, Baker waved a green flag for her fans to listen to her beloved hits as she had finally re-acquired her masters.
All My Children Are Coming Home
Impossible Things Happen🎁…
— Anita Baker (@IAMANITABAKER) September 3, 2021
As AfroTech previously shared, Baker reveals Chance The Rapper was the hidden figure who helped her fight for her master recordings. During a live performance, Baker thanked the Chicago-born rapper.
“You should say hello to a friend of mine by way of the music industry and by way of helping me, helping me to get a hold and ownership of my master recordings,” Baker said.
Tonight Ms. @IAMANITABAKER introduced @chancetherapper and acknowledged his helping her regain control of her master recordings! Wow! #AnitaBaker pic.twitter.com/GrSBpvDfJq
— Lonnell Williams (@3LWTV) May 29, 2022
21 Savage learned out the gate the importance of owning one’s masters. He witnessed some of his peers signing their first contracts eagerly. Instead, 21 Savage waited until he had more momentum to have an advantage for a solid deal.
“I done been around other rappers and we was at the same spot at the same time and they jumped the gun and went and signed a deal for $200,000 because they didn’t have enough leverage,” 21 Savage said during an appearance on Gillie Da King and Wallo’s Million Dollaz Worth Of Game. “I waited ’til I had enough leverage to go in there and say, ‘Ay, I want this much money for this album. I’m giving y’all this much and I’m keeping all this.’”
The rapper eventually signed with Epic Records in 2017 and landed a 70/30 deal that gave him 100 percent ownership of his masters.
As AfroTech told you, 21 Savage is now worth $12 million. He credits his masters for creating generational wealth. However, 21 Savage is not opposed to selling his masters one day if compensated enough.
“I feel like that’s some sh-t you pass down for generations type sh-t,” he said. “But then again, if a m-thaf-cka come and say, ‘Ay Savage, I got a billion for your masters,’ that m-thaf-cka’s gone.”
Next up on our list is our R&B queen Ciara.
The “Goodies” singer was given her master recordings for free and without a fight.
AfroTech reported that the unconventional move stemmed from her record label not believing in her artistry. Although discouraging, Ciara did not internalize the defeat. Instead, she worked on her single “Level Up” coupled with a music video. However, Ciara noticed the CEO of the label did not show any interest in the release.
The Grammy-award-winning artist used the opportunity to obtain her master recordings and launch a record and entertainment company, Beauty Marks Entertainment — channeling the true meaning of her hit single.
“I had this song called ‘Level Up.’ I had the video for the song as well. I had a whole vision for my project,” said Ciara during an interview with ABC News. “I sat down and I talked to the CEO at that time. It was like, he made up his mind before I came into the room. He wasn’t checking for it.”
“Amazingly enough, they gave me my masters,” Ciara added. “They gave them to me for free! So, it lets you know they didn’t believe at all … It was that easy and I was ready. We gon’ level all the way up.”