This blog has dealt with the subject of the ownership of masters in the past. To put it succinctly, with one or two very specific exceptions, I’m totally against the idea of record labels getting the master rights to music for decades on end, or even forever. I think it adds little to a label’s value and it does artists an enormous disservice.
Which is why I was very glad to see the news that De La Soul have now got the rights back to their own music from Tommy Boy Records, who spent several years refusing to hand back the masters entirely, then imposing the most ridiculous terms in exchange for doing so.
The truth is that Tommy Boy Records has not done anything with a single De La Soul record for years. From what I can see, they haven’t put an album out through the label since 2001, and the last full single release was “All Good” featuring Chaka Khan in 2000. So why does the label require master and publishing rights for music they’ve done nothing with for 20 years?
This business model doesn’t work anymore, does it? It’s time record labels moved to a model where they acquire a licence to the masters for a period of time – deals of 3 years, 5 years or even 10 years seem reasonable to me. Deals that involve signing music over forever do not.
The record labels that adapt to this model will live. The others who cling onto old, outdated methods? They deserve to fail…