Major Record Labels Tighten Grip: New Contracts Hinder Artist’s Re-Recording Rights

In the wake of Taylor Swift’s monumental success with her re-recorded albums, the music industry’s major players – Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group – are instituting significant changes in their recording contracts. These modifications impose strict limitations on artists, effectively preventing them from re-recording their own material for a minimum period of 10 years.

Taylor Swift’s re-recorded albums, popularly known as Taylor’s Version, have not only captured major cultural moments but have also substantially reduced the value of the master recordings that she was previously unable to acquire from Scooter Braun. Legal experts in the music field have shed light on the revised recording contracts, which now impose a waiting period of 10, 15, or even 30 years after an artist’s departure from the label before they can re-record their work. This is a significant departure from the industry’s earlier standard, which typically allowed artists to revisit and re-record their music after five to seven years from the original release date or two years post the contract’s expiration.

Josh Karp, a seasoned attorney who has encountered these new restrictions within Universal Music Group’s contracts, expressed his initial reaction: “The first time I saw it, I tried to get rid of it entirely. I was just like, ‘What is this? This is strange. Why would we agree to further restrictions than we’ve agreed to in the past with the same label?'”

A representative for Universal Music Group declined to comment on the legal agreements but referred to a Wall Street Journal article, stating that these changes were implemented even before Taylor Swift’s Taylor’s Version. Universal Music Group had also improved royalty rates and other provisions in favor of their artists. Representatives from Warner and Sony did not respond to queries.

As the music industry grapples with shrinking profits and diminishing artist worth, the major record labels are becoming increasingly creative in preserving their net revenue. However, viewed objectively, such changes are seen by many as disingenuous and detrimental to fair competition. The long-term ramifications of these shifts may mean that artists continue to work and generate income for the label long after their original contract terms have concluded. This underscores the essential need for experienced and vigilant representation in the music industry. It is likely that these changes will soon become the “standard” deal in the industry, necessitating a proactive approach to protect artists’ rights and interests.

Hakim Draper, the founder, and CEO of Artist Intelligence Labs, is innovating the music industry by fusing his profound musical background with state-of-the-art technology. With a diverse journey encompassing early encounters with jazz legends, pioneering endeavors in Silicon Valley, and executive roles at Warner Music Group, Hakim is reshaping the landscape by equipping creators with revolutionary tools and data-driven solutions. His leadership, unwavering commitment, and trailblazing spirit position him at the forefront of the industry’s transformation, driving innovation and empowering artists to reach new heights.


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