Mastering - Who Owns The Song?

 


Mastering A Song 
What It Really Means

Written by Cutty

There has been a lot of discussion about who owns masters and who owns the masters to songs. So we sat down with a couple of professionals to find out, well, what is mastering? What does it come with? Also, why is it so important to own the masters of your music? We wanted to give the independents an idea of what it means to master a song and own the masters to it. The process is actually simpler than you think, so you can definitely learn from this article. Here is a basic breakdown of what we learned from the professionals on owning your master's.

 
Let's start with: What is the master of a song? In simple terms, it is the final version of a song, so it's completely cleaned up from any mistakes and is ready to hit the airwaves or DPs. This takes a couple steps: getting the WAVs right, fixing any vocal issues, clearing up any breaths, or turning up the volume of the overall track. As I spoke about in "How To Become The Perfect Artist," it is very important to have a good recording so that whoever is mastering the song will give you the result you're looking for. So this, in simple terms, is what it means to master a song and to own the masters. Let's go deeper into the subject now, and we can break down how labels can own your music.


If mastering a song in simple terms is just the final version of the song, how does a label own my masters? Well, this is simple; they book all of your studio time. In Chapter 1 of my book, I talk about how all a label is going to do is take the talent you already have and put it in a good studio. When you sign with a label, all you have to do is go to the studio, record, and walk out; you don't have to worry about how it sounds. This is one of the luxuries the label gives you as their artist, right? Well, of course, for them, it helps them maintain ownership of your music; if they master the song, they can own the masters to it. Artists discover this later and try to go back to try to own their catalog, but they don't realize that they only made the music but didn't work with the song behind the scenes, which gives the label the upper hand for ownership. Learning this early can help you in your battle for your masters; controlling where your music is made gives you more hands-on ownership of it.


Well, now that we know how to maintain ownership of our masters, what does owning your masters come with? It comes with more than you expect. When you own the masters to your song, you can make more money from the song itself. When you are just on the split sheet, you get the money from the DPs and your shows. When you own the masters, you can get money from radio spins, TV show placement, when you perform the song, when people use your song, from publishing, and from so much more access you have to the music you make. This is where labels make the most money; they make longevity money by using your music for other things like movies, doing special TV appearances, and even negotiating the licensing of your music for stores to play it. They have people who work in all of these departments to make sure they get every cent out of the music they are producing. These avenues are what make labels rich. So you now know why controlling where your music is made is so important.
 
This is a simple breakdown of mastering, and if artists understand these things, they can leverage themselves for the future. We have heard of plenty of people who own their masters, like 21 Savage. Knowing this kind of knowledge is what can help you strike the same kind of record deal when the time comes. So we hope you enjoyed this piece, and if you learned anything, make sure to pass it along to a friend.

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