Worth Knowing: Kanye publishes all his UMG contracts

What a week for Music Industry 2.0. Kanye won't quit until the world's artists know they should own their masters...Nicky Minaj wins a legal battle against Tracy Chapman over sampling...Spotify announces the listing of virtual events...Here's a quick run down of the news that's caught our eye this week.

What a week for Music Industry 2.0. Here's a quick run down of the news that's caught our eye this week.

Kanye publishes all his contracts

This week Kanye drew attention (in a way only Kanye could) to the importance of masters ownership for artists, and the way that traditional record deals might prohibit artists from actually ever taking the real profit from their work.

West put up PDFs of all of his 10 (yes, 10) Universal Music Group contracts on Twitter for his 30.9 million followers to see, stating that the act would “change the music industry for good”, as well as tweeting:

We’ve gotten comfortable with not having what we deserve ... they allow us to have a little money from touring get some gold chains some alcohol some girls and fake numbers that feed our egos ... but we don’t own our masters 🤔

— ye (@kanyewest) September 16, 2020

And also tweeting


— ye (@kanyewest) September 17, 2020

He also added a video of someone pretending to urinate on a Grammy award in a toilet.

Universal Music Group have not yet responded to the tweets.

Spotify is now listing virtual events

Responding to the way that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected live music performance, Spotify has leveraged their existing relationships with Songkick and Ticketmaster to help artists list virtual performances on Spotify alongside their tracks.

A release from the streaming service says: “As long as the shows are listed through these partners, the virtual event itself can be hosted on a multitude of platforms—Twitch, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, a hosted website, or wherever you want.”

More info from Spotify is here.

Nicky Minaj wins copyright dispute with Tracy Chapman

In the world of sampling and online covers, the term 'fair use' can be pretty tricky. As a court ruling this week showed, it’s a phrase totally up for interpretation.

The current system allows for an artist to experiment with other people's work without clearance, and then request clearance before release.

There’s been a two-year battle between Tracy Chapman and Nicky Minaj, which began when Chapman refused clearance on lyrics and a melody that Minaj had used in 'Sorry', a track slated for her 2018 album, 'Queen'.

The song was left off Minaj’s album but managed to make it onto the radio, so Chapman filed a lawsuit, saying Minaj had given the song to the DJ who played it. Both Minaj and the DJ denied this.

Minaj’s lawyers argued that the suit “should send a shiver down the spine of those concerned with the entertainment industry” and argued that artists, particularly in hip-hop, need to be free to sample as part of the creative process, seeking clearance afterwards, before release.

This week, a judge agreed, finding in their favour.

Catch up on the case in full, here.

Major labels might focus on back catalogs and not new artists, says BMG CEO

In an interview with Music Business Worldwide, BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch says that in the future, major labels might focus on their back catalog, instead of the 'front line' – meaning new artists.

Masuch says that, with streaming services so popular, labels are able to see what people are listening to – and that's overwhelmingly the back catalog.

"I obviously don’t know what strategy individual companies are following. But at a certain point, you have to start looking at the metrics – as shareholders of music companies will do – and say, ‘Are my assets managed with the right level of return?’" says Masuch in the interview published this week.

"It will be interesting to see if those shareholders ultimately enforce a change of focus and say, ‘Our best investment is in established catalogs. That’s something we can bank on; while the game of developing new artists is a very risky business and can lead to very disappointing outcomes.’ When we start hearing that from music company shareholders, it will lead to some interesting discussions," added Masuch, who has been CEO since 2008.

A strong argument for building your own career independently, if ever we heard one.

In case you missed it: is the internet changing music itself?

We loved this article from Ben Dandridge-Lemco in Complex, about how the song structure of rap has been changed by its life online. “Social media rewards an emphasis on individual phrases and lines over the traditional structure of choruses and verses.” writes Dandridge-Lemco, in their discussion of No Hook rap, an emergent genre.

The idea of people responding to music through the internet, and music changing because of that, is pretty wild. Check out the article to find out more.

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