Master Recording Ownership

Published: 04th March 2010
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In the music scene, master recording ownership is one of the most controversial issues around. In fact, there have been a lot of debates as to the exact definition of master recording ownership. Should it be the artists', the managers', the producers', or the music labels?

Indeed there have been a lot of questions and doubts that arise from this issue. So, what is a master recording, and who rightfully owns it?

A master recording is generally defined as the original recording from which copies are made. If the recording is done on tape, the original recording is referred to as the master tape. For recordings on computer hard disks, the original recordings are called session files. It should be clearly understood that there is just one master recording, and this is the recording done at the time of the original performance. However, the term master is generally used to describe anything that is used as a source.

There are two ways of creating master recordings. The first way is direct to tape, where one or more microphone signals are mixed and recorded to a mono tape of a stereo tape directly. This method of creating master recordings is the oldest method and is rarely used nowadays. The other way of creating master recordings is the multitrack recording. With this method, a number of tracks can be recorded into one main track, thus the term multitrack. Regardless of the way of creating master recordings, the ownership to such must be clearly established.

The ownership of the master is not necessarily confined in a single ownership. This is so because although song masters and album masters are taken as intellectual properties, ownership is acquired through purchase, creation, and inheritance as with physical properties. There are two steps in determining the value of masters. The first step is determining the cost of producing the album master prior to release and distribution; and the second step is determining its market potential to sell after the release of the album. Therefore, the master and all its rights can be sold at much higher cost than the production or recoupable cost.

Specific situations dictate the ownership of the master. If an artist finances the production of his album, then the artists owns the master. If the situation is the other way around where the studio or music label finances the production of the album, then the studio is the owner of the master. Usually, it is the latter that is practiced in the music industry. This is due to the fact that music labels have the interest of building and maintaining their own pool of music albums. In this regard, these music labels indefinitely own the master recording.

Billy Rock an authority of providers in music distribution services. Get your music heard with single song distribution on iTunes, AmazonMP3 and many more.

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