Per The Culture, In a cover story for the April issue of Vogue, Abby Aguirre reports that after she released her last album in 2012, Rihanna left her old label and acquired the masters to all of her previous recordings. This is an incredible business move for star who also founded her own label imprint under her new home RocNation.
Artists hand over the rights to the master recordings as a part of traditional recording contracts. This allows the record company to profit from the music in perpetuity. Whomever owns the masters has the right to license the music for commercials, samples, and placement in television or film. Owners of the master rights get paid when a song is played, so now with the rise of streaming, there are even more ways to earn. But artists without ownership only get a small piece of the pie, if anything.
When Ray Charles signed with ABC records in 1962, he brokered a deal that made him one of the first Black artists to purchase the rights to the master recordings of his records. Every song he ever wrote, co-wrote or arranged from that point on was owned by his own publishing companies. The move was a smart one. The recordings were valued at $25 millionin 2008 and continue to generate millions in revenue.
This can be a huge source of income for any artist or label, and with a catalog of hits (14 number ones to be exact) like Rihanna’s, she, and perhaps her heirs, are sure to bank millions of this smart business deal for years to come.