Kanye wants to 'rip apart' music industry rules

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

  • Published
US rapper Kanye WestImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
The star has spent the last week posting about the iniquities of the music industry on Twitter

Kanye West says the music industry is a "broken system that needs to be fixed", and the "balance of power" between artists and labels is "too wide".

In an in-depth interview with Billboard magazine, the star added he wanted to "rip apart" the conventions on how artists get paid.

"You have to adapt," he said. "You can't have old rules for new games."

The rapper said his ultimate goal was for all artists to own the copyright to their recordings.

Shortly after the interview ran on Billboard's website, West announced he was giving all the artists signed to his label, GOOD Music, the 50% share he holds in their master recordings.

That will affect artists including John Legend, Pusha T, Teyana Taylor and Big Sean, who immediately expressed his gratitude on Twitter.

"Thank you!" he wrote. "This would help so much."

West has previously explained how significant it is for an artist to own their own master recordings.

"When you sign a music deal you sign away your rights," he wrote on Twitter last week. "Without the masters you can't do anything with your own music. Someone else controls where it's played and when it's played. Artists have nothing accept the fame, touring and merch[andise]."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Kanye West and Taylor Swift have had a tempestuous relationship since 2009

The star added that he wanted to help Taylor Swift gain control of her masters, which were bought by Ariana Grande's manager Scooter Braun in a $300m deal last year, against Swift's wishes.

Setting aside their long-standing feud, West told Billboard: "All artists need to be free and own their rights [and] Taylor Swift deserves that, just like everyone else.

"Scooter Braun is a friend and we'll be having that discussion."

West has spent the last week tweeting about his dissatisfaction with the music industry, even posting screenshots of his recording contract with Universal Records.

At the weekend, he outlined an eight-point plan to overhaul the deals that musicians sign with record labels. As well as retaining the copyright to their music, he said artists should receive higher royalties, and demanded that contracts be written in "plain English" instead of complex legal language.

In the Billboard interview, he used the analogy of buying a house to explain the iniquities of the music industry.

Mortgage analogy

"Currently, artists take advance [payments] to make records and yet when they repay those advances the record company still owns the records,' he said.

"Imagine a bank lending you money to buy a house and then when you've repaid that mortgage, them telling you they still own it."

The 43-year-old, whose hits include Power, Runaway and Through The Wire, is currently suing his record label, Universal Music, and has said he won't release new music until he is released from his contract.

Last year, he sued EMI Publishing, seeking to terminate what he called a "lopsided and oppressive" deal that prohibited him from retiring.

EMI counter-sued West for damages in March 2019, after what it called "West's efforts to renege on his bargained-for contractual obligations to the company."

They reached an undisclosed settlement last September, in which it is likely that West renegotiated his terms and royalty rates.

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