How NFTs disrupt the music industry and copyrights — the split music copyright NFT. Should labels worry? Yes.

  • For successful musicians and recording artists in the music industry, the traditional, predominant approach is that the music labels, not the artists, own the copyrights to the “masters” or “master recording” typically set forth in the recording deal.
  • Even Taylor Swift didn’t own the copyrights to her masters for her first six albums with Big Machine Records, which led to a nasty brouhaha when Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber’s manager, purchased the rights to Swift’s first six albums. Swift took exception to having no control over her masters, plus that Braun (whom she disliked) owned her recordings. Braun sold the rights to an investment firm Shamrock Holdings for $300M.
  • Under the recording deal with Big Machine Records, Swift was allowed to rerecord her albums starting in November 2020 and own the rights to them. In April 2021, Swift re-recorded and released of her 2008 Fearless album.
  • Swift’s deal with her current label Universal Music Group gives her the rights to her masters for albums produced by UMG.

Taylor Swift’s saga raises a question: Why don’t artists just keep the copyrights to their masters? Well, typically, if you want to sign with a major label and are not a superstar, a label is likely to demand ownership of the copyrights in exchange for financing, producing, and promoting an album. NFTs may change this. How? Enter the “split music copyright NFTs.” Instead of dealing with a major label, artists can auction the copyrights to their masters as NFTs. Brilliant.

  • Independent artists Big Zuu and Taylor Bennett (Chance the Rapper’s brother) have sold NFT music copyrights, entitling the buyer(s) to 75% of the rights. The artist keeps 25% of the rights. No major label needed.
  • Opulous is a startup that “is the first platform to launch music copyright NFTs.” It’s already signed Lil Pump and Lil Yachty. This week, Opulous announced a partnership with LINE, the company that owns the most popular messaging app in Japan.
  • Yes, the major labels should worry. It’s still early. But NFTs are about to change everything.