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Should Artists Control Their Own Destiny?

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

When you hear the words “creative control,” you might think that every artist indeed has the right to make their own creative decisions. At the end of the day, it is their music career right? Well, we live in a sad, sad world - one where that usually isn’t the case, especially when the majors are involved. Now, you might also be thinking that this only happens to small artists, but famous artists are not immune to this either. From the top of my head, I can already list countless famous artists that have gotten screwed over the past few years. Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, the list goes on.

A quick point to mention is that most of the time artists do not thoroughly read their contracts. Creative control is embedded within an artist’s contract. Labels will try to sneak their outrageous conditions into these agreements. If you, an artist, have no idea what to look out for in a contract, creative control, and beyond, please hire a lawyer. Like seriously. You don’t want to end up as another Billboard article that reads “New Artist Added to the List of Screwed Over Artists.”

Speaking of this list of screwed-over artists, Olivia Newton-John is definitely on there. Newton-John entered a contract with MCA Records in 1975, which required her to deliver 10 albums in the span of 5 years. There would be an initial period of 2 years, in which she would need to deliver 2 albums per year. After that initial period, MCA Records would then have the option of renewing the contract for three additional periods of one year each. If Newton-John failed to deliver a recording as promised, MCA Records had the right to extend the agreement until said recordings were delivered.

Olivia Newton-John delivered the first three LP’s on time (yay), but the fourth one was late. Even with this, MCA Records decided to renew their first option.

In 1978, they each filed breach-of-contract against the other. To save you some time, Newton-John was ultimately forbidden from working with another label until the five-year contract had ended. If you have learned anything from Olivia Newton-John besides the fact that she is hopelessly devoted to Danny Zuko, it should be to read your contract carefully and thoroughly.

Now, Prince, on the other hand, may he rest in peace, spent most of his career fighting for artists’ rights. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Prince began to grow impatient with his label, Warner Bros. in 1992, Prince’s contract covered six albums and allowed him to release up to one new album a year, a $10 million advance per album and a 25 percent royalty rate. Prince, however, was not satisfied with this. He wanted to be able to release his music on his own personal schedule, whenever he felt inspired and the urge to share with the world.

Another point of concern was the fact that Prince did not own his masters. This led him to change his name to a symbol, which made its first appearance on the “Love Symbol Album.” His reasoning for this was that if he was no longer named Prince, then he might not be obligated to fulfill the conditions outlined in his record contract (nice try, Prince). This battle ended in 2014, when Warner Bros. gave him ownership of his masters, through a deal that required Prince to release two new albums through them.

Prince spent his entire career trying to prove that artists should be in control of their own destiny. He was not afraid of drawing attention to these issues. He did what he needed to do to feel in control, like controlling his own distribution and not having his music on streaming services (except Tidal). After his death, however, Prince’s music was actually put on streaming services, which he would have completely hated.

If by the end of this, you’re wondering to yourself if there is anyone out there that cares about artists keeping their creative control, then get this. Brain Candy does! We are governed by the Three Laws of Brain Candy: Safeguard Creatives’ Control, Inspire Human Camaraderie, and Encourage Industry Collaboration. Here at Brain Candy Management, we encourage creatives to unite together, to fight for their rights, to share their unadulterated art, and above all else, go beyond the traditional in all that we do. If you, as an artist, want to join our revolution, you can submit your songs to our Sync Catalog HERE.

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