Why the Music Market Need to Eliminate the Racist Term ‘Master Recording’

Barbara Merkley

During the spring and summertime of 2020, as protests across the nation illuminated the systematic injustices Black People in america have faced and carry on to deal with, the audio market was one particular of many that was termed out to take accountability and motion for its cure of a group of men and women that is largely accountable for its lots of decades of profitability. While the industry’s unfair remedy of Black Us citizens is longstanding and deep-seated, just one seemingly easy course of motion is to cease all usage of the term “master recording,” which could seem innocuous but, as in depth in Wide range’s expansive August 2020 job interview with Pharrell Williams, derives from the phrases “master and slave.”

For people not conscious, the terms have long been applied to distinguish between a supply recording (the “master”) and the subsequent copies built (the “slaves”), which has led to a pervasive use of both of those terms in many field contracts. Though these charged words and phrases have been normalized to suggest a dominant/ subservient romance, it does not negate the bodyweight that they carry, primarily in context of the tunes marketplace.

For as very long as the songs business has existed, Black performers frequently have been in a subordinate situation to label executives, the majority of whom are white, even though their new music is the critical source on which this industry is established. Digging further, when you think about that most of these performers do not have handle or possession of the underlying copyrights to their audio, parallels can quickly be drawn to how slaves did not have autonomy more than their lives considering the fact that they by themselves were being the home. Numerous of these performers, most famously Prince and Kanye West, have outright reported that their ordeals in the tunes business have felt like fashionable-working day slavery.

This enterprise has been dominated by white males considering that its inception, so when coupled with the very well-known exploitation of Black artists, the already insensitive use of the phrase “master recording” carries an even additional sinister sting. Artists such as Williams, have voiced their distress with looking at these words in their contracts and have known as for changes to be created.

As soon as I understood the term’s origins, I executed a coverage in my agency to no for a longer time use the time period “master” in our contracts, and to apply this improve into any agreements that we negotiate on behalf of our clients. Sony, Universal, Warner Music Groups and Audio Trade have either taken off or have vowed to eliminate this language from their sort contracts and license requests going forward the American Association of Unbiased Music’s board voted unanimously to eliminate this language from their contracts prospectively as very well. While this is a most vital move in the proper way for the industry at significant, I am dismayed at the reticence of other lawyers to embrace this change.

Some attorneys truly feel that removing the phrase “master recording” is avoidable mainly because it is only interpreted negatively by a couple of folks, so they individually do not really feel the need to have to stop using it. This blatant and short-sighted disregard for the psychological and psychological affect that this phrase can have on other people speaks just to what several people marched for in 2020: You are not able to detach the term “master” from its roots in American Chattel Slavery, irrespective of the other word with which it is put together. Hence, using the term “master recording” when getting informed of its racist inception is a microaggression, whether it is being employed maliciously or not.  Words have an plain impression, and the continued use of this racist language reinforces the unfavorable connotation of the term’s origin. There are a great deal of phrases that can be used in area of “master” and continue to express the exact same unambiguous which means, this sort of as “sound” recording, which is the formal terminology utilized by the U.S. Copyright Office for registration of these performs.

To be frank, it is simple for numerous of my white male colleagues to dismiss the use of these terms as “not a huge deal” when it has hardly ever afflicted them.

Irrespective of whether the phrase offends a handful of folks or countless numbers is irrelevant: It is a stage-blank racist phrase that need to be taken out from our industry’s vocabulary if we want to continue on to function to rectify our previous injustices. Sylvia Rhone, the 1st African-American girl CEO of a key document label, place it greatest when she mentioned, “If it bothers even one person, we’re getting it out.”

It is my hope that this sheds light-weight on the difficulty — plenty of so that much more can and will embrace this impactful modify. Removal of such language is a very simple nonetheless significant action that can make our sector a a lot more welcoming and inclusive house and make it possible for us to enhance the principle that tunes is for anyone — no make any difference one’s race, gender id, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or background.

Dina LaPolt is the founder and operator of LaPolt Legislation, P.C., one particular the industry’s top legislation companies and the only firm of its stature founded and operate by a sole feminine attorney.   Dina also serves on the Executive Management Council of the Black Tunes Motion Coalition and was also one particular of the recipients of their 2021 Improve Agent Award at their Music in Action Awards Gala.  



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