Kanye West, who is demanding to be released from his recording and publishing agreements, has uploaded photos of his contracts to Twitter.
“I need every lawyer in the world to look at these,”
Aiming for the broader music industry, he later posted a video of someone walking on a Grammy Award.
West says he will not release new music until he is released from his offerings.
The cache of documents he posted Wednesday night contained details about advances on his album, royalty rates, a profit-sharing deal and several changes.
Some are only partially complete and their validity has not been confirmed – but they appear to show that West received an advance of $ 12m (£ 9.2m) for his sixth album, Yeezus, and receives royalties of between 14% and 25% on his sales and streams.
According to lawyer Aurelia Butler-Ball of the music industry, such multi-million dollar advances are “rare in today’s industry because the money just isn’t there”. However, West’s royalty rates are typical of the deals she sees for her clients.
“If the label will take the risk and give the prior investment, then they will have the majority of the income when the record is sold,” she told the BBC.
“A very high-profile, well-established artist can sometimes negotiate slightly higher royalty rates, but that’s really just the industry standard.”
Butler-Ball, who is senior assistant to Irwin Mitchell, said it was “difficult to locate” West’s goal of revealing his closely-worded contracts, but it appeared his relationship with the label was irreparably damaged.
“Ultimately, the success of a record deal is not necessarily how good the contract is. It’s about the strong relationship between the artist and [people] at the record company.
“And when this relationship is broken, as it looks here, it’s very difficult to be successful with each other and create good music together, no matter what the contract says.”
Universal has not yet responded to West’s statements.
‘I fight for us’
The dispute comes a year and a half after the rapper sued EMI Publishing and tried to terminate what he called a “crooked and oppressive” contract that banned him from retiring.
EMI sued West for damages in March 2019 after what it called “West’s efforts to relinquish its negotiated contractual obligations to the company.”
They reached an undisclosed settlement last September, where it is likely that West will renegotiate its terms and royalty rates.
On Monday, the star took a break from his shaky presidential campaign to post a series of statements about his music career.
He began by announcing that he “will not put out any more music until I finish my contract with Sony and Universal”.
West went on to demand apologies “immediately” from fellow musicians J Cole and Drake, adding: “I fight for us” and “I do not want to see my people enslaved”.
The implication seemed to be that he wanted to form an alliance of artists who could fight unfair recording contracts. He later pleaded with Bono, Kendrick Lamar “and even Taylor” Swift to join the cause, adding: “All musicians want to be free.”
At the center of his controversy is what appears to be an attempt to buy the master tapes back to his recordings.
“When you sign a music agreement, you sign your rights,” he wrote. “Without the masters, you can do nothing with your own music. Another controls where it is played and when it is played. Artists have no accepted fame, tour and merch[andise]”.
“In COVID, artist needs our masters … it’s more important than ever.”
On Tuesday, West claimed that Universal Music “does not tell me what my masters cost because they know I can afford to buy them”.
He also tweeted texts from an unnamed adviser presenting opportunities to get out of his contracts and estimated the cost to his masters at more than $ 300 million. (£ 232 million).
The 43-year-old later called several executives at Universal by name.
He wrote in capital letters, adding: “Please understand that I will do everything that is my legal power and use my voice until all artist contracts are changed. I will not stop. I promise you I am petty and very personal “.
West also stressed that record contracts often include “hidden costs” – which force an artist to pay for the distribution of their CDs, among other things.
Butler-Ball said it could only be a good thing to force labels to be more upfront about these fees.
“If he forces his hand to more transparency as to where these costs go, the days of artists to cover the cost of printing 10,000 vinyl are over,” she said.
‘Disgusting and disrespectful’
West’s Twitter account was later suspended after he sent the private phone number to Forbes’ Chief Content Officer Randall Lane, writing: “If anyone wants to call a white supremacist … this is the editor of Forbes.”
Twitter is said to have frozen the account until he removed the post and agreed not to commit further privacy violations.
The video of his Grammy award, which has been filed on a toilet and is apparently being urinated, remains in place.
It was criticized by hit songwriter Diane Warren, who called it “disgusting and disrespectful”.
“This was given by your peers out of respect for your work, and you literally piss on them,” she wrote. “I have won a Grammy and I am forever grateful and humbled that my peers found me worthy of it.”
Billie Eilish’s brother, Finnea’s O’Connell, simply replied, “This is so sad, man.”
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