By owning their masters, recording artists are able to take full control over their songs and what is done to them in the future. The musicians who own their masters are extremely rare, but is Ariana Grande one of them?
There’s no evidence that Ariana Grande owns her masters. Most master recordings are owned by record labels – Republic Records in Grande’s case. Details of their contracts weren’t made public, so it’s unclear if she’ll ever be able to gain control of her masters.
Grande’s Record Label
Back in 2011, Ariana Grande informed her fans that she was signed by Republic Records. Back in the day, people only knew her as Cat Valentine from the Nickelodeon series Victorious, but the company’s CEO Monte Lipman felt she deserved a shot.
He was impressed by Grande’s covers of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, but her debut single “Put Your Hearts Up” failed to make a splash on the charts. She was finally able to commit to her music career after Victorious wrapped up in 2013 and kept working with Republic.
She released five studio albums since then, starting with Yours Truly, and four of them debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Her working relationship with Republic Records remained solid and she thanked them for supporting her in a heartfelt tweet from 2019.
“Thankful for my Republic family and deeply proud of every project we’ve released together. Music is the most special thing in the world. Thank u for believing in me and my voice,” wrote Grande.
Atlantic Records president, Pete Ganbarg, revealed they considered signing Grande but weren’t sure if she’ll be able to capture the attention of a broader audience. They eventually passed up a chance to work with her, and Ganbarg admitted they made a huge mistake.
Ariana Grande may have a great relationship with Republic Records right now, but we’re yet to see what the future holds. Like the majority of other artists, she doesn’t own her masters and won’t have an easy time getting control of them if she ever decides to do it.
The term “master recording” refers to the original recording of a song or an album, and they mostly belong to record labels. This basically means that the labels control the rights to a song, and it’s up to them how it’s going to be used in the future.
Artists receive a percentage of the royalties from sales, and it’s possible to retain ownership of their masters down the road. It’s up to them to negotiate the best possible deal with their label, but their contracts are rarely made public, so it’s impossible to know the details of Ariana Grande’s deal with Republic Records.
The tricky thing about masters is that they’re not just a physical copy of a recording – they’re also a blueprint for future reissues. Long story short, record labels can use them any way they see fit, usually without the artist’s permission.
Grande’s Relationship with Scooter Braun
The problem of masters’ ownership became hotly debated after Taylor Swift started a public feud with Scooter Braun. Back in 2019, he acquired her former record label Big Machine Records, thus becoming the owner of the masters for her first six studio albums.
Swift said she made peace with her masters being owned by someone else after switching to Republic Records, but never expected it would be Braun. She described this as the “worst-case scenario” and called Braun “incessant, manipulative bully.”
If you think that Ariana Grande has nothing to do with this because she never worked with Swift – think again. Scooter Braun has been representing her since 2013, and they spoke highly of each other on several occasions in the past.
Unlike some of Braun’s clients, including Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato, Grande didn’t come to his defense this time around. Variety reported that sources close to the singer claim “she’s frustrated by the whole thing”, but she never publicly took anyone’s side in this heated feud.