Anita Baker settles dispute over her master recordings

The Detroit-based singer/songwriter now encourages her fans to stream and purchase her music

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Back in March, Anita Baker asked her fans not to buy or stream her music as she battled her former label for her master recordings. Now a deal has been made as the legendary singer took to social media to let her fans know they can resume playing and purchasing her catalog.

On Friday, Baker, 63, posted a photo of her first five albums — 1983’s The Songstress, 1986’s Rapture, 1988’s Giving You The Best That I Got, 1990’s Compositions, and 1994’s Rhythm of Love — with the caption, “All My Children Are Coming Home. Catalog. Impossible Things Happen… Every. Single. Day. Gratefully.”

All five of the albums were released by Elektra Records.

On March 9, Baker tweeted that despite outlasting all of her artist contracts, and that “by Law…30 yr old, Mstrs are 2B Returned,” that the label was “gonna make me Fight 4 it. I’m Prepared, 2 do that. Please Dont advertise/buy them ABXO.”

Anita Baker thegrio.com
Anita Baker accepts the lifetime achievement award at the BET Awards on Sunday, June 24, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Baker was referring to the copyright law that allows for master recordings to be returned to artists 35 years from their first recording.

The 1976 Copyright Revision Act gives artists who released albums after 1978 the right to reclaim their master recordings from their record labels 35 years after they were first released, per Grammy.com. Ownership of master recordings means artists can control and profit from their own work in perpetuity.

As music fans know, the late Prince was a proponent of ownership who fought successfully to reclaim his masters. In the 90s, he scrawled ‘slave’ on his face to bring attention to the plight of artists who were denied ownership. He also notoriously refused to approve his work for use on streaming services (only making a deal with Tidal just before he passed) and YouTube, citing low compensation rates.

Prince in New York City in 2010. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Baker cited those examples as well in her Twitter posts.

The eight-time Grammy winner shared a breakdown of the low revenue that artists receive from streaming, which she wrote is “$0.003 – $0.005 every time a song is played. “1/3rd – 1/2 A PENNY Per Stream, for Artist. minus… *fees *taxes *ect. ect. ect.”

While the details of Baker’s deal with Elektra for her masters have yet to be disclosed, she did post that fans should expect new box sets and compilation releases via Rhino Records, the catalog division of WEA, or Warner Elektra Atlantic, the company that publishes her catalog of hits, including “Angel,” “Sweet Love,” “Body and Soul” and “No One In The World.”

She wrote, “Thank you @Rhino_Records for the Lovely Meeting. The New Team. And, the Intention, to Create More Joy for Generations to come.”

Throughout the ordeal, Baker referenced Prince and his advocacy and struggle for his masters, as previously reported by theGrio.

Baker received congratulations from George Clinton via a Twitter video post on Friday. Baker retweeted Clinton’s video, saying “Godfather, You’ve led by Example. We’ve been paying close Attention, for *Generations.”

61st Annual GRAMMY Awards - Red Carpet
George Clinton attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Clinton, the founder of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer group Parliament-Funkadelic, has been going through his own long-time fight for his masters and publishing, particularly important given how many hip-hop artists have sampled his work.

Back in 2005, a federal judge granted Clinton full copyright ownership of four Funkadelic albums, One Nation Under A Groove, Uncle Jam Wants You, Hardcore Jollies and The Electric Spanking of War Babies, per Billboard.

Earlier this month, Clinton was victorious in a defamation suit against him by music publisher Armen Boladian, as announced by his law firm Nolan Heimann, LLP.

In his 2014 autobiography, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?: A Memoir, Clinton said Boladian stole the copyrights of his songs, including classics like “Flashlight,” “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucka),” “One Nation Under A Groove” and “Atomic Dog.”

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