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  • Writer's pictureOmar Holloway

Q&A: Forgot When Yeezus said "The artist owns the copyright... and leases them to the record label / publisher for a limited term"? The media and music industry didn't. Vulture 1 grossed $1M in week 1

In September 2020, Kanye West fired off a series of "NEW RECORDING AND PUBLISHING DEAL GUIDELINES" on Twitter, the app now known as X.

He called for artist-friendly income splits - 80% to the musician - and contracts that are easy to understand.

"The artist owns the copyright in the recordings and songs," West proposed, "and leases them to the record label / publisher for a limited term."


His new album Vultures 1, an independent full-length collaboration with the singer Ty Dolla $ign, arrives with even fewer strings attached; Ye doesn't have another major music label deal - just a distribution company, Label Engine, to help ensure the music's presence on streaming services.

This arrangement outside of the major label system means that West and Ty Dolla $ign are likely taking home even more than the 80% cut the rapper tweeted about in 2020. Although Label Engine advertises that clients get 82.5% of revenue, stars like West almost certainly have the leverage to push that number significantly higher.


Billboard estimates that Vultures 1, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, earned a little more than $1 million in its opening week in the United States, mostly from streaming (around $892,000 from close to 169 million on-demand streams) plus a little extra from sales (roughly $145,000).

If West and Ty Dolla $ign are giving up 5% for distribution - which might be high - they take home around $986,000. (More when you factor in global streams and publishing.)



Kanye's TCD 14% + major label system 86% = 100% / $1.00 / $10.00


■ Contrast Vulture 1's independence, with the situation West faced at the start of his career in the major label system: Images of old contracts he tweeted in 2020 indicate that when he made The College Dropout, he earned a 14% royalty on albums sold in the U.S.

As is typical in a royalty deal, West's old contract notes that "no royalties shall be due and payable… until such time as all advances have been recouped."

The College Dropout recoupment came out of an artist's share, meaning that Ye's measly 14% rate has to do all the heavy lifting to earn TCD's advances back.


■ Thus, in a theoretical example, if West had just $1 million in recoupable expenses (such as an advance) associated with The College Dropout - he would need to generate more than $7 million in total sales income for him to recoup the $1 million advance for TCD - via his $0.14 of every $1.00 generated. Then afterwards, Ye would possibly start earning more than 14% / $1.40 per $10.00 TCD album sold going forward.

Hence, 86% = every $0.86 of $1, every $8.60 of $10 DID NOT go toward recouping Yeezy's TCD advancement; it went to the major label system (the record companies involved).

(In this simple hypothetical, an artist is only generating income through sales, not synchs or other ancillary sources, and the royalty rate isn't increasing when an artist hits certain sales thresholds.)


■ In today's music economic normalized climate, Kanye West's 2004 The College Dropout major label debut stuck in a 14% royalty deal would have to earn an additional $7 million in total sales revenue; and translated to on-demand streams, that would mean around another 1.3 billion plays.


Accordingly, 2024's Vultures 1 has been lauded on social media as a breakthrough moment for the independent sector.

Between Feb. 8 - Feb. 25, domestically and internationally, Billboard estimated Ye & $ign's five-show run of listening parties for Vultures 1 generated more than $12 million in ticket sales.


• SOURCE: Kanye West’s First Independent Album Grossed Over $1M in Its First Week; Vultures 1, the rapper's full-length collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign, earned close to 169 million on-demand streams in the United States. Billboard >


*VIDEO: ¥$, Ye, Ty Dolla $ign - Vultures (Havoc Version) feat. Bump J & Lil Durk >


*RehaB101 Original New School Webcast > #RehaB101ONSW newsfeed.

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