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United Masters First Right Of Refusal: WATCH OUT For This!!

Artists: watch your back!! Here's what the first right of refusal could mean for your career...

The music industry is (& always has been) about control.

In fact, that’s 1 of the major reason why music labels even exist. It’s also the reason why you need a specific distributor in order to get your music into certain marketplaces; not everyone can become a Spotify Artist or get their song on Apple Music. However…

As with a LOT of things in the music industry, there’s a catch – one that (in the case of United Masters) is actually quite sinister.

Especially given the fact it could SEVERELY impact your career. Not to mention skew the profitability of your entire music catalog & cause you to miss out on thousands-upon-thousands in brand deals, shows & promotions!! Cue the Right Of First Refusal – a legal clause that was present in United Masters’ Ts & Cs that could be the difference between you becoming hella rich… & being controlled.

Want to understand how the First Right Of Refusal could impact you? Or just curious whether United Masters still include this clause in their Ts & Cs?? Use the menu below to get all the answers you need in 1 click…

united masters logo

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a hit-piece. Nor is it designed to cause harm in any form to United Masters – we have NOT been paid in any way to write this. It’s simply us flagging up info that we think you NEED to be aware of, before distributing your music.

United Masters are a distribution company that seeks to compete against the the likes of Tunecore, CD Baby, DistroKid… basically every music distribution company currently out there.

& on the surface at least, everything looks very promising!!

Their website is slick – as is the backend user interface, which makes Tunecore look like something from the Atari age. There’s UNLIMITED distribution to all platforms, which is a nice touch – & there’s even a FREE plan, which allows you to keep 90% of your royalties for no upfront cost.

Not bad, especially when you compare United Masters to other more pricey distributors. But then of course, you’ve got to ask yourself the golden question, which is…

“If all of this looks SUCH good value, where are United Masters actually making their £$€?”

REMEMBER: things that sound too good to be true, often are. Especially in the music industry, where legal jargon & contracts are often where the ‘real money’ is being made. Hence why we’d urge you to read all the fine-print posted by ANY distributor before you sign up to their services.

distributing music through united masters

In legal terms, a First Right Of Refusal is much as it sounds.

Whoever has the First Right Of Refusal has the power to govern what opportunities you take throughout your career. So in the case of the music industry, this would mean that this person/ entity would be able to dictate things such as…

  • What record deals you accept
  • Which brands you partner with
  • Whereabouts you perform

Sign to a label, & they’d likely retain these rights. Then again, being that they’re investing their money in you, this seems pretty fair. However, as an Indie who’s off-label, you should do ALL you can to retain such rights!!

Which is why you should be seriously careful about who you entrust with your distribution. Sign up to United Masters & agree to the First Right Of Refusal for instance, & you’d be legally required to get their approval for pretty much any opportunity you take!

Factor in that many distribution companies are run by ex-label owners/ execs, & suddenly this sort of ‘label-type’ control that’s been weaved into Ts & Cs, makes a LOT more sense.

A backdoor attempt to gain control over the rising numbers of Indie artists – perhaps?

For more info on the First Right Of Refusal & (crucially) someone else’s viewpoint, check out this analysis by Wes The Tech Productions…

united masters contracts

Yes & no.

Because while in 2023, the First Right Of Refusal clause appears to have now vanished from the United Masters Ts & Cs, unless you get a lawyer on the job, there’s no 100% guarantee it’s been scrapped. Not being lawyers ourselves, this is NOT something we can confirm or deny, but what we can tell you this…

If you ran a distribution company & suddenly started getting bad press over a clause in your Ts & Cs, you generally have 2 choices…

  1. Eradicate it from your Terms completely & cut your losses. Then try & re-build consumer trust in your brand so that you can make money elsewhere.
  2. Get your lawyer to re-word your Ts & Cs, so it’s less obvious for the average Joe to spot.

All of which brings us onto the prices charged by United Masters in 2023…

They’re a LOT different to what they were originally advertised back in 2020. A good thing, as this teamed with the absence of the phrase ‘First Right Of Refusal’ in the latest version of their Ts & Cs, hopefully means that United Masters have changed how they make their money. & in turn completely scrapped the use of shady clauses like the First Right Of Refusal.

Great new for artists!!

However, really what this should be is a lesson…

In a world of BIG business where the Gangsters wear black suits & ties, instead of body armour & get all up in your face with contracts instead of AKs, sign up to nothing – zero – nil – zilch – without FULLY understanding what you’re signing upto.

Because as much as you may think clauses like the First Right Of Refusal are morally wrong, if you sign up to a service & tick that little box to say you’ve read & understood (crucial word there) the Ts & Cs, then in the eyes of the law – you’re the one @ fault.

So if you take anything from this article , let it be this…

The music business is called the ‘business’ for a reason. It’s not all sunshine & rainbows – nothing’s magically handed to you on a plate. It’s a ruthless business, where only the ruthless will survive.

first right of refusal

Enjoy this analysis of the First Right Of Refusal & eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Advice on Music Labels & Deals + our take on the Music Industry as a whole. Recently, we also did a write up on the Pitfalls Of Signing To A Record Label + another on the Best Questions To Ask A Music Lawyer, which may also be a good read.