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‘They Didn’t Believe at All’: Ciara Explains How She Obtained Her Masters for ‘Free’

For most artists, owning your masters means having complete control over what is done with your music and any financial gains it may bring. Ashanti took ownership of her masters last year and now fellow R&B singer Ciara is sharing what happened when she acquired hers.

The “Goodies” artist appeared during ABC News’ Soul of a Nation Juneteenth special “Soul of Freedom.” She explained what it was like being signed to LaFace Records as a teenager.

Ciara explains how she acquired her masters for free. (Photo: @ciara/Instagram

“Being signed to a major recording label when you’re young and you get the opportunity like, ‘this is amazing. ‘This is so exciting. My dream is coming true,’ ” the Grammy-winning singer shared. “But the reality is that when you get to do it over and over and over you start to go ‘Okay am I really reaping the benefits of the fruits of my labor?’ “

The 36-year-old added that major labels “hold the power to tell you when your next song can come out or your album can come out. And then if they’re not happy with it they decide they want to stop the process.”

Ciara became vocal about owning her masters and starting her own label over her now-platinum hit, “Level Up.”

“I had this song called ‘Level Up.’ I had the video for the song as well. I had a whole vision for my project and I sat down and talked to him…to the CEO at the time. It was like he made up his mind before I came into the room that he wasn’t checking for it,” she shared. “And in a matter of 24 hours, the most frustrating thing happened but one of the biggest blessings in my life happened. I was like ‘this is my chance.’ “

Her mindset then shifted toward owning her masters and starting her own label. “I’m gonna do it my way, and amazingly enough, they gave me my masters,” she said. “They gave them to me for free. So that lets you know they didn’t believe at all.”

“Level Up” was released in 2018, although Ciara began expressing her creative restrictions in 2011 – the same year she joined Epic Records. In a Facebook post that was edited on May 5, 2021, she acknowledged “the great times and success” she had with her label. She said that she spent thousands of dollars of her own money for promotion. She left the label in 2016, and three years later she launched her independent label and company, Beauty Marks Entertainment, named after her seventh album, “Beauty Marks.”

“It was that easy, and I was ready,” the wife and mother of three continued about obtaining her masters. “I was like, ‘let’s go. We gon’ level all the way up.’ “

She said today’s artists are truly “missing out by not owning your record, by not being able to participate in a bigger way.” She mentioned that the struggle is even harder for Black women.

“I’m starting to see a lot more of my peers do the same. I think that the landscape is going to change,” she noted.

Ciara’s track started the “Level Up” challenge, where she challenged fans to show off their best dance moves in a video. Fans and celebrities alike, including Halle Berry, Serena Williams and Tiffany Haddish, participated in the challenge by sharing their rendition on Instagram.

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