Pharrell Compares Label Advances to ‘Illegal Loans’ — ‘No One Should Own You’

Pharrell Williams
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Pharrell Williams
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Pharrell Williams. Photo Credit: Frank Schwichtenberg / CC by 2.0

As part of a recent discussion with Steve Stoute, Pharrell Williams compared record-label advances to “illegal” loans, specifying that “no one should own you.”

The 48-year-old voiced his critical opinion of advances during UnitedMasters’ third SelectCon, which the four-year-old company broadcasted via Twitch. As an aside, Amazon-owned Twitch and UnitedMasters partnered to deliver the two-day livestream event to fans – a particularly interesting point, given Twitch’s ongoing licensing dispute with the major labels as well as UnitedMasters’ efforts to position itself as a viable alternative to these entities.

Building upon the latter idea, one of several messages shown between segments during the third SelectCon indicated: “UnitedMasters and Twitch have partnered to showcase independent artists in front of millions. Select artists have already joined the revolutionary affiliate program,” which is available to UnitedMasters Select artists who “have a release for at least 30 days” and who “have a minimum of three streams across DSPs.”

As another interesting aside, Apple late last month led UnitedMasters’ $50 million funding round, while Spotify – which has developed decidedly close relationships with the Big Three labels and is partially owned by the companies – voiced support for the European Union’s investigation into the complaint it (Spotify) levied against the iPhone maker.

In terms of Pharrell Williams’ initially mentioned comments concerning advances, however, the topic came to light during the latter portion of SelectCon 3, and specifically a “fireside chat” with UnitedMasters founder and CEO Steve Stoute.

This component of the event was pre-recorded, as opposed to livestreamed, and began with Stoute and Pharrell Williams speaking of their decades-long professional relationship. The conversation ultimately shifted to the nuances of modern-day record deals and Williams’ impact on UnitedMasters; Stoute acknowledged that the Virginia Beach native conceived the business’s name.

“We’re so used to being owned in some way, shape, or form,” said Pharrell. “No one should own you. No one should own your actions. No one should own your creations.

“You shouldn’t walk into a company and say, ‘I’m gonna make this record.’ They give you an advance. Then, for the tenure of the entire time that your album is out, you’re working to pay back that advance.

“No bank” – Steve Stoute interjected at this point, characterizing the described situation as “illegal” – “gives a company a loan to start a company and walks away with the trademarks. Walks away with the patents, walks away with the product.

“The founder is somewhere still, paying off that and borrowing against future earnings to try to get it back, but they don’t never get it. You don’t need to do that.

“There’s a lot of people working in the music industry to change that, on the record-company side and on the publishing side. It’s not enough of them, because that’s been legalized, right? So they’re not in a rush to get it done.

“But there are good people in the business, should you want to do that. And it’s got to make sense. But you should always own your creations, man.”

Back in February, Pharrell Williams was cleared of perjury charges – and millions in additional damages – in his high-profile courtroom confrontation with the Marvin Gaye estate.

14 Responses

  1. The thief returns

    The biggest art thief returns

    He hopes shielding himself in the cloak of justice for musicians would be convincing… He’d be more believable if he had not signed with the industry and then stolen from a LEGEND!

    This is not The first time he’s done this. The breeze from an eye blink will reveal all kinds of horror stories. That being said I don’t think the new rebranding will help him. Not even his Oprah friend can scratch up time for him. I see you are still counting on your check Dylan so your here shilling helping the man keep us down.

  2. Angelito

    Go steal a battery from Marvin Gaye’s limo.

    • Geronimo

      Thanks for what we expect from you – meaningless posts.

  3. he's right but...

    easy for him to say with his millions.

    how abt you start something up some people can have money to get started in their career and own their rights and still somehow have the money for promotion needed to get off the ground as an artist. all these people say this shit with their head in the sand as to the realities on the ground for people starting out with $0.

    • Joey

      It doesn’t take money to start a career. It takes talent.

      • Clearly

        You know nothing about the music industry

        • Joey

          Sure, I don’t. 40 years later and many awards, and I don’t know the business? You’re a dummy.

    • ?

      Speak what you know because your comment is myopic. Pharrell is from Virginia and had to work his way from the bottom ghost producing for groups and earning respect for over a decade before people even knew who he was. What better person to speak on it than someone who actually made something from nothing?

  4. Rodney Pepper

    Chillax, Pharrell. Nobody is forcing anyone to actually take the advances.

    • See Through You, Too

      There’s no force required because it’s predatory on peoples’ hopes and desires. Just because no one is forced doesn’t mean it’s not an unfair practice, either, so what’s your point?

      • Rodney Pepper

        That’s an excuse – “predatory on people’s hopes and desires”. People make choices. Some are wise, while some are not. What’s your point? I made mine – nobody is forcing anyone to take an advance. Period.

  5. ben

    “now that I’m wealthier than Cresus, I’m gonna spit in the soup”
    how much money did he got as advance so far?
    this is what’s happening when people ara called “geniuses” for no reason

    Tone deaf

    • See Through You

      Yet here you are offering nothing but criticism. Sounds like you don’t even realize who they are or the classics in Pharrell’s catalog. Regardless of how you feel they spoke facts. Even banks at most need a cosigner for a loan. You might lose collateral that you chose but not intellectual property for absurd amounts of time and all of the numerous stipulations of music contracts. There’s nothing “tone deaf” about it, that’s dead on. Why don’t you have something to add beyond a useless opinion?