Is It Time Posthumous Albums Required Direct Consent?

Losing our favorite recording artists is never easy, and many find comfort in posthumous albums. As the frequency of these releases trends upwards, it’s time we asked if the artist’s consent should be required.

Posthumous music releases are nothing new, with works dating as far back as the 19th century. Given the emotional connections we share with music and the more-than-often untimely passing of young artists, the increased volume of releases comes as no surprise. The past 20 years have been particularly stacked, as several posthumous releases from one star have become increasingly common. 

In cases such as that of  Juice WRLD, the family estate plays a heavy role in the decision-making that dictates whether or not this music will reach the public domain. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and raises concerns over whether or not the artist’s consent was given before their passing. The ethical debate, in turn, tends to land on record labels and the estate, leading us to question if these projects are exploitative

Anderson .Paak got a new tattoo warning against any posthumous music when he’s gone.

— HipHop-N-More (@FreeHHNM) August 17, 2021

With a recent tattoo that reads, “When I’m gone, please don’t release any posthumous albums or songs with my name attached. Those were just demos and never intended to be heard by the public,” Anderson.Paak made his stance very clear. The timing of the statement is interesting, given the publicized discourse and fallout following the release of Pop Smoke’s second posthumous album, Faith. When the album was released, fans were quick to note the heavy use of features and pull up old videos in which Smoke made his view of feature-heavy projects clear. Long time friend of Pop, Mike Dee, publicly responded to the album release writing “I’m upset my damn self at it cuss I know he wouldn’t even want this like this,” further fueling the fire that wishes were disregarded in the place of sales. While Faith debuted at number one in US charts, reviews came in significantly lower than Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon, leaving us to wonder if his legacy has been damaged by the choice to disregard his living sentiments.

While there is no denying that posthumous music makes a lot of money, it’s important to question whether that makes it worth going against the wishes of the creator. It will be interesting to see if Paak’s very clear and permanent signing of his wishes will be a signal to record labels that consent should always be sought out and given ahead of time.

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