Nothing brings the United States together quite like the death of a beloved public figure. People like Robin Williams, Kobe Bryant and Carrie Fisher have united us in times of trouble, and it was difficult to see them go. Even in the wake of their deaths, we still want more of them. Artists like Micheal Jackson, Juice Wrld, and most recently Mac Miller have all had music they’ve recorded be released after their deaths. Is this ethical?
Mac Miller’s “Circles” album was released in January of this year despite the fact that he died in September 2018. He’s been dead almost a year and a half, yet his music is still freshly circulating. Personally, I find this to be acceptable. If the music was professionally recorded, it was obviously intended to be released at some point in time. Why not give his fans one last parting gift? To be fair, it isn’t one last gift if there’s more than one album released, as is the case with Michael Jackson. He had two posthumous albums. However, where is the money going?
These albums are making a lot of money. Multiple recording studios have reported that sales skyrocket after a singer’s death, so the studio will often scramble to capitalize on it by re-releasing songs in order to squeeze a little more money out of the fallen artist. In most cases, the money made from albums that are released months or even years later tends to go to the artist’s estate, which in turn goes to their heirs, or whoever they list in their will. In most cases, this is the family.
In my opinion, and in the opinions of most of the people I asked about this, the family deserves the money far more than the recording studio does. Yes, the recording studio loses money, but they’ll make it back through their other, living artists. The money is at least some consolation for the family. However, I think there’s an additional way – make a scholarship program.
The money made from posthumous albums can go to struggling artists, or homeless shelters from the artist’s hometown, or can support people wanting to go to college for music. The list goes on. Yes, you can’t set up a scholarship fund in someone else’s name without their permission, but if this is something the family knows the artist would have wanted, then this is a perfect, wholesome way to make sure the artist’s legacy lives on. This, and giving the money to the family, in my opinion, is the best way to handle royalties after the death of an artist.