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How Do Dead Artists Release Music? And Why Release Them?

In December 2019, Juice WRLD passed away, and a posthumous album titled "Legends Never Die" was released in 2020.

Tragic events can sometimes claim the lives of the greatest artists of all time too early. In some cases, such artists may leave behind unreleased content. Some of them leave behind track collections or song albums. Not to mention, they might have experimented with their contents but never got the chance to release them.

As such, it’s common for their tracks or albums to get released when they pass away. Some good examples include Lil Peep, XXXtentacion, and Prince, among others. In this text, we’ll highlight how their music gets released and who controls music after an artist dies. Read on:

What’s a posthumous album?

"Circles" by Mac Miller

Well, this refers to an album of unreleased content by the artist who has passed away. As such, it was released after the artist’s death. While there are so many controversies behind this approach, there’s also a positive side to it. For instance, you get the chance to enjoy the albums they intended to release but never had the opportunity to. Also, they can serve as a tribute to their entire career.

How do Dead Artists Release Music?

Dead artists release music through posthumous albums, which are compilations of unreleased content made available after their passing. The rights to the artists’ music, typically held by their estate, labels, or designated individuals, allow for the official release of these tracks or albums.

In many cases, posthumous releases serve as a tribute to the artist’s career and a way to preserve their legacy. Additionally, they cater to the continued demand from fans and may generate income for the artist’s estate. The process of releasing music after an artist’s death varies depending on the artist’s will and copyright laws in their country, but ultimately, the copyright holder controls the distribution of the dead artist’s music.

What happens to the unreleased content once the artist dies?

Upon an artist’s passing, the unreleased content falls under the control of the individual or entity holding the rights to their music. These rights holders can then choose to release the previously unshared material in the form of posthumous albums. This process ensures that the artist’s legacy lives on and provides fans with the opportunity to experience the artist’s work even after their death.

Why release their music after they are dead?


How do Dead Artists Release Music?

Releasing the contents of dead artists’ albums serves as a tribute to their careers and an effective way to carry on with their legacy. In the case of Lil Peep, for example, his music continues to reach fans even after his untimely passing. His mother, Liza Womack, holds the rights to his previously unreleased music and has been progressively sharing his recorded work with the world.

Through this process, Lil Peep’s music and legacy remain vibrant and alive. Liza has also involved collaborators who were originally intended to work with her son, ensuring that the original creative vision is preserved and celebrated. This approach not only honors the artist’s memory but also allows fans to stay connected with their favorite musician’s work, even after their death.

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Commercial Demand

Even when the artists are dead and gone, some of their fans may still be yearning for their songs. Due to this demand on a large scale, the artist’s unreleased content gets officially released to the public. This is always the case when the artist has a massive following. Sometimes, the dead artists have a large collection of tracks and albums that were not released. As a result, it takes many years to release all of them. Of course, the label benefits financially from it.


How Do Dead Artists Release Music? And Why Release Them?

Money still plays a crucial role in the release of dead artists’ songs. For instance, the rights to the artist’s music are often left behind as part of their estate. As such, they release the artist’s content to generate income. For example, after the death of Prince in 2016, his albums are still getting released. Some of his unreleased songs date back to the 1970s. It’s even said that Prince has enough songs to be released annually for over a century.

XXXtentacion is another artist whose songs are still getting released even after passing away. Before his death, he had signed an album contract worth USD 10 million. By 2018, most of his albums were complete. As such, the label launched his album on the planned date even though the artist had passed away. The following year after his death, the “Bad Vibes Forever” album was released.

Who controls music after an artist dies?

 Basic Copyright Rule

In the US, when the artist dies, the copyright remains as part of his or her estate for the next 70 years. Thereafter, it becomes part of the public domain. But even so, the legal holder can agree to the passing or purchase of the rights by other parties.

Further, the copyright rule on artists’ content varies and depends on the location. In Australia and most of Europe, the song’s copyright lasts for five decades after the artist’s death. The rights to their images, on the other hand, last for two decades and a half. However, when the copyright is not registered, it’s hard to enforce it.

Artists Will

How do Dead Artists Release Music?

The author or artist still has a major say in their copyrights after they pass away. And this is where the will comes in. Through their will, they can determine who can hold legal rights to their content. In that case, they can choose a specific individual or an entire company to be in charge of their records when they are dead.


Who gets the royalties?

Well, the royalties generated by the dead artists’ songs are considered part of their estate. Thus, if the artists didn’t leave behind a will, the royalties will get divided among their beneficiaries. However, if there’s a will, then specific individuals noted in the will will be the beneficiaries of the royalty.

Unintended vs. intended posthumous: what’s the difference?

When the artists suspect they won’t be alive for long, they can determine how their content gets released when they die. With this option, they are aware that their unreleased content will hit the mainstream even when they die. As such, they have more control over it.

On the other hand, unintended posthumous refers to albums released without the knowledge of the artists. In this case, the artist wasn’t aware of their impending death, and as such, they have no say or control over it. Whoever gets the right to their content can determine how the artist’s content will get released.

Final Take

How do Dead Artists Release Music?

Lastly, how do dead artists release music? Well, it’s simple: whoever has the rights to the dead artists’ unreleased content can release it officially. In that case, the copyright holder can be the label, the entire family, or specific individuals. Also, the will of the artists can determine who has the rights over their content, whether it is released or not. That being said, the copyright holder has control over the music of the dead artist.

Written By

Founder of Tunepical, a blog dedicated to sharing my love of music with you. I believe that music is the key to life, and if you're listening to the right songs at the right time, everything is possible!

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