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How Master P Turned $10,000 Into A $350 Million Business Empire


When you browse our annual ranking of the richest rappers in the world, many of the top names are probably easy to guess. You've got Diddy at #1 with $500 million and Jay-Z at #2 with $475 million. The top 10 is predictably filled with some of today's biggest entertainers like Dr. Dre, Eminem, Birdman and 50 Cent. On the other hand, many people are surprised by who comes in at #3 right behind Diddy and Jay-Z. The #3 richest rapper in the world today hasn't had a major hit in over a decade. In fact, his once dominant rap label filed for bankruptcy back in 2003 and his most recent self released studio album sold just 75,000 copies. In case you haven't figured it out yet, we are talking about the ultimate No Limit soldier, Percy Miller. Better known as Master P. It might be hard to fathom today, but back in the mid-to-late 90s no other rap label or CEO was more successful than Master P and No Limit Records. Master P pulled himself out of one of the roughest and poorest ghettos in New Orleans by launching a hugely successful business empire that earned him hundreds of millions of dollars. And it all started with a $10,000 life insurance settlement check.

Master P – The Early Years

Master P was raised in the Calliope housing projects, one of the most violent and drug infested areas of New Orleans. P planned to get his family out of the ghetto by playing in the NBA. After high school, he won a basketball scholarship to the University of Houston. Unfortunately P's NBA dreams were dashed after he suffered a severe knee injury during the first few months of freshman year. After the injury, Master P left Houston and transferred to Merritt Junior College in Oakland to be closer to his family which had recently moved to the nearby city of Richmond. Determined to make something of himself and help his family live a better life, he soaked up as many business classes as he could at Merritt. In 1990, tragedy struck when P's grandfather was killed in a work related accident. The one bright side of the accident was that it left Percy with a $10,000 malpractice insurance settlement check.

Armed with $10,000 and two years worth of junior college business classes, Master P decided to open a record store. He found a dilapidated building and struck a deal with the owner that gave him the first three months rent free in exchange for cleaning and renovating the storefront. The 21 year old future mogul soon launched "No Limit Records & Tapes" on San Pablo Avenue in Richmond, California. To reduce costs in those early days, Master P lived in a tiny storage room in the back of the shop with his wife Sonya and their one year old son, Percy Romeo Miller, Jr (AKA the future Lil Romeo). No Limit Records & Tapes mainly sold West Coast gangster rap albums with an emphasis on local East Bay artists like Tupac, Too Short, Rappin 4 Tay and E-40. Within a few months, the store was a hit in the community and in 1991 Master P began selling his own self produced album "Get Away Clean" through the newly launched "No Limit Records" label. To support the album, Master P set out on a West Coast tour as the opening act for Tupac and Too Short. Along the way, P connected with as many promoters and DJs that he could find. In 1992, after Master P's second album "Mama's Bad Boy" sold more than 150,000 album independently, he decided to move No Limit Records back to New Orleans in order to make a real run at the label business. By 1994, his third album "The Ghettos Tryin to Kill Me!" sold an unheard of 250,000 units independently and No Limit Records grossed more than $900,000!

Striking It Rich

Pretty soon, all the major record companies came calling. Leveraging his astonishing success as an independent artist, Master P was able to secure an unprecedented deal between No Limit and Priority Records. Not only would No Limit receive a $375,000 advance for every album produced and 75% of the wholesale price for every album sold (the standard at the time for a major artist like Madonna was 25-50%), but at the end of the deal Master P would own every master recording from his entire roster of artists, including himself.

Considering how successful he was as an independent artist without money, marketing or national distribution, perhaps what happened next is not surprising. Master P's first album for Priority Records "Ice Cream Man" reached #3 on the Billboard charts in 1996 and would eventually go platinum with over 1.7 million copies sold in The US alone. No Limit quickly churned out albums for roster artists like Silkk The Shocker and C-Murder (P's brothers), Mystikal, Mia X and Steady Mobb'n. By 1997, No Limit had produced more than 8 platinum albums. Between 1997 and 1998, No Limit released nearly 50 albums that often topped various Billboard sales charts. Master P's 1997 album "Ghetto D", which featured his most famous song "Make Em' Say Uhh", sold 3.2 million copies in The US. The single for "Make Em' Say Uhh" sold over a million copies.

The Peak Of Success

1998 was the definitive year for Master P and No Limit Records. 1998 saw the release of Master P's penultimate album "MP Da Last Don". That album debuted at #1 on Billboard's Top 200 Chart and sold a whopping 500,000 copies in its first week alone. The album would eventually go on to sell more than four million units. Capitalizing on their success, No Limit signed super star rapper Snoop Dogg whose deal with Death Row had recently expired. Snoop's first No Limit album "Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told" debuted at #1 on Billboard, sold 800,000 units in its first two weeks and would eventually be certified 2X platinum. Thanks to Snoop and the other hit making artists at No Limit, Master P's label sold more than 20 million albums in 1998 alone.

As if this wasn't enough, while No Limit was tearing up the Billboard charts, Master P was expanding his empire into a diverse array of side businesses. He launched a sports management company, a clothing line, a real estate firm, a phone sex business, a high end travel agency, a video game company and a film studio. No Limit Films produced a series of straight to VHS movies that routinely sold millions of copies. Between 1992 and 1998, No Limit Records sold $120 million worth of albums and in 1998 alone Master P's various business ventures generated revenues of more than $160 million. As of March 2013, No Limit Records has sold nearly 80 million albums worldwide and Master P has a personal net worth of $350 million!

The Decline

No matter how much talent or luck No Limit had, it would have been extremely difficult to top the success of 1998. Between 1999 and 2002 Master P focused much of his time on trying to jump start an NBA career. He actually landed contracts with the Charlotte Hornets and the Toronto Raptors. He never made a regular season NBA roster but he did play a few seasons in the Continental and American Basketball Associations. While he was shooting hoops, No Limit did release a few more platinum albums including two from Snoop Dogg and two from his son Lil Romeo. Unfortunately, as Master P's focus shifted to basketball, America's taste in music shifted away from No Limit. Their most popular artists left for new labels and by December 2003 No Limit filed for bankruptcy. In 2004 Master P launched "New No Limit Records" and released a self produced album called "Living Legend: Certified D-Boy" which only sold 75,000 units. In 2010 the label was renamed "No Limit Forever Records" and today they represent a handful of lower and mid-level rap acts. But don't count Master P out just yet, as he proved time and again, with a little hustle and luck there really is no limit to your success.


Master P>>>>

Labels will never give away a deal that good again

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DJs are making a killing these days as electronic dance music (EDM) is one of the most lucrative sectors of the music industry. Top DJs can demand £50,000 to £100,000 for a gig – and, unlike touring rock acts, they have hardly any overheads. But the scene is hiding a shameful secret – the women who write the melodies and lyrics to the dance hits, as well as sing them, claim they rarely get paid for their work.


In the early 1990s, Milli Vanilli and C+C Music Factory found themselves in the midst of a scandal when it was revealed that the vocalists fronting the acts were just lip-synching to other singers' vocals on some tracks. Martha Wash, the actual singer of C+C Music Factory's Gonna Make You Sweat, even sued the label for proper credit and royalties, Milli Vanilli had to hand back their Grammy, and the US introduced rules making it mandatory to credit correct vocals on CDs and videos, in the aftermath.


While the pop sector has largely cleaned up its act since then, little has changed in for EDM acts. The featured singers on many club hits, most of whom have also written the "toplines" (melody and lyrics), often find themselves being replaced by someone younger and "prettier" for videos and tours, while seeing no royalties at all.


One such singer is Antonia Lucas who, after decades of feeling devalued and disrespected by club music producers and labels, decided to set up the Vocalist Songwriters Alliance (VSA).


Lucas's first introduction to the business, almost 20 years ago, was a session for a prominent garage producer. What she thought would be the recording of one track turned out to be a long line of producers coming in, one after the other, with beats without music. Lucas was required to make up melodies and lyrics on top of the beats. "Twelve records came out of that session – six of which were hits – and all I received was £200 and no writing credits," she says, adding that some of the tracks are still being issued.


Last year she started a Facebook group for singer-songwriters in the sector, and within days the group had over 60 members, all describing similar experiences.


The VSA now has 300 members. One of them is artist and songwriter CoCo Star (real name Susan Brice). In 1996, Brice's track I Need a Miracle was released by Greenlight Recordings in the US and became a club hit. It was then re-recorded and released on EMI's Positiva imprint in the UK a year later.


In 1999, a British DJ mashed up her vocals from the song with German act Fragma's track Toca Me. The mash-up was released without Brice's permission on a bootleg white label for which she was never paid. This sparked a buzz in the clubs, and Fragma released their own version of the bootleg, Toca's Miracle, on Tiger Records in Germany and Positiva in the UK in 2000. It went to No 1 in 14 countries worldwide.


"[Toca's Miracle] has reportedly sold more than 3m copies, but I've never been paid for any of these remixes," claims Brice. She says that her vocal was credited to Fragma, alleging that an impostor touring as the singer collected her PPL airplay royalties until six months ago.


PPL collects performance royalties for recordings, when they're played in public, such as in clubs and on the radio. Of the money it collects, 50% goes to the owner of the recording (usually the label), 45% to the featured artist (usually the singer), and the remaining 5% to the non-featured musicians.


Its registration for Toca's Miracle includes a number of studio programmers as "featured artists" as well as another vocalist. Brice is registered as a non-featured artist at a rate of 1%.


Tiger Records, claims it owns the copyright to Toca's Miracle, but it has so far failed to produce any sample agreement, licensing agreement or assignment agreement to Brice's label, Universal Music.


Brice alleges that this is because what they used is a bootleg, with her vocal sourced from an illegal file-sharing site.


When asked about the Fragma Toca's Miracle dispute, a spokesperson for Universal Music Group, which bought EMI last year, said: "There's quite a long chain of contracts behind this, starting with Susan's original deal with Greenlight, which we're looking into so wouldn't want to comment until we've got to the bottom of it."


The Guardian also contacted Tiger Records, as well as its distributor Kontor New Media, for a comment, but has yet to receive a reply.


Brice is not the only featured artist to have had such problems with Fragma. Kirsty Hawkshaw, former frontperson of Opus III, who's hit It's a Fine Day went to No 2 in the UK charts in 1992, co-wrote and sang Fragma's Radio Waves, but hasn't received any royalties for it. "They never signed a contract with me," she says.


Hawkshaw wrote to iTunes about the dispute, and it promptly took the track down, but she says she has no money to hire a lawyer. Like many other artists I've spoken to, she also fears being threatened and blacklisted for speaking out.


Both artists have had similar experiences with other EDM producers and labels. "Susan and I could have probably made a million, considering all the compilations that have featured our songs," says Hawkshaw, who has also joined the VSA.


"The producers are not all necessarily choosing to be rogues, unfair and dishonest," says Lucas. "Some are just ignorant regarding how the industry works."


Hawkshaw concurs. When confronting a producer who had done a mash-up using her vocal, he claimed he had done "millions" of mash-ups and nobody ever told them they needed permission, adding that he had not taken credit or sold it – and so had not abused the artists' rights. "I said, 'If I used your backing track to promote myself without your permission, you wouldn't be happy with me,'" she says.


All VSA members have reported not receiving royalty statements from the record labels selling their work – and being "stonewalled" when challenging them on it. Lucas says that this kind of behaviour breaks down the individual – Brice says she suffered a nervous breakdown as a result – and that many members considered leaving the industry, before finding out that they were not alone.


"Some of the biggest DJs out there are doing it [to their featured vocalist/co-writers]," she says. "They're making the most money, yet they expect to pay the least. They believe they're superior to us – but without us, what would the fans be singing?"

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Last week


Selena Gomez’s “Star Dance” debuts at number one on the Top Albums chart with 97,000 units sold. It is her first chart-topping album and best one week sales total to date.


Each of her last two albums debuted at No. 4, with her last album, 2011’s “When The Sun Goes Down,” peaking at No. 3, selling 78,000 first week copies.


Marc Anthony’s “3.0” debuts at No. 5 with 39,000 units sold. It is his second best peak position to date and first top ten album since 2002’s “Mended” reached No. 3.





One Direction’s “Best Song Ever” debuts at number one on the Digital Song chart with 322,000 downloads. It is the biggest one week 
download total for any song in its first week of release so far in 2013. It is the group’s second digital chart-topper and first since “Live While We’re Young” spent one week at No. 1 in October.
Ariana Grande’s “Baby I” debuts at No. 6 with 141,000 downloads sold. It matches the entry of her first charted song, “The Way,” in early April.
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This Week
Robin Thicke picks up his first chart-topping album as “Blurred Lines” debuts at number one on the Top Albums chart with 177,000 units sold. 
His previous chart peak and one week sales total was in 2008 when “Something Else” landed at No. 3 with 137,000 first week sales. The title cut from “Blurred Lines” returns to number one on the Digital Songs chart with 405,000 downloads, up 30% over last week. It is the fourth week that the song has sold at least 400,000 downloads. 
Five Finger Death Punch land their best charting album to date, entering at No. 2 with 112,000 units sold of “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell: Volume 1.” Their last album, 2011’s “American Capitalist,” reached No. 3.
Tech N9ne’s “Something Else” enters at No. 4 with 58,000 units sold, matching his highest chart peak to date with 2011’s “All 6’s & 7’s,” which had his previous best one week sales total. 
Backstreet Boys’ “In A World Like This” debuts at No. 5 with 48,000 units sold. It is their highest charting album since 2005’s “Never Gone,” which reached No. 3.
Tech N9ne is doing this independent thing properly.
Strange Music (Strange Music Inc.) is an American independent record label specializing in hip hop music. It was founded by Tech N9ne and Travis O'Guin in 1999.  It is currently distributed through Fontana Distribution.
Travis O'Guin, an established businessman in the world of furniture, was looking to get into the music industry. He had been a fan of Tech N9ne's and had seen how his career was being handled.

At the time, Tech had several engagements pulling him in several directions. At the time, he was signed to Qwest Records as well as MidwestSide Records.


He also had commitments with both QDIII's Soundlab and Sway & King Tech of The Wake Up Show. Travis came into the picture and offered Tech something he never had, his own label. They agreed upon a 50/50 division of profits, with Travis acting as President and Tech as Vice President.


The first album Absolute Power was a success, selling about 250,000 copies.


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