Bryan has been working with "sound" for a over a decade and is an audiophile, so this post was clearly about something he cares about.
Something we’ve touched on before is that there are copyrights in both the songs/music and in the sound recording. You may have noticed there are different copyright symbols to make this distinction on albums: © for the music and ℗ for the sound recordings (phonogram or phonorecord). This can lead to disputes between Record labels and artists, especially when a band records an Album and their label decides not to release it, or “shelve” it indefinitely. The artist rarely has much power in this situation when they're "held hostage," but some have found other ways to get their music out, usually by self-distributing the album for free (especially online now), by purchasing the master tapes, or by re-recording the material with a new label. I think the key in these examples is that the record label wasn’t making money off of the material, anyway, so if the artists released it for free, then no monetary harm was done.
My favorite band, The Smashing Pumpkins, recorded enough material for two discs on their last (formative) album, MACHINA/the Machines of God, but because their previous album underperformed on the charts, their label Virgin Records rejected that idea and opted for a single-disc record. Band leader Billy Corgan announced the Pumpkins’ break-up shortly before releasing MACHINA, then proceeded to leak a few bootlegs to fans throughout the year leading up to their last show. This culminated with cutting 25 copies of a double LP and triple EP collection (25 songs total) on vinyl for those lucky people to distribute to fans. Radiohead often gets credit for being the first to release an album for free, but the Pumpkins did this in 2000, and their fans had to transfer the songs from vinyl records and burn them to CD-Rs or upload them online at the dawn of high-speed internet. Interestingly, Virgin Records included a few of these songs on the Pumpkins’ Greatest Hits compilation bonus disc the following year (though they were likely high-quality transfers from the vinyl records, not from the master tapes). The Pumpkins began remastering and reissuing their entire catalog in 2011 (after their material was no longer covered by their contract with Virgin), but that came to an abrupt halt after 2014 when the next album to receive this treatment was MACHINA; there has been a dearth of news regarding when this might continue.
Java Records, a subsidiary of Capitol, pulled the rug out from under Splashdown before releasing their major-label debut, Blueshift, so the band burned CDs for members of their mailing list and encouraged fans to share MP3s online; one of the band members has since also made the multi-track audio stems from two songs available for remixing. Aimee Mann purchased the master tapes from her record label so that she could release Bachelor No. 2 on her own, which got a lot of positive hype with the success of the movie Magnolia, for which about half of the soundtrack is comprised of songs from Bachelor. I recall hearing or reading about instances where bands re-recorded an entire album with a new label after their former label shelved it, but I can’t recall or find specific examples of this; I do know the Smashing Pumpkins re-recorded two songs for their major-label debut, Gish, that were previously recorded for singles on independent labels.
Our fellow LIS classmate Pat reminded me of the prolific mash-up artist Girl Talk, who has made a successful living recording and touring to support albums that consist almost entirely of other artists’ works, but he seems to know what lines to not cross. This webpage breaks down the sources of Girl Talk's material for one of his albums, which is quite extensive! One who was not as (legally) successful with his mash-up was DJ Danger Mouse, who used source material made available by Jay-Z and he got the blessing from surviving Beatles, Paul and Ringo, but not from EMI, when he mashed up The Black Album and The White Album to create The Grey Album. Perhaps the major issue here is that Danger Mouse focused on only two works by using substantial portions of The White Album in order to create the new work. The Grey Album was heavily pirated in a campaign dubbed “Grey Tuesday,” and it’s now available on the Internet Archive. In a similar fashion, Panzah Zandahz remixed and mashed up Radiohead on an album called Me & THIS Army, which is available for free (or donation) on Bandcamp; I’m not sure how Radiohead or their former label feel about this, but since the material is still online, there must not have been a DMCA takedown notice issued.
I hope these examples help shed some more light on how copyright can tangle up artists and record labels.