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“The reason why so many artists don't have their rights is that they've been seduced by the advance and are therefore compromised on what they are doing,” explains Mercuriadis. This discussion and debate has gained serious traction as artists like Kanye West and Megan Thee Stallion have spoken out against the leverage labels use when offering artists rich advances in favor of masters or control. “You can look at Hipgnosis and say, ‘Okay, but hold on Merck, you buy these rights from songwriters and producers and artists, so are you sure you got this right?’ And my response to that is to say, ‘Absolutely.’ Because I only buy from artists and songwriters and producers,” he explains. By focusing on artists that retain the rights to their music, Merck envisions Hipgnosis as a vehicle of empowerment. The great work already exists, and Merck views his team as a mechanism to greater profit. “These are the houses that the artists built and paid for and therefore, if they choose to sell their house, that's on them. I'm empowering them when I write them a check and I'm empowering them when I go after improving their place in the economic equation. I don't buy from corporations, I buy directly from the songwriter.”