Why Taylor Swift keeps releasing all those re-recorded albums

Since 2021, Taylor Swift has released re-recorded versions of her albums. Here’s what you need to know about the behind-the-scenes battle that led to this years-long effort:

Why is Taylor Swift re-recording her old songs?

Swift is re-recording her previous albums because it will allow her to own their masters, i.e. the original recordings of the songs.

Owning its masters means Swift can control how those particular versions of songs are used, like granting permission for the music to appear in advertising. Swift owns the rights to the compositions themselves, however, which allows her to re-record the songs. Without ownership of her masters, however, Swift claimed in 2019 that her record label was trying to stop her from performing a medley of her songs at the American Music Awards or using her older music in a Netflix documentary.

“The reason I’m re-recording my music next year is because I want my music to live on,” she said. Billboard in 2019. “I want it in movies, I want it in commercials. But I only want it if I own it.”

Why doesn’t Swift own her masters?

The majority of Swift’s work was released under a deal she signed with Big Machine Records when she was 15, which gave the record label ownership of her masters.

In 2019, Swift said she “begged” the label to let her buy her masters and was offered a deal where, if she re-signed with Big Machine, she could “”win” an album a la times, one for each new one I handed over.” Swift declined, signing a new contract with Republic Records that would allow her to own her masters in the future. This, however, would not apply to his past work. Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta says Swift has “every chance in the world” to own her masters.

Who is Scooter Braun and how is he involved?

Music director Scooter Braun purchased Big Machine in 2019, acquiring ownership of Swift’s master recordings. Swift expressed dismay at the idea of ​​Braun possessing his masters, accusing him of “relentless and manipulative bullying”. Kanye West was a former Braun customer, and in 2016 the rapper released a controversial song in which he calls Swift a “b—h” and a music video depicting her naked body.

“Essentially, my musical legacy is about to end up in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it,” Swift said.

Braun slammed Swift for “arming a fan base” against him.

Does Braun still own Swift’s masters?

Not from 2020, when Bruan sold Swift’s masters to a private equity firm, Shamrock Holdings.

Swift said she tried to negotiate the rights of the masters, but was asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement “stipulating that I would never again say a word about Scooter Braun unless it was positive. “, which she refused to do. She also said she hoped to work with Shamrock Holdings, but the fact that Braun would still benefit from her catalog under the new deal was “a non-starter.”

At this point, Swift announced that she had begun re-recording her old music.

For how many albums does Swift not own the masters?

Swift’s Big Machine deal covers her first six albums released from 2006 to 2017: Taylor Swift, Without fear, Speak Now, Red, 1989and Reputation. She owns the masters of her three albums released since the agreement with Republic Records: Lover, Folkloreand Still.

In April 2021, Swift released her re-recorded debut album, Fearless (Taylor version)and the second, Red (Taylor’s version), debuted in November 2021. These albums are actually covers of the originals, and they fall under his contract with Republic Records. This means that even though Swift still doesn’t own the masters of the original Without fear or Red recordings, she owns the new ones redone. That’s why it’s the new versions of his songs that have recently appeared in commercials and trailers, most recently for an Amazon show.

Swift tried to make the release of these re-recorded albums comparable to the release of a brand new album, for example by including previously unreleased or extended songs. The idea is also that re-recording the songs will make the original masters less valuable.

Why is Swift legally allowed to re-record these songs?

Swift’s contract with Big Machine gave her the right to re-record her old songs from November 2020. But another key factor is that Swift writes her own songs and owns the publishing rights to them, i.e. say the rights to the actual compositions as opposed to just the recordings. This allows him to “essentially give himself permission” to cover the songs “without having to touch the masters”, The New York Times Explain. And because she owns the publishing rights, if someone wanted to license Swift’s music for a movie or commercial, she could “turn down the request unless she was using her re-recorded version,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Do musicians generally own their masters?

Not usually. The deal Swift signed that gave Big Machine control of its masters is “nothing out of the ordinary” in the music industry, and its terms were like “what you’d expect from someone who was an unknown artist when she signed,” music attorney Susan H. Hilderley said The Washington Post. Indeed, Larry Miller, director of New York University’s music business program, told The New York Times that when record companies “invest in unproven talent”, the “trade is that, traditionally, the masters stay with the record company”.

But Swift is far from the first artist to get into a similar row. Prince once fought with Warner Bros. for the same reason and similarly stated that he would re-record all of his songs, although he may have taken control of his masters before doing so, The New York Times Remarks. “If you don’t own your masters,” said Prince rolling stone in 1996, “your master belongs to you”. Swift says she hopes to teach young artists “how to better protect themselves in a negotiation.”

How long will it take and what is the next step?

Swift has four more albums to re-record – Taylor Swift, Speak Now, 1989and Reputation – so there is still a long way to go. Fans theorized 1989 could be next after Swift recently released a re-recorded version of one of the songs from that album, “This Love,” although others think Speak Now will be re-recorded first.

But music lawyer Rachel Stilwell explained to rolling stone that many contracts prohibit re-recordings until “no later than two years after the agreement expires or five years after commercial release”, in which case Swift may not be allowed to re-record the final album she released under Big Machine, Reputationuntil November 2022.

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