Taylor Swift is known for many things: her catchy songs, her loyal fanbase, her fierce feuds. But she is also making waves as a trailblazer for artists’ rights in the music industry. Swift has re-recorded her first six albums to regain control over her music and increase her earnings. This move has not only boosted her streaming numbers, but also reduced the value of her original recordings, which were sold by her former label to another manager.
Swift’s re-recording strategy is a response to a long-standing dispute with her former label, Big Machine, which signed her when she was 15. In 2019, Big Machine sold its assets, including Swift’s original recordings, to Scooter Braun, a manager she accused of bullying her. Swift claimed she was not given a fair chance to buy back her masters, and vowed to re-record her albums to reclaim her work.
“This is my only way of regaining the sense of pride I once had when hearing songs from my first six albums and also allowing my fans to listen to those albums without feelings of guilt for benefiting Scooter,” Swift wrote in an open letter to her fans in 2019.
Since then, Swift has released re-recorded versions of her albums Fearless and Red, called Taylor’s Version, with new tracks and collaborations. The re-recorded albums have received critical acclaim and commercial success, topping the charts and breaking records. They have also overshadowed the original versions, which have seen a decline in streams and sales.
Swift’s re-recording initiative has inspired other artists who want to own their music and have more creative freedom. However, it has also alarmed major record labels, who are trying to prevent other artists from following Swift’s footsteps. According to reports, labels are changing their contracts to include longer re-recording restrictions, which limit the time frame in which artists can re-record their music. Some contracts require artists to wait up to 30 years before they can re-record their music, while others prohibit re-recording altogether.
“The labels are trying to protect their investment. They don’t want another Taylor Swift situation where the artist can go back and basically erase the value of the masters that the labels own,” said Dina LaPolt, a music lawyer who represents artists such as Britney Spears and Cardi B.
However, some music lawyers have seen and challenged these restrictions, which they find unfair and unusual.
“It’s a very unusual clause. I’ve never seen it before. It’s not something that’s standard in the industry,” said Ann Harrison, a music lawyer and author of Music: The Business.
“I think it’s a bit rich for the labels to be doing this when they’re making so much money from streaming. They’re trying to have their cake and eat it too,” said Steve Gordon, a music lawyer and former Sony executive.
Swift has not commented on the reports of the new contracts, but she has expressed her support for artists’ ownership in the past.
“Artists should own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really *knows* that body of work,” Swift said in an acceptance speech at the 2020 Billboard Women in Music event.
Swift is not the first artist to re-record her music, nor will she be the last. But she is certainly one of the most influential and successful ones to do so. Her re-recording strategy is a testament to her power and popularity as an artist, as well as a challenge to the status quo of the music industry.
– Taylor Swift: Record labels ask artists to ‘limit album re-recording’ to prevent another ‘Taylor’s Version’, The Independent, October 31, 2023
– Major Labels Are Trying to Stop Artists from Re-Recording Their Music like Taylor Swift, Yahoo Entertainment, October 30, 2023
– Labels really don’t want other artists mimicking Taylor Swift’s re-recording initiative, Complete Music Update, October 31, 2023
– Re-Recording Restrictions: A Glossary Of Industry Terms …, Hypebot, October 29, 2023