Taylor Swift’s Re-recordings

Sugar Helena Constant, Staff Writer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 13 years, you would know that Taylor Swift is a pretty big name in the music industry. With 29 top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and eight out of nine albums to reach number 1 on the Billboard 200, she has become a highly influential figure for my generation and will likely go down in history. If that’s so, why doesn’t she own all of her music?

Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989 and grew up with a passion for songwriting and country music. She released her first studio album, Taylor Swift, in 2006, and it was met with mild success. Her second studio album, Fearless, is considered her breakthrough album, and spawned some of her first worldwide hits, such as Love Story and You Belong With Me. The album was released in 2008 and won Album of the Year in 2009. In 2010 she released her third studio album, Speak Now, which was entirely self-written. She released her fourth studio album, Red, in 2012, and it had her first number 1 hit, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. In 2014 she released her fifth studio album, 1989. 1989 was her first fully pop album, and it is one of her most successful to date. It included three number 1 hits, Shake it Off, Blank Space, and Bad Blood, and won Album of the Year, making Swift the first woman to win the award more than once. After a year-long break from the public eye, in 2017, she released Reputation, which became the best selling album of that year. In 2019, her seventh studio album, Lover, was released. In 2020 she released the quarantine albums Folklore and Evermore. Folklore won Album of the Year, making Taylor Swift the first female artist to win the award three times. In 2019, Swift announced she would be re-recording her first six albums, Taylor Swift through Reputation

Why would she want to re-record music she’s already released, you ask? Well, there’s actually much more to the story. In 2005, at the beginning of her career, Taylor Swift signed a 13-year recording deal with Big Machine Records as one of their first recording artists. This gave Big Machine ownership of all of Swift’s masters for her first six albums. Master recordings, which refer to a specific recording of a song that is sold and distributed, are often owned by recording companies like Big Machine. The rights to the musical work itself, the publishing rights, often belong to the songwriter, who in this case is Taylor Swift. After the 13-year deal was over, Swift broke from Big Machine and signed with Republic Records, giving her full ownership of all music she’d release under them. However, the master recordings of her first six albums still belonged to Big Machine Records. It was then reported that Taylor Swift’s music alone brought in 80% of Big Machine’s revenue. 

In 2019, it was announced that Big Machine Records was bought by businessman Scooter Braun – who Taylor Swift had expressed disapproval for in the past – giving him ownership of the master recordings for her first six albums. After the announcement, Swift claimed that she didn’t know Braun would be the buyer, and that she’d been trying to get her masters back for years, but doing so would require a new contract, which she refused. “Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it,” the singer said. She accused Braun of preventing her from performing her old music at the American Music Awards and from using her music for her documentary. In August of 2019, she announced she would re-record her first six albums to make new master recordings of her old songs, which she would own.

Taylor Swift has since released Fearless (Taylor’s Version) on April 9th of this year, which included all of the original songs on the album as well as 6 vault tracks. The album debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200, while the original dropped off of the chart completely and fell 19% in sales. This summer she announced that Red (Taylor’s Version) will be released on November 19th, 2021, but the date was since been changed to November 12th. During the summer there was a viral Tik Tok trend involving her song Wildest Dreams from the album 1989, so on September 17th, Taylor released Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version). Red (Taylor’s Version) includes 30 songs, with 6 vault tracks and a ten minute version of the fan-favorite song All Too Well

Though music ownership has been a long-standing issue for artists, Taylor Swift’s efforts have brought much more attention to the subject, and even inspiring other artists. Olivia Rodrigo has said that because of Taylor’s endeavors, she negotiated to own all of her music. Joe Jonas has also expressed a desire to re-record the Jonas Brothers back catalog after what Taylor did. This is just another reason why Taylor Swift’s legacy will go down in history, and she forever and always will be one of the most influential artists of this century.