Taylor Swift Re-recording Her Old Music Explained
On Thursday, February 11th, Taylor Swift announced she was releasing the re-record of her hit song Love Story and close to releasing the re-recording of her second studio album, Fearless.
I’m thrilled to tell you that my new version of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is done and will be with you soon. It has 26 songs including 6 never before released songs from the vault. Love Story (Taylor’s Version) will be out tonight. Pre-order now at https://t.co/NqBDS6cGFl 💛💛 pic.twitter.com/Vjyy2gA72O
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) February 11, 2021
But why is Taylor Swift re-recording her music? What does it mean for her music going forward? What does she stand to gain by re-recording?
Host Carrie Lippert Gillaspie unpacks allllll these questions in this video.
On Thursday morning, the music superstar announced that the re-recording of her career-changing song, “Love Story,” would drop at midnight.
And if that weren’t enough, Swift also revealed she’s been hard at work re-recording Fearless — which will feature the new name of Fearless (Taylor’s Version). The new album will also feature 26 songs with a total of six new songs “from the vault.”
Sharing the news on Good Morning America, the singer said, “I’m so excited to share with you that tonight, at midnight, I’ll be putting out my version of my song, ‘Love Story,’ which was originally on my album Fearless. I’ve now finished re-recording all of Fearless, which will be coming out soon.”
She continued, “My version of Fearless will have 26 songs on it because I’ve decided to add songs from the vault, which are songs that almost made the original Fearless album, but I’ve now gone back and recorded those so that everyone will be able to hear not only songs that made the album, but the songs that almost made it: the full picture.”
Fearless, Swift’s second studio album — which sat at No. 1 for 11 weeks and is one of the best-selling albums of the 21st century — won her album of the year at the Grammys in 2009, making her the youngest artist to ever win the award at the time.
Break it down a bit further:
For the past few years, Taylor has been entangled in some legal drama regarding the ownership of her masters.
The term “masters” refers to the original sound recording copyright of a song.
When an artist records a song, he or she is also creating an original sound recording protected under United States copyright law.
Whoever owns the masters to a song or album owns the legal rights to license that music to third parties like TV shows, films, commercials and other use.
Meaning they can decide where the music is used AND they make the most money – not the artist – on said deals.
Now here’s the ugly truth: Most musicians do not legally own their masters or the rights to their own music.
The owner of a musician’s masters is usually whoever finances the recording. Typically, this is the record label.
How is this possible?
This is how it’s possible. Let’s take Taylor Swift for example:
Taylor came to Nashville at 14 years old to try and make it in the country music industry. She was essentially a nobody, but at a songwriters showcase at the famous Bluebird cafe, she caught the eye of DreamWorks record exc Scott Borchetta who was preparing to form an independent record label called Big Machine Records.
Taylor ended up being one of the first people to sign with Borchhetta and Big Machine.
When someone like 15 year-old Taylor signs with a record label, that record label has ALL the power. Not some of the the power, not most of the power – ALL of the power. And that power is indicative in the contracts that these young and talented (but extremely naive) artists end up signing.
We have seen this time and time again with young stars. If you’re not familiar with Lou Pearlman and the absolute robbery he committed during his time managing The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, it is text book of an experienced executive pulling the rug over the eyes of young people he knows are talented and worth millions but in over their heads on the legal and business sides of the industry.
When you are in that position, a literal nobody with so much passion and talent and earnestness to create, you don’t take time to negotiate or even think to negotiate. you think this is my SHOT. millions of people want this opportunity that I’m being given right now. who am I to ask questions? who am i to think I deserve XYZ in my contact?! Just getting someone to give me a contract is a huge fricken deal!! I’m not going to get bend out of shape about the minutiae of the terms and conditions of it all.
So you sign a record deal that gives you literally no ownership or say in any of your music, but in return you get the chance, just the chance, to become a star.
In the beginning, an unknown musician needs the marketing dollars of a record label in order to become mainstream and get their music heard. As that musician gains success, fame, notoriety. etc., etc., they slowly begin to have more power in the equation, and quite frankly need their record label less and less.
Fifteen year-old Taylor needed someone who had the money and expertise to launch her into the country music stratosphere, and that’s what Scott Borchetta and Big Machine offered her. At this point in her career, Taylor needs ZERO marketing dollars. She posts something to her instagram page and within seconds the world knows what she needs them to know.
When they achieve a decent level of success, a lot of musicians either re-negotiate their contracts with their label OR go to another label all together so they can legally be given more control over their music.
For artists, master recordings are vital musically, historically and financially. As Prince famously told Rolling Stone back in 1996, “If you don’t own your masters, your master owns you.”
Back to the Taylor of it all….
Back in June 2019, Music Executive, Scooter Braun and his media holding company, Ithaca Holdings, announced it had acquired Big Machine Label Group. The deal, estimated at more than $300 million, gave him full ownership of all of Big Machine’s client roster, distribution deals, publishing sides, and owned artist masters. That includes all rights to Swift’s first six albums.
Swift said she was stunned by the news and had only learned of the acquisition when the public was informed. She shared her reaction of the news on her tumbler site saying: “This is my worst case scenario. This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.”
Swift then confirmed in August 2019 that she planned on re-recording her first five albums — Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, and 1989 — once she was legally allowed to do so.
In November of 2020, the news broke that Braun sold Swift’s masters of her first six albums to an investment fund called Shamrock Holdings for over $300 million.
Taylor made another statement via her social media stating that for the second time her masters had been sold without her knowledge. She said she started conversations with Shamrock, but soon found out than under their terms, Scooter Braun would still continue to profit off her old music catalog for many years to come, which she said she could not in good conscious allow.
She ended the statement by saying that she intended to continue forward with plans to re-recording her old music.
Today’s announcement of the re-release of Fearless is the beginning of all that Taylor has promised would come. and the beginning of Taylor’s quest to truly own every bit of her music.
Side Note: Taylor has always owned the publishing rights to her music – this is different than the masters rights. Because she wrote her own songs, she retains the rights to the lyrics, melodies, and compositions that comprise them, and she doesn’t have to ask permission or pay anyone to use those aspects how she sees fit.
When Swift releases new versions of her old songs, she’ll own both their master rights and their publishing rights, meaning she will earn every penny they bring in and secure unilateral control over how they’re used.
She stands to make a literal sh*t ton of money off future licensing deals, and at the same time, decimate the value of her old recordings in the process.
In fact, Taylor recently did a collaboration with Match.com, which used her re-recorded version of “Love Story” in its latest ad campaign. it was the first of countless licensing deals Swift is most likely going to make with her re-recorded music. And we can safely assume, Swift will easily be able to convince companies to come to her when they want to license her music. Because although Shamrock will own the older versions of her masters, Taylor still owns the publishing rights to that music and would need to sign off on any licensing Shamrock would do with the older versions of her music.
By going to her directly, ad agencies and film studios interested in her music can secure a license to both the publishing and master rights to her music in one fell swoop, as opposed to licensing the publishing rights from Swift and the master rights from Shamrock. It’s much easier—and cheaper—to license from one party that controls both sides.
Taylor has said through this entire process she firmly believes that an artist has a right to own their own music and that has been her motivation throughout this all.
It’s also obvious throughout multiple statements over the last few years about this that Taylor feels she has been bullied at times at the hands of the music industry – specifically Scott Borshetta and Scooter Braun.
Also, It should be noted that Taylor may have left some little clues for fans in her recent instagram. Notably some random capital letters where littered throughout her statement that seem to spell out April 9th.
As for what it means? Your guess is as good as mine.
We welcome your stories! Contact us at [email protected]!