Taylor Swift performs her first self-owned album “Lover” on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the summer of 2019. The album, which sold 3.2 million copies, was the world’s best-selling studio album last year. (Photo courtesy of Billboard.com)
Taylor Swift performs her first self-owned album “Lover” on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the summer of 2019. The album, which sold 3.2 million copies, was the world’s best-selling studio album last year.

Photo courtesy of Billboard.com

Taylor Swift ‘shakes off’ the haters and re-records her first five albums

January 13, 2021

Owning one’s own recordings is a big deal within the music industry. From the moment artists release their first song, most major record labels own the rights to the first recordings, also known as their masters. This November, Taylor Swift was finally given the permission to re-record her first five albums and has publicly shared her journey.

Swift, who signed with Big Machine Records in 2005 at the age of 15, wrote and released her first album by 2006. Since then, she has produced eight studio albums. However, Big Machine Records owned the first six, and Swift had continually fought to buy them back. After years with no success, Swift realized it was in her best interest to let her past go. 

“For years, I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work,” Swift said in a 2019 Tumblr post. “Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past.”     

So, in 2018 when her contract with Big Machine Records ended, she signed to Universal Music Group whose contract gave her ownership of her future masters, something she never had before. As Swift came to peace with the idea of leaving her old music behind, Big Machine was sold to Ithaca Holdings in June of 2019 for $300 million, unbeknownst to her. The owner, Scooter Braun, had previous involvement in a number of feuds between her and artists he managed, and Swift felt he had harassed her for years. 

“When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them,” Swift said in the same Tumblr post. “Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.”

While Braun will forever own her masters, Taylor has refused to give up on her past. She has decided to re-record her first five albums in hopes to own some part of her work. Last year, in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Swift announced these plans and gave reason for her determination. 

“Yeah, and it’s something that I’m very excited about doing, because my contract says that starting November 2020 — so, next year — I can record albums 1 through 5 all over again — I’m very excited about it,” Swift said. “I think artists deserve to own their work. I just feel very passionately about that.” 

Critics have one question: will her plan work? While platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify will continue to stream her original recordings owned by Scooter Braun as well; many wonder whether fans will prefer her old songs over the new recordings. Along with that, fans have discussed the likely change in sound of the re-recordings as Taylor’s voice has greatly matured over the past 16 years. 

“I think Taylor’s plan of re-recordings will work,” junior Macy Fries said. “She has been planning her re-recordings for over a year, and I believe she might have something special in her re-recordings along with the original songs to entice people into buying those copies.”

However, Taylor is not alone in her efforts, as her loyal fan base continues to fight with her by her side. Longtime fans like Fries have voiced their support for the re-recordings and pledge to listen solely to the work she owns in an attempt to prove Taylor’s power. 

“I will personally try to listen to only the new recordings while streaming but will continue to listen to the old versions on CDs or records, so I know that Scooter will not be profiting,” Fries said. “She [Swift] has a very large and supportive fan base. I believe that her fans, knowing what she has been through, and all the hard work she has done to own her masters, will buy the re-recordings and only listen to the re-recordings when streaming.”

While Swift has unfortunately had to endure this difficult experience, there have been some positive outcomes. Fans are excited for the evolution of some of their favorite old Taylor songs and flourishing new artists are able to learn from Swift’s story so as not to face the same difficulties within the music industry. 

“Taylor has been very vocal about artists owning their own work and has made more people aware of this issue between artists and labels,” Fries said. “Her vocalness has hopefully helped new and current artists be more cautious when signing record deals, and aware of the importance of owning their own masters.”

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