‘Everything has changed”: the story behind why Taylor Swift is re-recording her albums

The story behind Taylor Swift's re-recordings | Graphic by Sarah Chaffey, images by jazills and Ashley Graham

Following the release of Red (Taylors version), Taylor Swift has four albums left to re-record in order to own the masters to all her music. 

On November 12th, Taylor Swift released her long awaited album, Red (Taylors Version) which includes 10 unreleased tracks that were intended for the original album in 2012.

In 2019, she announced that she will be re-recording her first six albums: Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989 and Reputation. This announcement followed her old management, Big Machine Records, selling her masters to Scooter Braun. On April 9 2021, she released the first of her re-recordings, Fearless (Taylors Version).

Swift first signed to Big Machine Records in 2005 when she was 15. However, after six very successful albums with them, she switched to Universal’s Republic Records when her contract ended in 2018. When speaking about the topic on Tumblr, Swift said: “I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future.”

However, as Big Machine Records owns the masters to her albums, it meant that she left behind all ownership of her music. In her Tumblr post, Swift also said that:

“For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. 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.”

After she left Big Machine Records, Scott Borchetta, founder of the label,  sold the company, and her masters, to Scooter Braun, a music manager for artists such as Justin Bieber. In November 2020, Braun then sold her masters to Shamrock Holdings for a reported £300 million. 

Following the original sale, Swift revealed on Twitter that her team weren’t even quoted a price regarding buying her masters and she was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement that would force her not to say anything bad about Braun before they could negotiate. Braun’s team later disputed her claims, with Braun telling Variety that he “offered to sell her the catalogue back and went under NDA, but her team refused”.

Despite not owning her masters, as the writer of her music, she still owns the publishing rights, meaning she is able to turn down requests for commercial use of her music. By re-recording her albums, she can ensure that all profits of her music go to her and her fans can listen to the music knowing they’re supporting her directly.

By speaking up about her experiences and fighting for her masters, Swift is showing many other artists in similar situations that they don’t have to sit and let this happen.

When she signed with universal, she made sure to secure the ownership of her future albums to ensure this didn’t happen again. She now currently owns the masters to Lover, Folklore, Evermore, Fearless (Taylors version) and Red (Taylors version).

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Words: Tia Janowski | Subbing: Hannah Ozkadi

Image Credits: 

Photo of Taylor Swift: jazills, CC by 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons 

Photo of Scooter Braun: Ashley Graham, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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