Spring 2021 has been a huge season for the music industry. From Justin Beiber’s album to Demi Lovato’s drop, the Pop world is bursting with new art. One of the most controversial and discussed new music launches is Taylor Swifts re-recordings of her earlier albums. As the one of the most influential musical artists of all time, Swift has gone through an extensive amount of adversity. Though the “swifties” out there may not need an explanation of why she is rerecording her decades old albums, the rest of music fans may be confused because her music and past albums are already out on all streaming platforms for free. Times are changing in the music industry and many of the legal aspects of the inner-workings are being questioned as a result of Swift’s outcry for her situation to receive justice.
The legal issues come from her relationship with her old record label. She signed to Big Machine Label group in 2006 as a teenager. Like many artists, she did not own the all the rights to her records even though she wrote and performed on every single one. In many new deals, the record label chooses to own the masters to a new artists music because of the financial risk of taking them on. As the artists grows and gains success, this method can run into problems. Thirteen years after her first deal, Swift signed with a new record label that gave her the rights to her music moving forward, Universal Music Group. That left her first six multi-platinum albums with Scooter Braun, a powerful executive at Big Machine. He then sold it, without her insight or permission. Their relationship was a disaster at this point. Swift made the situation public by posting her story on multiple social media platforms. She also called out Braun for some for some of his hurtful and negative behaviors. After this, many artists that worked with Braun took his side and the rest of Swifts fans and other advocates for artists took the other side. The support was extreme due to Swifts massive fan base. Swift said that her music was now “in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.” Her tumultuous relationship with Braun made it even more difficult for her to not know what was happening to her music or who was in control of it.
Because of the injustice she has felt through the process, Swift decided to record a new set of master recordings that she would get to own. The idea was that she could encourage her fans to buy and listen to these versions, devaluing the original ones she did not have control over. Also, for marketing and publication work, companies could be persuaded to use the new versions, thus decreasing the income the owners of her old albums would receive from production or commercial use of her songs. In typical Taylor fashion, she did not stop at just recording the original songs. She came out with new versions along with songs “from the vault” that she never released. These songs were written at the same time as their correlating album, so they match the aesthetic and vibe of that stage of her music and life. Going against the historically common practices of the music industry was not a small feat for Swift. Her outcry for change caused the conversation to continue on musicians owning the right to their work. Other artists like Prince, Janet Jackson and Jay-Z had similar opinions on the issue in the past. Swift mentioned the issue on Good Morning America in 2019 and said, “I think that artists deserve to own their work, I just feel very passionately about that.” Swift is continuing to garner success in all areas of her field. She recently won the Grammy for best Album of the year for her quarantine album, Folklore. As for what she will do next, the world can only guess.