One of the biggest pop stars in the world is re-recording her first six albums, something unusual in the music industry. Why is she doing this and how does it connect with her rights?.
The Woman Post | Valentina Ibarra
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When Taylor Swift was only 16 years, she signed a recording deal with Big Machine Records, an independent label with whom she published five albums. When she decided to leave in 2018, the fight for the ownership of her masters started. As she was not offered the option to buy the rights for her music, she decided to re-record all of the albums that did not belong to her to acquire the ownership and reduce the revenue of the old versions.
But how does it work? According to American law, music has two types of ownership: One for the music itself -such as the melodies, the lyrics, etc, and another for the rights of selling and distributing. Because Taylor Swift has written all of her songs, she owns all of the intellectual property of her songs, but she cannot decide how and when they can be used. The singer expressed multiple times that she tried to buy her music, but the label would not allow it without her signing another contract for more albums with them. But because Swift wanted to leave, she never accepted this proposal.
In 2019, Big Machine announced that the label was being bought by Ithaca Holdings, Scooter Braun’s company. Immediately, Taylor Swift denounced on her social media that she was not informed about the sale because she has been trying to buy her masters for years. Furthermore, she recalled how Braun has manipulatively bullied her for years and that now her music legacy was in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it. Lastly, she expressed that losing the songs that she wrote in her bedroom, her past, everything she worked for was not easy, but that her future looked brighter in her new label.
After a while, the option of re-recording became a reality. As she had the ownership of the music itself, she could do the songs again, as similar as possible, and publish them again. It would mean a big inversion of time, money and essentially devaluing her old albums, but she would own them. And for her, that was the most important part of it all. To prevent it, Braun sold the masters again, but Taylor decided to continue with her plan because he would still benefit financially from the albums as the deal left him with a % of the earnings.
On November 12, the 2nd re-recorded album came out and is still breaking records. Considering that it is an album that everyone already had the chance to listen to, the numbers are impressive. RED became the biggest streamed album by a female on Spotify and Taylor is now the most-streamed female in a day on the platform. Furthermore, the song "All Too Well (10 min version)" is expected to debut on #1 in the Billboard list, something unusual for a song that long. The album also came out with a short film for "All Too Well" and a music video for "I Bet You Think About Me," which are part of the vault. To offer an incentive for the albums, Swift decided to also include the songs that originally did not make it to the album, which has been greatly received by fans.
After a couple of days, some people are trying to shift the narrative and ensure that Swift is trying to mortify her old ex-boyfriends by releasing these songs. It brings back the past, as she used to be highly criticized for talking about them in their music, even if she never included the names of her past lovers. But what we cannot forget is that the re-recordings are a fight for her rights to the songs she loves, the ones she wrote to express her feelings, which held a special connection because, in the end, they narrate her life. There are four more albums to come and then Taylor will be able to say she owns all the music she has ever created. It is a long road ahead, but a cause that is worth fighting for.