Brendan Urie and Taylor Swift perform to open the 2019 Billboard Music Awards show in Las Vegas, US. (Image: Reuters)
Fans of singer Taylor Swift trended #TaylorIsFree on November 1 to celebrate the “beginning” of when she can start re-recording her old music.
Confirming her decision to re-record music from catalogue during an interview in April 2020, the singer said she would be able to begin the process from November – as per the contract.
In a Tumblr post in 2019, Swift called Scooter Braun’s $300 million acquisition of her former label Big Machine “bullying”, and expressed “disgust” that her music would be under Braun’s control. Stating she was not allowed the option of gaining control of her masters.
Masters are important to singers and musicians as they can be tied to touring rights and royalties, among other issues.
While this is not an alien concept, re-recording entire albums is uncommon in the industry, and if Swift does go through with her decision, she would become the first mainstream music icon to do so.
So, here are some reasons Swift might consider pushing through with it:
> Right of use during touring: Tours are big cash makers for musicians and Swift is no exception.
She in fact earned more from touring than album sales and streams – case in point, making $54 million from the initial five stadium shows of her Reputation tour in 2019, compared to $9.4 million from all her music record sales, streaming and royalties in 2018.
Swift would like the right to have the bulk of her catalogue available for tour – right from her first self-titled album to Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012) and 1989 (2014).
> Hinder earnings for Braun: To call Swift a popular artist is an understatement, her music sells and sells a lot. Swift may be angling to take away a portion of Braun’s earning from her work and re-directing it to herself – on her own terms.
> Signal music evolution: Due to various copyright and legal restrictions Swift may never be able to completely reproduce her music as it was. But this opens up the door for remixes, different versions and also unreleased songs that coulda-shoulda-woulda been a part of the original album and did not make it in for various reasons.
What better way to give fresh incentive to listeners and showcase growth?
> Album singer: In the age of streaming Swift remains an album singer – she sold a combined 34.3 million albums till date, as per Billboard. Singers are no strangers to releasing and re-releasing collector CDs, cassettes, and Vinyl editions of their greatest hits or most popular tracks. Swift could win big with this move given her loyal fanbase.
> It is her music. Duh: Swift has been vocal that she is “excited” about her contract allowing for re-recording from November 2020, telling Good Morning America: “I can record albums 1 through 5 all over again — I'm very excited about it. ... I think artists deserve to own their work. I just feel very passionately about that."
As Prince famously told Rolling Stone back in 1996, "If you don't own your masters, your master owns you."