Recently singer-songwriter Taylor Swift re-released her infamous “Red” album. Though people are excited to listen and celebrate some of their favorite T-Swift songs, many may not know why she is re-recording songs that are about 10 years old.
The unfortunate reality is that Swift does not own the rights to any of her albums prior to 2019. When Swift was just 15 years old she signed on to a six-album record deal with Big Machine Records. In this deal she gave complete control of the official recordings of each of her songs, as well as her music videos, and any art made with her albums to Big Machine Records. This arrangement was working out all right until 2019 when Scooter Braun bought Big Machine Records. This meant he owned all of Swift’s previous 6 albums. He later sold her masters to an equity firm called Shamrock Holdings. Naturally, Swift didn’t like different people practically “owning” her, her music, and her image.
Due to Swift playing an integral part in the writing of all her songs and accompaniment, she was able to obtain something called “sync rights.” With this she was able to block Shamrock Holdings from using any of her music or content. Other artists have been sued for their songs sounding too similar, most popularly Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” sounding much like Queen/David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.” Taylor Swift managed to avoid this due to her sync rights. This allowed her to re-record two of her albums so far, and she is rumored to re-record more! She has re-recorded her album “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” and most recently “Red (Taylor’s Version).” Both of her re-recorded albums have the “(Taylor’s Version)” in the title, symbolizing that this is her version and she is in charge.
Though this is a seemingly “happy ending” for Taylor, her struggle highlights a common issue in the music industry. Similar to what happened to Swift, many record labels try to find budding artists and entice them with deals they can’t resist. Labels offer them things like money and a platform which are both rare and essential to a young artist trying to make their way. Thanks to her voice and openness with their situation, now people are aware of what they are getting into and can help protect themselves and their music more.