Taylor Swift’s Fearless: Why star felt forced to re-record some of her most iconic hits

Taylor Swift is altering the music industry and paving the way for new artists
Taylor Swift is altering the music industry and paving the way for new artists
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There’s a new Taylor Swift album out on Friday, but it may sound a little familiar to fans.

She decided to re-record most of her old music after Scooter Braun acquired her masters in 2019, and the re-invented album called Fearless (Taylor’s Version) will include 26 songs, including six new songs that have never been released.

“Fearless was an album full of magic and curiosity, the bliss and devastation of youth,” Swift wrote on social media. “It was the diary of the adventures and explorations of a teenage girl who was learning tiny lessons with every new crack in the facade of the fairytale ending she’d been shown in the movies. I’m thrilled to tell you that my new version of Fearless is done and will be with you soon. it’s called Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and it includes 26 songs.”

While Swift taking ownership of her music is a celebratory example for women residing in a male-dominated industry, it’s important to understand how she arrived at this stage in her career.

What happened with Scooter Braun that led to Taylor’s decision to re-record her music?

After Swift left Big Machine Records in 2018 and signed with Republic Records and Universal Music Group, the label was sold to Scooter Braun and his media holding company, Ithaca Holdings LLC in 2019. Because Swift didn’t own her own masters under Big Machine, Braun was able do whatever he wanted with them once he took over.

When Swift was honored at the 2019 American Music Awards as Artist of the Decade, she was prevented from performing a medley of her old songs because of Braun and Scott Borchetta didn’t allow her to do so.

“She (Taylor Swift) doesn’t own the masters to the first six albums that she made because that was under the contract of Big Machine,” Ostrow explained. “When that contract was initially negotiated, she didn’t have the bargaining that power she does now as a superstar, and so they (Big Machine Records) own those masters.”

What are ‘masters’?

A “master recording” is the original version of a song, and the term “masters” literally refers to underlying rights of that song. “There are two, basic things subject to copyright within the music business,” says Marc D Ostrow, an attorney working with musicians, writers, filmmakers that are creators, owners or users of creative works.

“The first is a musical composition, basically the music and lyrics written by a songwriter or bunch of songwriters. The second is a ‘master recording,’ which is a recording of the song.”

Who typically owns them?

Usually, an artist does not own their own recordings. In fact, is is often the label, not the artist, who owns the masters of all songs created during that record deal.

“Very often, people who write songs are different from the people who record them,” says Ostrow. “In the case of Taylor Swift, and with many other artists, they happen to be one in the same. Songs, are typically owned, either by the songwriter, or by a music publishing company.”

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How does it all work?

“The way recording contracts work, is that a record label fronts all those upfront recording costs, the creation of the artwork, the promotion of the album, and they take all the risks. In exchange, the artist gets two forms of payment - they get an upfront advance and they get royalties, once the expenses that went into creating the album recoup,” says Ostrow.

Ostrow also mentioned every recording contract has a re-recording restriction, stating that an artist can’t re-record songs from a previous label for a certain period of time after the record is released. Ostrow says that timeframe usually consists of five years. This is why Swift is recording her earliest piece of music first.

Is Taylor planning on re-recording any of her other albums?

Yes. She plans to record all six of her first albums which include, Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989 and Reputation.

Upon signing with Republic and UMG, a significant detail of Swift’s contract is that she own the masters for all of the albums she records on the label, which include her latest three albumsLover, folklore, and evermore. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) will be released at midnight on April 9.

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