Taylor Swift to Re-Record 5 Albums...
If you're a Taylor Swift fan, then you're probably pretty happy that 1989 has been Spotify's top-streamed album of this year. But would it make sense for Taylor Swift to release a "1989" rerecording without her record label?
It's not unusual for artists who have long-term deals with recording labels to want to take their music elsewhere once the deal expires. In 2010, Thom Yorke famously blasted his old label for Radiohead and, in effect, moved the band from EMI to XL Recordings for a better deal.
Taylor Swift's deal with Big Machine Records, coupled with an old quote from her father, Scott Swift, suggests 1989 will be re-recorded once it left the label. Scott reportedly said in 2013 that his daughter's albums would be re-released once out of a contract.
Although replacing her original producer Nathan Chapman with longtime engineer/mixer Christopher Rowe, she did manage to use many of the original players and session musicians from the first recordings of her albums.
But why would Taylor Swift want to spend the time and money re-recording her first two albums?
Why Taylor Doesn't Own the Rights to Her Own Recordings
To explain why Taylor needed to rerecord her own albums one should understand the difference between mechanical rights and publishing rights. Mechanical rights are the use of the recording of the song itself on CDs, vinyl, and digitally. Whereas publishing rights are the lyrics and the musical composition of a song idea.
Put simply, one has to realize that Taylor in fact did not own the mechanical rights to her own master recordings.
Signing a deal with a record label will get you a payday in the form of an advance, but generally at the cost of your mechanical rights. Big Machine Records owns the mechanical rights to her first several albums and therefore will have full control over how they can be transferred or monetized.
Looking at Taylor Swift's sales figures from the last few years, it's obvious that she has done very well for Big Machine Records. But it also seems that they got the best part of that deal in return. In fact, a 2012 report suggested that she had sold more records than any other artist in the label's history, and she obviously deserved a bigger slice of the pie.
Taylor Swift's deal with Big Machine Records expired in late 2018. By then, she will have earned over US$10 million from her label, so it makes sense for Taylor to get a better deal this time around.
Is Scooter Braun a Maniacal Music Industry Mogul?
But there's more to re-recording her first five albums than that. Last year, Taylor Swift went public with a dispute with Scooter Braun, an American music manager who owns Big Machine Label Group, the label run by Scott Borchetta (CEO of Big Machine Records).
The dispute started when Scooter and his company bought Big Machine Records in late 2017. Taylor had previously managed to negotiate with Scott Borchetta for a veto right if either she or her parents ever sold their stake in the label.
Taylor argued that she wanted to keep ownership of her first two albums herself. She said it was part of her contract with Scott Borchetta and the label.
In July 2018, Scooter Braun and his company, Ithaca Holdings, sold the rights to Taylor Swift's first six albums from Big Machine Records to an investment fund.
Since Taylor Swift could not keep ownership of her master recordings of her first 5 albums. She needed to re-record them. To my knowledge, the new versions of the albums will have the same name with a possible new subtitle in parenthesis as well as a new release date.
I strongly suggest any musician or artist hold on to their copyrights and ownership of their masters as much as possible. Signing a deal with a label and getting an advance is exactly how most artists lose those rights. Taylor deciding to re-record and create new masters and strike a significantly better deal with Universal Music Group is a way for her to own her own intellectual property and is in Taylor's best financial interest moving forward.