(Hypebot) — Typically a more forward-thinking artist, pop sensation Taylor Swift has recently developed an interesting focus on re-recording her first five albums. Here we look at what the motivation behind this seemingly random musical reinvention might be.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
Taylor Swift always focuses on the future, so why is she suddenly so concerned with recreating the past?
The promotional efforts for Lover, the seventh album from Taylor Swift, have been underway throughout 2019. As Rolling Stone pointed out in extensive detail, Swift and her team have been keeping her name on the tip of everyone’s tongue for the better part of the last year. You may not have caught every headline related to the pop superstar’s career, but you saw something, and that is more than can be said for most album rollouts.
But the most surprising news from the world of Taylor Swift came last week, just hours before Lover hit stores. In an interview with Good Morning America, Swift said she is committed to re-recording her first five albums. She even cited November 2020 as a start date for the project.
According to Chart Beat, Taylor Swift’s first six albums (including 2017’s Reputation) have sold a combined total of 30 million records worldwide. That number is nothing short of outstanding, and its the result of numerous top ten hits spanning the last decade of music. There are songs on every album that virtually everyone knows, and many continue to garner airplay or licensing deals to this day.
So why the redo? What value is there in re-recording something already so successful that everyone knows of its existence?
Some may think money is the motivating factor, but in reality, Swift is making this decision based on principle. Swift has long been an advocate for artists being allowed to own their masters. In other words, she believes artists are entitled to own the music they create. However, in the world of major labels, ownership of music often goes to or is at least split with, the company putting out an artist’s music.
In July, Swift’s former label, Big Machine Label Group, sold to superstar manager Scooter Braun for $300 million. Swift wrote on her blog about how this decision left her feeling hurt and betrayed, in part because it meant another person other than herself would own her music and be able to do with it whatever they pleased.
Swift’s decision to re-record her first five albums is the perfect act of revenge. As long as she doesn’t violate the terms of her original deal, re-recording songs would allow Swift to own the masters of her songs. That would enable Swift to have control over the use of her music, as well as help her earn more from sales and streaming related to that material. The new versions would also make the original recordings largely obsolete, which would leave Braun with recordings that have less value than they did at the point of purchase.
The most likely reason Reputation, Swift’s sixth album, is not included in her current plans is likely due to stipulations in her recording contract with Big Machine. Generally speaking, most contracts prevent artists from re-recording their music until two years after their contract expires and five years after the material was released. If the same terms are in Taylor’s deal, Reputation won’t be available for recreation until 2022.
Whether or not Swift sees her plan through remains to be seen. Other stars, including Def Leppard, have taken similar approaches to reclaim control of their music. If Swifts does re-record her records, we may see renewed demand from artists worldwide for ownership of their creative output.