Image description: Taylor Swift performing, wearing red and singing into a red microphone.
Taylor Swift has long been someone unafraid of speaking up against the music industry. In 2014, she withdrew her music from Spotify to protest against the small amount of royalty payments that the actual singers receive for each play of a song. It wasn’t until 2017 that her music returned to Spotify. Additionally, in 2015 she declined letting Apple Music play her album 1989, as she disagreed with their decision not to pay artists royalties for music played during a customer’s free trial. Because of Swift’s statement, Apple quickly reversed this policy. Whether you are a fan of Swift or not, you have to admit that her high profile and large fanbase means that when she takes a stand, change is likely to be made, as was shown by Apple’s decision in 2015.
Whether you are a fan of Swift or not, you have to admit that her high profile and large fanbase means that when she takes a stand, change is likely to be made, as was shown by Apple’s decision in 2015.
Now, in 2020, Taylor Swift seems to be doing better than ever. Her lockdown album Folklore has been extremely popular, and Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions was recently released on Disney+. She is an artist who has evolved over time, and is undoubtedly talented. But there is one big problem hanging over her music: she doesn’t own the masters of her first six albums. According to a Twitter post by Swift on November 16th, she tried to “regain ownership” of her masters from Scooter Braun, who owned them after buying her old label, Big Machine. However, according to Swift’s statement, she was not able to negotiate without first signing an non-disclosure agreement, which she would not agree to do. Her masters were then bought by Shamrock Holdings, without Swift’s knowledge. Though she was initially “hopeful and open to the possibility of a partnership with Shamrock”, she did not go ahead because Braun would continue to “profit off” her music.
In the same post, she wrote that she has started to re-record her old songs. I, alongside many fans, welcome more music from Swift, but it seems a shame that she has to record new masters of songs that she sung and wrote (or co-wrote). Instead of being able to continue her musical evolution with new songs, she has to re-record already fantastic songs in order to own them. Though she will no doubt put a new spin on the songs, as she often does in her concerts, the fact that she first attempted to regain ownership of her old masters shows that this is probably not what she wanted to do – it is a last resort.
She has shown remarkable growth between her albums, moving between genres from country to pop to folk with relative ease.
This is not the first issue that Taylor Swift has spoken up about, or the first ‘drama’ that she has been involved in. Neither will it likely be the last. However, I think that it is really important that Swift does continue to speak up, both for herself, and because what she says, as one of the most popular artists, does have an effect on the music industry. However, I also think that sometimes too much focus is put on the ‘drama’ or issues surrounding Swift, and we also need to remember that she is an amazing artist, with eight albums and ten Grammy Awards. She has shown remarkable growth between her albums, moving between genres from country to pop to folk with relative ease.
I am curious to see how Swift navigates the recording and re-releases of her old songs, and whether she will intersperse her re-recordings with releases of brand new songs. It will no doubt take some time for all of her re-recordings to be complete. We will have to wait and see how Swift returns to the songs that sparked her success.
Image Credits: Jana Beamer via Flickr.