11-time Grammy Award winner Taylor Swift has dominated the music industry since age 16. During her nearly two-decades-long career, she’s overcome intense criticism from tabloids and fellow celebrities and has continued to break boundaries through her music.
In 2021, Taylor Swift defied the music industry’s expectations yet again by releasing her tenth and eleventh albums, “Fearless: Taylor’s Version” and “Red: Taylor’s Version,” marking the beginning of a new music era. Rather than releasing new music, Swift plans to rerecord each of her first six albums.
The rerecordings include each of the tracks from the original albums, as well as new, unreleased songs that were initially scrapped or rewritten due to limited space. Affectionately dubbed as coming “From The Vault,” these songs now provide fans with additional tracks from their favorite projects.
Rerecording music is not a new phenomenon. Artists often will attempt to revive their career by releasing a nostalgic “greatest hits” album. Although a common practice, it has never been done on such a massive scale. Swift’s ambitious project involves rerecording six lengthy albums and has garnered much more media attention than other similar projects. This is because Swift has a different motive for rerecording: owning her own work.
According to Time magazine, when Swift signed to Big Machine Records (BMR) in 2005, she sold her masters to the record label. This meant that although Swift owned the lyrics to her songs (as she is the primary songwriter of her work), the record label owned the actual recordings of the songs.
In 2018, her contract expired, and she switched to Republic Records, where she chose to keep her masters. Though she would own her future albums, BMR still held the masters to her first six albums: Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation.
Swift attempted to purchase her old masters from BMR, but the label ultimately sold them to music manager Scooter Braun. Braun has publicly mocked Swift in the past and represents artist Kanye West, a well-known adversary of Swift. “Any time… the words ‘Scooter Braun’ [have escaped] my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to,” she wrote after learning of her masters’ sale.
Each time one of Swift’s first six albums is streamed or licensed, Braun receives the majority of the proceeds. Thus, in 2019, she decided to rerecord each album to regain control over her entire discography. This way, fans can now stream her rerecordings instead of the originals, cutting down Braun’s profits.
Swift’s openness about her motivation behind re-recording her albums has inspired other artists, both young and old. Olivia Rodrigo, who rocketed to fame in early 2021 with her hit single “Drivers License,” is a self-proclaimed “Swiftie” (Swift fan) and chose to keep her masters when signing with Interscope Records. According to People magazine, Singers Joe Jonas and Ashanti are both considering rerecording their debut albums as neither of them owns their masters.
Swift’s rerecordings promise to pave the way for a new generation of artists who are encouraged to own their work instead of caving in to pressure from their record labels.