Owning her musical legacy (Taylor’s version)

  • 20 Mar 2024
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She was already one of the most popular artists of our time but she became even more popular after announcing her new world tour called ‘the Eras tour’ which started on March 17th 2023. She also won her thirteenth and fourteenth Grammy at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards. One for the best pop vocal album and the other for album of the year. (1) She wrote history with the latter win. Never has an artist won four Grammys in this category. I’m obviously talking about Taylor Swift. One of the greatest artists of our time. She won both Grammys for her album Midnights which was released in October 2022. Midnights is one of her newer albums. This is relevant because she is also re-releasing a lot of her older albums again. Why is she doing that?

Master rights

Master rights are the legal ownership of the original recording of a musical performance, which is stored on the master tape. (2) Master rights are generally owned by the performing artist or the record label they are signed to. The owner of the master rights has complete control over what happens with the recording: for example who it is sold to. The recording then can be used in TV-shows or other performances. When instead of the artist, the record label owns these master rights, not the artist but the label can decide what happens with the original music.

Big Machine Records

When Taylor was only fifteen years old, she signed a contract with Big Machine Records, then owned by music executive Scott Borchetta. (3) Her contract stated that Big Machine Records owned the masters of her recordings which meant they owned the original recordings of the songs on the six albums she released with Big Machine Records. She left the label in 2018 because she wanted to own her own songs. The label would only let her take over the rights of one album at a time for each new one she recorded. So, she left the record label.

After her departure, Big Machine Records was bought by Scooter Braun. Taylor has been in conflicts with him for years. She reacted to this news with a message on her Tumblr account back in 2019. (4) She said “Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.”

In 2019 Swift signed a contract with the label Republic Records in which she had stated she owned the masters of all her new recordings. (5)

Taylor’s version

After Taylor’s Tumblr post in 2019 lots of artists reacted with sympathy. One of them was Kelly Clarkson. She made a twitter post (now ‘X’) in which she stated “U should go in & re-record all the songs that U don’t own the masters on exactly how U did them but put brand new art & some kind of incentive so fans will no longer buy the old versions. I’d buy all of the new versions just to prove a point”. (6)

This is exactly what Taylor did. In 2021 she released her album ‘Fearless (Taylor’s version)’ and ‘Red (Taylor’s version)’. Later she released Taylor’s version of the albums ‘Speak now’ and ‘1989’. Her debut album ‘Taylor Swift’ and the album ‘Reputation’ are the only ones left to be re-recorded. In between the re-releasing of her old albums she also came out with new music. All of these are published by Republic Records. The purpose of re-recording the albums is to prevent Big Machine Records from making any further profit. If fans exclusively listen to Taylor’s Version and radio stations only play this rendition, the record company will eventually stop earning money from the original recordings.

Taylor Swift’s strategic decision to re-record her albums, dubbed “Taylor’s Version,” serves as a bold move to reclaim ownership of her musical legacy and prevent Big Machine Records from profiting further off her original recordings. This attempt reflects her determination to regain control over her artistry. By releasing these re-recordings alongside new music through Republic Records, Swift continues to solidify her position as one of the most influential artists of our time, leaving an indelible mark on the music industry.


Juliëtte Janssens












JFV Groningen


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