We can all remember sitting in the back seat of the car, practically screaming the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s Fearless. That was 2008, when we were all children looking up to the country superstar of our time. Now it’s 2021, and we’ve somehow survived nine albums. But now we have a new era on our hands; the era of Taylor’s Version. But, what exactly is it, and what does this mean for the future of the music industry? It’s no secret that Taylor Swift has dominated the charts and won plenty of awards for her masterpieces, but why is she re-releasing her old catalog? And the answer is shocking and honestly heartbreaking.
Scott Borchetta is the CEO of Swift’s original record company, Big Machine Records.. She released six albums under Borchetta, giving Big Machine Records millions of dollars worth of income and all the fame that they could wish for. But as Swift’s contract was ending, she ended their relationship. It was obvious that Swift was going to be moving on from Big Machine Records for a bigger and better record company – one that would allow her creative control. Borchetta sold Big Machine Records – and Swift’s masters (which is the name for the first recording of a song) – to businessman Scooter Braun right under her nose. We have to remember that Swift wrote every single song within her masters. Those were her words, feelings, memories, and they were pieces of her that she could never get back.
With her masters in the hands of Scooter Braun, Swift no longer owned her works. She could not claim them as her own. There was even controversy around her AMAs Artist of the Decade performance; Braun refused to allow her to perform her songs, even though she wrote them and they were rightfully hers. He ended up allowing her to perform, but it didn’t come without an argument and backlash from Swifties around the world. Without her masters, Swift couldn’t perform any songs from her first six albums, including the song she said she would never not perform, “Love Story,” because it launched her into the stardom she knows today. So, what could she do?
Here’s where “Taylor’s Version” comes in. While Scooter Braun refused to allow Swift to buy back her masters, there was a loophole in her original contract with Big Machine Records. To sum it all up, she was legally allowed to start re-recording her original catalog starting November of 2019. So, that’s exactly what she did. All of Fearless has been re-recorded (released on April 9, 2021), all of Red has been re-recorded (releasing on November 19, 2021), and a majority – if not all – of 1989 has been re-recorded (proven by the release of “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)” on September 17, 2021). These re-recorded versions of her catalog give Swift the opportunity to own all of her songs, as well as release songs that Scott Borchetta didn’t want released back when the original material was being released.
While it was revealed that Scooter Braun did sell Swift’s masters to another company, they were offered to her first. However, Braun wanted her to sign an NDA stating that she was not allowed to speak of the situation to the public (which is ridiculous). Swift disagreed and is continuing to work on her re-recordings. But what does all this mean for the music industry itself? Swift’s advocacy for herself has inspired younger and lesser-known artists to do the same.
While Taylor Swift has changed the music industry with her music, ability to master any genre, her advocacy for artist rights, and her constant fight for what’s right in the music industry. She’s set an example for future artists and how record companies will treat them in regards to ownership of their work, as well as respecting their ideas and what they feel is best for their brand. “Taylor’s Version” is more than just a re-released version of something beautiful, it’s Swift taking ownership of the artistic freedom that she has been fighting for since day one.