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The Re-Recordings

So, Why Is Taylor Swift Re-Recording Her Old Albums?

Part 1: The Initial Sale

In November 2018, Taylor signed a new record deal with Republic Records after releasing her first six albums through Big Machine Records. The first album released through Republic Records was 2019’s Lover.

One of the biggest stipulations of her new deal with Republic stated that she got to own the masters of all her new albums released through the label. This ultimately means that Taylor owns the albums she releases starting with the Lover release. It also gives her control over how her songs are used in the media, such as a song’s inclusion on a movie soundtrack.

Two months before the release of Lover, it was announced that Scooter Braun purchased Big Machine Records from Scott Borchetta for $330 million. Through the sale, Braun became owners of many of Big Machine’s assets, including the masters to Taylor’s first six albums.

A master is an original recording of a song from which all other recordings are produced. Taylor posted on Tumblr saying that she was not aware that this sale was happening and was upset she was unable to purchase her own masters. She stated that she tried to purchase her masters, but the terms that Big Machine offered were not favorable to her.

Braun, as a manager in the entertainment business, has many well-known celebrities as clients, including Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Kanye West. In the midst of Braun purchasing Big Machine, Taylor was also in the middle of a feud with West over his Famous music video and lyrics within the song. In her Tumblr post, Taylor says she knew her masters could be owned by someone else but didn’t imagine Braun would own her masters.

In an interview with Good Morning America to celebrate Lover’s release, Taylor confirmed that she would be re-recording her first six albums to own the masters to her music.

Part 2: Is Taylor Allowed to Re-Record Her Music?

The short answer: Yes.

The long answer: As long as a recording restriction has passed, a singer is allowed to re-record their songs. Typically, this period is five years after the album is released, depending on the record agreement. That’s why Taylor could have immediately released Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, and 1989, but could not re-record Reputation until November 2022.

Because Taylor wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on her first six albums, she holds publishing rights to the albums. While it’s not the same as owning the masters to her first six albums, it does give her a slight leg up. However, holding the publishing rights and masters gives her much more control over how her music is used in the media.

When someone wants to use a song in a movie, TV show, commercial, or any other form, they have to get approval from the copyright holders. The copyright holder is typically the person or company who owns the masters. In the case of any Taylor album released after 2019, she is the one who owns the masters. However, for her first six albums, it’s her record company that holds the masters for her first six albums.

But, because Taylor holds publishing rights, she can say how her songs are used in the media. So, if someone wanted to use “All Too Well” (the original 2012 Red version) in a movie or in a TV show, they would most likely go to Big Machine to ask first. Big Machine would most likely say yes. But then they would need Taylor’s permission to use the song since she is the songwriter on the song. While Taylor doesn’t own the stolen version of “All Too Well,” she could tell them that they can use “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version),” as she owns the master to the song and holds the publishing rights to the song as well.

By re-recording all of her older music again and allowing the rights to the re-recordings to be used instead of the stolen versions, Taylor is effectively devaluing her first six albums in favor of music she owns.

Part 3: The Second Sale of Big Machine Records

In 2020, Braun sold all masters, videos, and artwork to Shamrock Holdings, meaning that Taylor’s work had once again been sold. Taylor said she tried to negotiate with Braun to buy back her masters, but claimed that before any conversation would start, she’d have to sign an NDA. Similarly to the 2019 sale, she was not told of the sale until it had already happened.

Shamrock said they offered Taylor equity partner in the sale, but she turned it down, saying that Braun would still benefit from her work. She once again confirmed she would re-record her first six albums, with Shamrock commenting that they were aware of that risk when they completed the purchase.

Part 4: Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

In February 2021, Taylor announced she had finished re-recording Fearless, which would be called Fearless (Taylor’s Version) to distinguish the re-recording from the 2008 stolen version. To celebrate the re-recording, she released “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” that Friday, coinciding with Valentine’s Day.

Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was released on April 9, 2021 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart. The album marked Taylor’s ninth number one album. Ultimately, the album spent two non-consecutive weeks at number one on the chart.

The re-recorded album featured the original 13 songs from the 2008 album, six songs from the platinum edition, the re-recorded version of “Today Was a Fairytale” from the Valentine’s Day film, and six new songs, dubbed the vault tracks. The vault tracks were songs that did not make the original release and featured collaborations with Maren Morris and Keith Urban. It also featured “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” a track aimed at Joe Jonas about their break up. Jonas even poked fun at his younger self in a TikTok posted after the song was released.

Following the release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the stolen version dropped off the Billboard 200 chart. In April 2023, it was reported that the re-recorded version had officially out-streamed the original album on Spotify.

Part 5: Red (Taylor’s Version)

In June 2021, Taylor announced that Red (Taylor’s Version) would be released on November 19, 2021, hinting in the tweet and an Instagram story that fans would finally get the 10 minute version of “All Too Well” with the album release. A few couple months later, Taylor announced the album would be released a week earlier, prompting speculation that Adele would be releasing her new album on November 19.

To celebrate the album release, Taylor announced All Too Well: The Short Film starring Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink as the couple in “All Too Well.” The film debuted in New York City the night of Red (Taylor’s Version)’s release. For additional promotion of the album, Taylor appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live that weekend.

Red (Taylor’s Version) was released on November 12, 2021. Similarly to Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, while “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, marking the longest song ever to reach number one on the chart, dethroning Don McLean’s “American Pie.” The album marked Taylor’s 10th number one album and her seventh number one song on the Billboard Hot 100.

The re-recorded album featured the original 16 songs from the 2012 album, four songs from the deluxe edition of the 2012 album, a re-recorded version of the charity single “Ronan,” and nine vault tracks. The final vault track is the full 10 minute version of “All Too Well,” dubbed “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) (10 Minute Version) (From The Vault).” Phoebe Bridgers and Chris Stapleton received feature credit on two of the vault tracks, while Ed Sheeran re-recorded “Everything Has Changed” with Taylor while also recording “Run (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” and Gary Lightbody also re-recorded “The Last Time” for the album. Two of the vault tracks, “Better Man” and “Babe,” were songs that Taylor initially wrote for the 2012 album but were left off and eventually given to Little Big Town and Sugarland respectively to record.

In April 2023, it was reported that Red (Taylor’s Version) has out-streamed the 2012 version of the album.

Part 6: Impact on the Music Industry

The decision to re-record her first six albums, and do so successfully so far, has impacted other artists in the music industry. For instance, when Olivia Rodrigo, a Taylor Swift fan, promoted her debut album Sour, she stated in interviews that her record deal states she owns the masters to her songs. Additionally, Bryan Adams stated that he was unhappy his old record company wouldn’t sell him his masters, inspiring him to re-record his songs. He directly credited Taylor with the idea.

While Taylor certainly isn’t the first artist to re-record music, she is certainly one of the most well-known examples of doing it and having it break records. Other artists who have notably re-recorded their music after record label disputes include JoJo and Def Leppard.

Part 7: What’s Next with Taylor?

As Barbara Walters famously said, “Taylor Swift is the music industry.” In October 2022, Taylor released her first new album since 2020 called Midnights. Midnights debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and its lead single, “Anti-Hero” debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Taylor her 11th number one album and eighth number one song. It also marked the first time in the Hot 100’s history where the top 10 was made up exclusively of songs from the same album. The only other artist to feature in the top 10 that week was Lana Del Ray, who had guest vocals on “Snow on the Beach,” the fourth track from Midnights.

To promote the album, Taylor embarked on The Eras Tour. The frenzy for tickets to the show caused such a frenzy that it caused Ticketmaster to crash during the Verified Fan pre-sale and ultimately cancel the general ticket sales. The tour is expected to put Taylor in billionaire status.

There are still four more albums that Taylor can release under the Taylor’s Version banner, with Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) the next re-released album. Between The Eras Tour, the re-recordings, and future Taylor albums, there is certainly a lot of new music from Taylor on the horizon.