I have to admit I don’t pay the most attention to Taylor Swift. I’ve never cared for her music, even when it was country-ish. Now that it’s pop-ish, I like it even less. I always respected her for having a hand in writing many of her songs, though, because it means she’s not just some pretty little singer, belting out whatever her producers tell her to so they can all make money.
No, she makes her money the old-fashioned way – writing songs, making albums, touring, etc. Like a real musician.
Earlier this summer, a man called Scooter Braun bought Big Machine Records, the home of Swift’s first six albums. She was not happy about that deal, because it gave Braun control over the majority of her back catalog and a huge number of her hits.
The Braun deal for Big Machine pissed Swift off, not just because Big Machine offered her an insulting deal if she re-signed with them that would have allowed her to recover her first six albums’ masters one at a time as she recorded new albums for Big Machine, but because Swift has accused of Braun of bullying, rude and even unethical actions towards her. Suffice it to say Swift is unhappy Braun is set to continue profiting off her work.
The solution? She’s going to re-record her first six albums for her new label, Universal Music Group. What happens after that is this:
- UMG will issue new recordings of Swift’s greatest hits to radio stations across the country, and threaten to pull all UMG artists from the station unless they agree to only play the new versions.
- UMG will only issue new licensing agreements to film and TV projects that agree to use the new versions.
- Every re-recorded album release will be accompanied by much hue & cry in the marketing world, with UMG (and probably Swift, too) encouraging her fans to buy copies of the new albums, which will no doubt come with bonus material such as extra songs (previously unreleased demos, remixes, whatever) as incentive.
From there, UMG and Swift will be making more money off her re-recorded hits than Big Machine is off the original versions. UMG is bigger and more powerful than Big Machine could ever hope to be, and everybody will quickly fall in line behind UMG’s demands. Scooter Braun’s purchase of Big Machine will not end up being the windfall he thought it would be, and it will remain to be seen if he ever recoups the $320 million he spent on Swift’s former label.
Music is music, but music is also business. Crossing Swift in the music business world is probably not the smartest move anybody could make. She has enough influence in the music business that she was able to force UMG into agreeing to pay Spotify royalties to all its artists – not just her. Read that again. ALL OF THE ARTISTS ON UMG get Spotify royalties now thanks to Swift’s contract with UMG.
Swift is not the first and won’t be the last artist to re-record music after switching labels or booting key band members. Styx did it, Suicidal Tendencies did it, Squeeze, Def Leppard, ELO (aka Jeff Lynne), Dave Mustaine (as MD.45), Ozzy Osbourne (with the specific intention of pushing out Bob Daisley & Lee Kerslake’s contributions so they wouldn’t get any more money from albums sales), and more. In the case of Styx and Squeeze, they re-recorded all their big hits, then forced radio stations to stop playing the original recordings in favor of the new ones.
Like I said – music is music, but music is also business.