Eleven-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift recently released a re-recorded version of her 2012 album, Red, becoming the most-streamed album in a day on Spotify from a female artist. After record executive Scooter Braun purchased her masters in 2019, Swift decided to re-record her old albums as a way to take back the ownership of her music, ultimately outselling the people that exploited her work.
In Taylor Swift’s second “Taylor’s Version” album, she re-images her songs from her original Red album and features unreleased tracks that did not make the final cut in the first album, which she dubs “from the vault”. These vault songs include new collaborations with Phoebe Bridgers, Ed Sheeran, and Chris Stapleton.
“It’s an opportunity for me to go back and re-record all the music that was on the original album, and what I’m really excited about is the songs that no one’s ever heard before that were supposed to be on that album.” Taylor Swift said on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Despite her efforts, Swift does not own any of the music she released before her studio switch in 2019 for the album Lover. Her contract with her previous record label, Big Machine Records, offered Swift a non-disclosure agreement that prohibited her from speaking out about Scooter Braun, which she refused to sign at the time.
“I’ve always wanted to know my own music,” Taylor Swift said on Late Night with Seth Meyers. “I made it very clear, but that opportunity was not given to me, and it was sold to somebody else, so I just figured I was the one who made this music first, I can just make it again.”
Swift acknowledges that Big Machine did offer her the ownership of her own albums, but only if she signed a deal with the record label to earn one album for every new one she made. She declined this deal and decided to obtain the ownership of her albums in her own way, despite the many difficulties that would arise.
“The average re-record does 10 to 20 percent of what the original master does,” founder of Better Noise Music Allen Kovac said. “[Re-records] are ultimately rejected by either the company who wanted to use the song, or the creative department.”
Despite the current success with her re-recordings, there were many disbelievers when she first introduced the idea of Taylor’s Version albums. Many music executives were personally insulted by the subtle attack directed at her own producer. They disliked her plan, arguing that “even the Beatles didn’t own their own masters.”
“[Swift] already made the decision to move on [from Big Machine],” Kovac told Rolling Stone Magazine. “The minute she did that, she lost her leverage. . . . Something broke down. She didn’t get the kind of advice that would allow her to have a win-win.”
Despite the criticism, Swift made another ambitious yet extremely successful move, releasing a ten minute version of one of her most highly praised songs, “All Too Well”. The song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 within days, becoming the longest song in history to achieve that spot.
“The ten minute version of ‘All Too Well’ is what was originally written for the song before I had to cut it down to a normal length,” Taylor Swift told Jimmy Fallon. “I think that the version we’re putting out tonight is going to be for them the new standard version for what the song is because it is the original form. I’m just that proud of it.”
Since the release of Red (Taylor’s Version), Taylor Swift hosted and performed on Saturday Night Live and appeared on several late night shows. Additionally, she wrote and directed All Too Well: The Short Film and released a music video for one of her vault songs, “I Bet You Think About Me”, which was directed by actress Blake Lively.
“It’s so interesting to kind of go back and relive this nostalgia with fans who are the reason why I get to do this.” Swift said. “This time around, I get to do things I know they wish I would’ve done the first time.”
The Taylor’s Version albums are more than a financial redemption story; they inspire other artists struggling with the unforgiving reality of the music industry to win back their artistic liberty. Her actions encourage struggling artists and women to step out of the industry’s traditional power structure and claim the products of their labor.
“It never would have been possible to go back and remake my previous work, uncovering lost art and forgotten gems along the way if you hadn’t emboldened me,” Swift tweeted. “Red is about to be mine again, but it has always been ours. Now we begin again. Red (my version) is out.”