Taylor Swift’s Rerecordings Explained: This Is Why She’s Releasing 'Taylor’s Versions'

Rerecording her back catalogue has been a mammoth undertaking for the Cruel Summer singer – here's why she's doing it.
Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
MICHAEL TRAN via Getty Images

Taylor Swift has delighted fans by confirming the release date for her rerecorded version of 1989.

1989 (Taylor’s Version) will be released in October – exactly nine years after the original’s debut – and follows the rerecords of Fearless, Red and Speak Now.

But why is the Blank Space singer doing this?

Her decision to go back into the studio and redo her old albums isn’t one that Taylor made lightly and to explain why she’s doing it, we need to rewind back to 2018.

Buckle up! Here’s what happened...

What happened between Taylor Swift and her record label?

Taylor signed her Big Machine record deal in 2006 when she was just 17-years-old and went on to release six albums – her self-titled debut, Speak Now, Fearless, Red, 1989 and Reputation – before the contract ended in 2018.

Taylor Swift in 2006
Taylor Swift in 2006
Al Messerschmidt via Getty Images

Big Machine owned the masters of Taylor’s music, which essentially meant the copyright of the songs belonged to them rather than her, despite the fact she wrote or co-wrote the tracks.

As the original performer, Taylor did retain the rights to perform her tracks at live gigs – though any televised performances of them could be blocked by the label (a saga surrounding this unfolded in November 2019).

Whoever owns the masters gets a significant chunk of the royalty payments when music is played (whether it’s on the radio or through a streaming service such as Spotify) and crucially, they also usually get the final say on the commercial use of any tracks.

Deals like this are common for artists at the beginning of their careers, who perhaps don’t fully realise the control being handed over (Taylor’s newer, current deal states that she owns the masters for all albums produced).

When she left Big Machine, Taylor was vocal about her dissatisfaction with the fact they still owned the masters and later told fans she had tried to broker a deal that would see ownership transfer.

Taylor Swift in 2007
Taylor Swift in 2007
Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The star claimed she was offered a ‘deal’ to earn her masters back one album at a time – paying for them with new records, reported Variety.

Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta responded at the time with a blog post titled ‘So It’s time for some truth’, in which he confirmed Taylor’s claims about the deal while offering a different perspective on it.

He wrote: “As you will read, 100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement. We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to ‘albums’ but more of a length of time.”

This public back and forth took place because Scott had announced another deal. He had sold Big Machine – and with it Taylor’s masters – to someone else…

2019: Scott Borchetta sells Big Machine to Scooter Braun

Taylor Swift and Scott Borchetta (seen here in 2013)
Taylor Swift and Scott Borchetta (seen here in 2013)
Larry Busacca/TAS via Getty Images

In July 2019, it was announced that industry figure Scooter Braun, who manages the likes of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, was buying Big Machine Records in a deal reportedly worth £237 million.

As part of the purchase, Scooter would (and did) acquire ownership of Taylor’s masters and begin profiting from her music.

Shortly after the sale was announced, Taylor released a statement describing the situation as her “worst case scenario”.

She wrote on Tumblr: “Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.”

Taylor signed off the post saying she was “sad and grossed out” and vowed to focus on her then-forthcoming album, Lover.

Wait – what is the history between Taylor and Scooter?

Scooter was managing Kanye West around the release of Life Of Pablo – the album which features Famous, the rapper’s song that includes the lyrics: “me and Taylor might still have sex… why? I made that bitch famous.”

In her Tumblr post, Taylor references “incessant manipulative bullying” she said she’d received “at his hands for years”, specifically referencing Kim Kardashian’s 2016 infamous phone call leak, and Kanye West’s Famous music video.

Taylor and Kim famously had their own online back and forth over the video, with the latter allegedly Taylor had approved the controversial line – and then published a video which, she argued, proved her case.

The vid didn’t explicitly feature the line that ended up in Kanye’s track though, and four years later, the full conversation leaked. Read everything you need to know about that drama here.

Taylor Swift, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West in 2015
Taylor Swift, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West in 2015
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

Taylor is one of several famous figures who are depicted in the Famous video, where a wax model of her is seen naked and asleep in bed with Kanye and his wife Kim Kardashian, alongside the likes of Rihanna, Chris Brown, Donald Trump and Bill Cosby.

Taylor had never addressed the video before, but referred to it in her Tumblr post as a “revenge porn music video which strips her body naked”.

The post also featured a screengrab of an Instagram post from Justin Bieber, another of Scooter’s clients. In the image, he’s seen on Facetime to Scooter and Kanye, with the caption reading “what up taylor swift”. She referred to it as an instance of him “bullying her on social media”.

What did Scooter and Big Machine say?

Big Machine CEO Scott responded quickly and contradicted Taylor’s claim that she found out about the deal with the rest of the world. He suggested her father had been in on a phone call about it five days earlier. He also claimed to have texted her personally a night earlier “so she could hear it directly from me”.

“I guess it might somehow be possible that her dad Scott, 13 Management lawyer Jay Schaudies (who represented Scott Swift on the shareholder calls) or 13 Management executive and Big Machine LLC shareholder Frank Bell (who was on the shareholder calls) didn’t say anything to Taylor over the prior 5 days,” Scott wrote. “I guess it’s possible that she might not have seen my text. But, I truly doubt that she ‘woke up to the news when everyone else did’.”

Scooter is Justin Bieber's longtime manager
Scooter is Justin Bieber's longtime manager
LISA O'CONNOR via Getty Images

Taylor’s representative then issued a response to this, telling People: “Her dad did not join that call because he did not want to be required to withhold any information from his own daughter. Taylor found out from the news articles when she woke up before seeing any text from Scott Borchetta and he did not call her in advance.”

Scott remained silent for months – though he was publicly defended by his clients and his wife, Yael Stone – and didn’t speak out until November 2019, after his family received death threats due to the feud.

He suggested that Taylor had turned down multiple offers to sit down and talk with him about her dissatisfaction over him buying Big Machine.

“It almost feels as if you have no interest in ever resolving the conflict,” he wrote in a lengthy Instagram statement. “At this point with safety becoming a concern I have no choice other than to publicly ask for us to come together and try to find a resolution.

“I have tried repeatedly through your representatives to achieve a solution but unfortunately here we are. This game of telephone isn’t working.

“While I am frustrated with your accusations and respectfully disagree with many of your statements, it is important that I am clear – no artist should ever feel cornered or bullied. I have spent my entire career in service of creatives and artists, never the other way around.”

2020: Scooter announces another sale

The tipping point for Taylor came in November 2020, when Scooter announced that he had sold the masters to a private equity firm.

Taylor shared a lengthy note on Twitter in which she claimed she had tried (once again) to buy the recordings herself.

She alleged that before negotiations could start, Scooter’s team wanted her to sign an “ironclad NDA stating I would never say another word” about him “unless it was positive”.

She added: “So I would have to sign a document that would silence me forever before I could even have a chance to bid on my own work. My legal team said that this is absolutely NOT normal, and they’ve never seen an NDA like this presented unless it was to silence an assault accuser by paying them off.”

Taylor said a private equity firm called Shamrock Holdings had bought “100% of my music, videos and album art” from Scooter, and that his team would “not even quote my team a price” for her to buy them back, claiming that “these master recordings were not for sale to me”.

After the sale was made public, Shamrock issued a statement to Billboard in which they praised Taylor and said they hoped to work with her in the future.

They said: “Taylor Swift is a transcendent artist with a timeless catalog.

“We made this investment because we believe in the immense value and opportunity that comes with her work. We fully respect and support her decision and, while we hoped to formally partner, we also knew this was a possible outcome that we considered.

“We appreciate Taylor’s open communication and professionalism with us these last few weeks. We hope to partner with her in new ways moving forward and remain committed to investing with artists in their work.”

Scooter’s team disputed Taylor’s claim that she wasn’t offered a price and was immediately hit with an NDA, reports Variety. Scooter himself told the Hollywood publication: “I offered to sell her the catalog back and went under NDA, but her team refused. It all seems very unfortunate.

“Open communication is important and can lead to understanding. She and I only met briefly three or four times in the past, and all our interactions were really friendly and kind. I find her to be an incredibly talented artist and wish her nothing but the best.”

And that’s when the re-recordings started?

Taylor Swift announced 1989 (Taylor's Version) on stage in Los Angeles
Taylor Swift announced 1989 (Taylor's Version) on stage in Los Angeles
Kevin Winter/TAS23 via Getty Images

Yes. In the same statement, Taylor revealed that she had already begun the “exciting and creatively fulfilling process” of re-recording all six of the albums previously released under Big Machine.

What does Taylor gain from rerecording her albums?

With the re-recordings, Taylor is essentially covering her own songs but crucially, she owns the masters to the new versions, which sound almost exactly the same as the originals.

When she began the humongous project, Taylor banked on her loyal fans listening to the new versions instead of the old ones – which is pretty much exactly what’s happened.

Where possible, streaming services such as Spotify now use Taylor’s Version tracks on their playlists too, boosting their numbers and decreasing the plays her original songs receive.

The rerecordings also mean she’s in charge of decisions on whether to licence the tracks for adverts, films or any other commercial projects.

Each Taylor’s Version album includes tracks from the vaults and extended versions (hello 10–minute All Too Well) which have gone down very well with Swifties.


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