In November 2020, Taylor Swift began the process of re-recording her first six albums. Now, she’s announced the first batch of songs that will be released.
Taylor Swift will be re-recording her first six albums — Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014), and Reputation (2017) — in order to fully own the rights to the music. Due to a deal she made with her old record label, Big Machine Records, Taylor does not currently own the rights to her masters, and is taking it upon herself to change that. Now, fans will be able to support Taylor by downloading her versions of the songs, as opposed to the versions that were sold by her old record label to someone else without her consent.
Why Taylor Swift Is Re-Recording Her Albums
Taylor’s decision to re-record her albums comes down to the simple fact that she wants to own the rights to the music that she wrote and recorded. The 31-year-old co-wrote every single song she’s ever released, yet she does not own the songs on her first six records, which means that she has no say in how and where the music is used. This was part of Taylor’s contract that she signed with Big Machine Records when she was a wide-eyed teenager starting out in country music.
Once she became a global superstar, Taylor wanted to buy the masters to own them herself, but was not given that option by label head, Scott Borchetta (more on this below). This led to Taylor leaving Big Machine and signing with Republic Records instead. Under her new label, she owns all of the work that she creates. As of Feb. 2021, Taylor has produced three new albums, which she owns, for Republic Records — Lover (2019), Folklore (2020) and Evermore (2020).
Why Taylor Swift Doesn’t Own Her Album Masters
In June 2019, Taylor explained why she decided to leave Big Machine Records and give up the chance to own her original masters. Her decision to open up about the situation stemmed from Scott/Big Machine selling her masters to Scooter Braun. Scott gave Scooter the opportunity to purchase Taylor’s masters for $300 million. Before leaving Big Machine, this is exactly what Taylor wanted to do herself, but Scott did not make her the same offer. Instead, he told her she could only own her original six albums if she stayed with Big Machine and recorded six more new albums.
“For years, I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work,” Taylor explained. “Instead, I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in.” Taylor said that she did not want to take this deal because she was certain that Scott would eventually sell Big Machine, “thereby selling [her and her] future.” It was at this point that Taylor decided to leave her past behind her and move on from Big Machine, despite knowing that it would mean that she didn’t own 15+ years of her work.
Been getting a lot of questions about the recent sale of my old masters. I hope this clears things up. pic.twitter.com/sscKXp2ibD
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 16, 2020
In November 2020, news broke that Scooter had sold Taylor’s masters to a private equity group, Shamrock Holdings. Again, this was done without Taylor’s knowledge or consent. Taylor addressed the situation on social media, and admitted that she and her team had tried to negotiate with Scooter themselves before the sale. However, she was not on-board with the stipulations that he wanted to make.
“Scooter’s team wanted me to sign an ironclad NDA stating I would never say another word about Scooter Braun unless it was positive, before we could even look at the financial records of BMLG,” Taylor claimed. “So, I had 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. He would never even quote my team a price. These masters recordings were not for sale to me.”
Once Shamrock Holdings officially owned the masters, Taylor tried to buy the masters from them, as well. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out either. “I learned that under their terms, Scooter Braun will continue to profit off my old musical catalog for years,” Taylor wrote. “I was hopeful and open to the possibility of a partnership with Shamrock, but Scooter’s participation is a non-starter for me.”
Taylor Swift’s Relationship With Scooter Braun
Scott selling Taylor’s masters without her knowledge was already a gut punch, but the fact that he sold them to Scooter Braun hit Taylor even harder. In her June 2019 social media post, Taylor revealed why she was so hurt by knowing Scooter, of all people, would earn the rights to her years of hard work. “I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world,” Taylor admitted. “All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years.”
The “Cardigan” singer also provided specific examples of when she felt she had been burned by Scooter, who manages two of her biggest nemeses in the music industry, Justin Bieber and Kanye West. Taylor referenced the time in 2016 when Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian, released illegally recorded snippets of a phone call between Taylor and Kanye. Kim’s decision came after Taylor publicly slammed Kanye for calling her “that b****” on his song “Famous.” The reality star claimed that the phone call proved that Taylor gave Kanye the OK to mention her in the song lyrics. Kanye also featured a naked, wax figure version of Taylor in his video for the song. This led to Taylor being branded as a ‘snake’ on social media and months of brutal online bullying, which led to Tay retreating from the spotlight completely for nearly a year. Scooter contributed to this nasty bullying by hopping on a FaceTime call with Justin and Kanye, which Justin then posted a screenshot of on Instagram with the caption, “Taylor Swift what up.” As Taylor pointed out — and a full version of the phone call later confirmed — Kanye never actually did read the full song lyric to Taylor on the phone.
Taylor claimed that Scott was fully aware of how she felt about Scooter. “When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them,” Taylor admitted. “Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta 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 Will Re-Record Her First 6 Albums
After truly feeling like she had no other option, Taylor made the decision to go back and fully re-record all the music that she had previously released on Big Machine. The old versions would still exist, but loyal fans would now have the option to listen to Taylor’s versions instead — and she would fully own the rights to the re-records.
Taylor was allowed to start re-recording in November 2020, and she wasted no time. “I have recently begun re-recording my older music and it has already proven to be both exciting and creatively fulfilling,” Taylor said in mid-November. “I have plenty of surprises in store. I want to thank you guys for supporting me through this ongoing saga and I can’t wait for you to hear what I’ve been dreaming up.”
In December 2020, Taylor gave fans the first sneak peek at what she’d been working on. She shared a small snippet of her “Love Story” re-record in a commercial for Match. The preview was a favor for her friend, Ryan Reynolds, who asked if he could use part of the song in the commercial, and Taylor happily obliged.
When Will Taylor Swift’s Re-Recorded Albums Be Released?
After a few weeks of staying quiet on social media, Taylor returned with an update on Feb. 11, 2021. She announced that the full version of “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” would be released at midnight on Feb. 12, 2021 making it the first re-recorded song that fans would have access to. She also confirmed that she had finished the re-records for the entire Fearless album, and that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) would be released April 9. Taylor took things a step further, too, by adding SIX never-before-heard songs to the record. These were songs that didn’t make the album the first time around, but that Taylor wanted to share with her loyal fans 13 years later.
“I’ve spoken a lot about why I’m remaking my first six albums, but the way I’ve chosen to do this will hopefully help illuminate where I’m coming from,” she explained. “Artists should own their own music for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really *knows* that body of work. For example, only I know which songs I wrote that almost made the Fearless album, songs I absolutely adored, but were held back for different reasons (don’t want too many breakup songs, don’t want too many down tempo songs, can’t fit that many songs on a physical CD). Those reasons seem unnecessary now. I’ve decided I want you to have the whole story, see the entire vivid picture.”
Taylor has not yet confirmed when she plans to release the remaining five albums, or whether they’ll also entail extra tracks that didn’t make the first cut. However, she assured fans that Fearless is just the beginning. “This process has been more fulfilling and emotional than I could’ve imagined and has made me even more determined to re-record all of my music,” she concluded.