Taylor’s Version – The Backstory


Taylor Hartstone

Taylor Swift is, arguably, one of the most influential artists of the music industry. Her re-recorded albums have taken the world by storm, breaking charts across the nation. However, not many know the story of why Taylor is re-recording her most famous masterpieces.  

Swift got her first taste of fame at 15 when she signed with Big Machine, her now former label. It was around this time in which she moved to Nashville, Tennessee in order to pursue her country music career. Under this record label, Swift produced Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation. 

 Because Swift is the main songwriter of her tracks, she has publishing rights to all 6 studio albums. If Taylor Swift was not a songwriter for her albums, she would not be able to re-record them. However, during this time, Swift did not fully own her masters. For context, ownership of sound recording and the first recording of the music is a master.  

Ever since Taylor started writing songs and sharing them with the world, she has dreamed of owning the masters of all her albums. She had been trying to buy them for years but was unable to because it required her to sign a new contract under Big Machine. Swift was having trouble with her label in this regard, but tensions started rising when Scooter Braun, record executive, did the unthinkable.  

In October of 2020, Braun sold the entirety of Taylor’s masters to Shamrock Holdings after he had acquired Big Machine from Scott Borchetta, founder of the label group. This now entitled Shamrock Holdings to a portion of the royalties from her music, videos, and album art.  

Following this event, Taylor Swift was offered a bidding on her masters so long as she signed an NDA regarding a public statement she had made about Braun back in June of 2019. She refused.  

In this public statement, Taylor condemned Scooter Braun for buying Big Machine for $300 million. Within the public statement, written on Tumblr, Swift accused Braun of “incessant, manipulative bullying” and said she was “sad and grossed out” that he now had rights to her catalog of music.  

Before Braun had bought Big Machine, when Swift was still asking for the chance to own her masters, she was given the proposal of earning one of her old albums back each time she released a new one. Again, she refused this offer because she did not want Scott Borchetta selling the label and her future of music along with it.  

After 12 years of working under Big Machine, Swift made the difficult decision to leave, which meant her hard work and art was left with the label. However, a new light sparked for Taylor. In 2018, she signed with Universal Music Group in a deal that gave her all ownership of her future music.  

An article with Insider reported Taylor saying, “Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future.” And that she did. On April 9th, 2021, Swift released Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and more recently released Red (Taylor’s Version) on November 12th 

Taylor is on a journey of re-recording her 6 studio albums and has already crossed 2 off the list. She is allowed to do this because she is covering her own songs and making them new recordings. If you listen closely, each song from Fearless and Red is different from the ones recorded in 2008 and 2012. These recordings produce new masters in which Taylor fully owns and can control the licensing of future use. This goes around the ownership of the old masters and therefore devalues them.  

Because of the trek Taylor Swift went through with Scooter Braun, she does not want him to financially benefit from her work, which is why she refused to be an equity partner when her masters were sold to Shamrock Holdings. She already owns her albums in her right as a publisher, and wanting to separate Braun from her future work is one of the final steps in her re-recording process.  

Her success is noted across the world, and not only in charts. This era of Taylor has influenced other artists to peruse the same goals within their work. Olivia Rodrigo negotiated with her label to own her masters and Joe Jonas now wants to re-record several albums with the Jonas Brothers. In a statement several days after Red (Taylor’s Version) was released, iHeart Radio said they will now only play the Taylor’s Version of Swift’s albums and will replace any old recordings of her music with new ones as she starts to deliver them.  

The re-recording process has been long-awaited for Taylor Swift. She wants full ownership of her masters and aims to “bury the original Fearless.” She has been an inspiration to other artists and continues to work hard towards her goal every single day. Taylor’s Version is paving the way for successful artists everywhere and Swift continues her growth each time she releases a re-recorded album.