Back in 2019, Taylor Swift announced a move to take more control over her music. It followed the sale of her previous record company Big Machine Records. They held her then-back catalogue of six albums recorded between 2005 and 2018.
To cut a long story short that in turn led to what is now referred to as Taylor’s Version (which reminds me, will Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce change his name to "Travis - Taylor's Version"?). Swift has re-recorded several of those early albums and released them again. The most recent example of those, 1989, came out just a few days ago at the end of October and will be an undoubted success.
Re-recording albums isn’t a new thing by any means. It can mean new refreshing versions with added tracks as Swift has tended to do. Or it can be reinterpretations of the original album. Rogers Waters’ very recent Redux version of Dark Side Of The Moon being a current example of that approach. Waters though did wait 50 years after the original release to issue his reworked version.
Contract change scramble driven by Taylor Swift success
It’s the short time gap of re-recording from the original to a new version by Swift that has got record companies and labels scrambling with their lawyers. NME reported the legal suits are all over contracts with a view to resetting the normal agreement for such reworkings. Typically artists had to wait for 5 years as a minimum, or two years after a contract ended before they could revisit past songs.
Billboard.com reckons top record companies, including the likes of Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group, have been taking action. They’ve started by reshaping the relevant clauses in contracts for new acts they sign. Reports say new contracts are emerging now taking that minimum time period up to anywhere from 10 to 30 years.
Swift’s music is now being streamed in significantly high figures. She’s heading for the top of the most streamed artist ever list and that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) album was Spotify’s most streamed single album in a single day in 2023, so far. The money at stake here is enormous so you can see why the record companies will feel the need to take action. Unfortunately it’ll be another advantage they hold over new and emerging artists in particular.