Taylor Swift’s Music Belongs with Her


Caroline Rogers

Eleven-time Grammy Award-winner Taylor Swift has been making radio hits since she was 15. Now 31, she’s starting the process to re-record her first six albums due to ownership complications. The re-recording of her 2008 album Fearless was released Friday, April 9, and “Swifties” everywhere are thrilled, listening to fan-favorite songs like “You Belong With Me” and “Forever and Always” for the first time again. The re-recorded songs are virtually identical to the originals, despite a few production changes and a more developed voice from Swift. However, in Fearless, she added six unreleased songs that she refers to as “From the Vault,” featuring country singers Keith Urban and Maren Morris. In the future, you can expect rerecordings from albums Speak Now, Taylor Swift, Red, 1989, and Reputation. 

In 2005, at age 16, Taylor Swift signed with Big Machine Records, and her contract ended in 2018 when she switched labels to Universal Republic Records. However, Big Machine Records still had ownership of the recordings of her previous albums. Concerned with this, Swift made sure to have ownership of all future albums with Universal’s Republic Records. Years later, she is now re-recording the albums recorded with Big Machine Records to gain ownership – and make the money from–her older music. With this, devoted Taylor Swift fans have shifted to solely listening to her re-recordings, to avoid funding the old record label she has been feuding with. 

In 2019, Big Machine Records was purchased by Scooter Braun, a move that enraged Taylor. In previous conflicts, Swift claims that Braun  engaged in”incessant, manipulative bullying.” In November 2020, Braun sold her original recordings to Shamrock Capital for an estimated $300 million. Even though Shamrock Capital technically owned the masters, Braun was still receiving a sum of the profits made from them. This further explains how fans have stopped supporting Braun by not listening or downloading old songs. Now with the increasing number of re-recordings, fans can listen to and download their 2000s favorites, while supporting Taylor Swift herself. 

Despite having to pay a licensing fee, Taylor Swift should not come across legal issues while re-recording. In 2019, on Good Morning America, she said, “My contract says that starting November 2020… I can record albums one through five all over again.” According to music attorney Rachel Stitwell, contracts typically stipulate that music can be re-recorded two years after a contract has expired, which might be five years after the music’s release. This would mean that Reputation, Swift’s most recent of the six albums, potentially wouldn’t be eligible for re-recording until some point in 2022. 

Taylor Swift has had an amazing 16 years of success, exploring all varieties of pop music and inspiring people globally. While re-recording, the spotlight on her incredible career and fan devotion is brighter than ever. In December 2019, around the time she announced her re-recording plan, she said, “It’s going to be fun, because it’ll feel like regaining a freedom and taking back what’s mine … When I created [these songs], I didn’t know what they would grow up to be. Going back in and knowing that it meant something to people is actually a really beautiful way to celebrate what the fans have done for my music.”