Why is Taylor Swift Re-recording Her First Six Albums?


An overview of Taylor Swift’s decision to re-record her old albums.

Taylor Swift is a timeless artist and a favorite of many. She has been a star since the early 2000s and continues to produce hits today. Back in 2019, Swift announced that she would be re-recording the first six of her older albums, beginning with Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

On Apr 9, 2021, Taylor released Fearless (Taylor’s Version). Taylor went above and beyond with the re-recording of this album. According to Parade, “in addition to containing all 19 tracks from the original Fearless, Swift’s 2010 soundtrack single ‘Today Was a Fairytale’ was also included in the re-release, as were six more bonus tracks.” 

Months later, Swift announced that the next album she would re-record was Red, and it would be released on Nov 19. However, on Sep 30, 2021, she tweeted, “Got some news that I think you’re gonna like — My version of Red will be out a week earlier than scheduled (including the 4-disc vinyl) on November 12th.” And so it was released and met with an outpouring of words of encouragement from fans.

Fans have been loving these re-recordings, and they think 1989 (Taylor’s Version) will be the next album to be released. As reported by The Things, “She released Fearless, because it was the album that put her on the map and gave her a Grammy, so why wouldn’t she release the other one that also gave her a Grammy?” Fans think that there have been a few hints that it will be 1989, and surely Swift will reveal whether they are correct soon.

So, why does Taylor feel the need to re-record so many of her classic, nostalgic albums? It all began with her first record label, Big Machine Records, who she signed with in 2005. Their contract with her expired in 2018, but not before Taylor wrote countless hits under their wing. The problem is that “Big Machine owns the masters, or original recordings, of her first six albums, as is typical with many recording deals,” as maintained by Time.

This means that Swift isn’t able to have any say concerning what happens to these albums, how they’re used, or who owns them, and there’s nothing she can do to change that. Swift signed with her new label, Universal’s Republic Records, in Nov 2018. She made sure to secure the ownership of her future masters after her experience with Big Machine Records revealed that her work needed protection. Big Machine Records went on to sell Swift’s Masters to Scooter Braun in 2019, and Swift “[revealed] that she was treacherously given no notice of the transaction,” according to Firstpost.

Swift has been fighting to reacquire her masters for years, but with no success. Considering that she wrote, sung, and played all six of these albums, you’d think that Swift deserves to have ownership of the masters. However, record deals just don’t operate this way. As reported by Firstpost, “The usual outcome is that budding artists sign off ownership of their recordings in exchange for monetary support and encouragement from record labels.”

However, Swift was able to successfully block the use of her songs on all projects using a “synchronization license.” This license is also the reason she’s able to legally re-record her first six albums without infringing copyright. After she acquired the license in 2019, she was finally able to regain financial and artistic control over her masters. “Artists deserve to own their work. I just feel very passionately about that,” said Swift.

While Swift is certainly bringing in a lot of profit from this project, “[she] is not doing the re-recordings to make more money; rather, she’s raising awareness for any future artists to be aware of the contracts they’re signing, allowing them to have more power and financial freedom over their own work,” as maintained by Mixdown Magazine. She was so young when she signed with Big Machine Records, and she didn’t realize what she was getting into until it was too late.

Now, Swift has the power to warn other artists and use her experience for something good. This type of thing has happened to a number of artists, but none as popular as Swift. Who knows who she’ll help by warning emerging artists about the importance of protecting their work.