In case you didn’t already know, I’m a diehard Taylor Swift stan. Or Swiftie, if you will. She is the author of every emotion I’ve ever had, and I will most definitely fight someone over her. When Taylor released folklore, I bought all eight of the deluxe albums with different covers. #NoRegrets
Bonus: Which of Taylor Swift’s 8 Folklore Covers Are You? by Zoe Haylock for Vulture
If you’ve not followed the controversy surrounding BMLG (Big Machine Label Group)’s ownership of the masters for Taylor Swift’s first six albums (Taylor Swift through reputation), it is quite the scandal. Pre-fame Taylor didn’t realize that her catalog would become such a valuable commodity. For those of you who don’t know, a master is an artist’s first recording of a song or record and it’s from this master that all other copies are manufactured. Whoever owns the master(s) therefore owns all versions of the music, both physical and digital.
Taylor Swift first signed her contract with Big Machine Records in 2005. It stipulated that in exchange for a cash advance, BMR would own the rights to Swift’s first six albums. Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014), and Reputation (2017) and their accompanying master recordings (as well as the album artwork) were property of BMR under the original contract.
When Swift’s contract with BMR expired in November of 2018, she signed a new contract with Republic Records, whose parent company is Universal Music Group (UMG). It turns out that some lyrics from “Look What You Made Me Do” became prophetic: “But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time”; this time around, Taylor would retain ownership of her masters with each new recording, starting with Lover (2019).
“You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes.Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince
Big Machine Records was acquired by Scooter Braun through his company Ithaca Holdings in 2019. The paltry sum: a reported $300,000,000. With Braun’s acquisition, he now legally owned the masters to Swift’s first six albums.
Taylor took to tumblr. to decry the deal. For her, it was a worst-case scenario. She’d been trying to buy the rights to her work back for years, but Scott Borchetta, founder and CEO of Big Machine Records, would only let her do so if she signed a new contract, one with terms that to her were unconscionable. Note: You can read Taylor’s reaction on her tumblr.
And when you can’t sleep at night / You hear my stolen lullabiesmy tears ricochet
Here’s why I believe Taylor: if her claims were actually counterfactual, Braun would have cause for a major defamation suit. He would hold all the cards. Instead, we have puff pieces (which really read like nothing more than information subsidies from Braun’s own PR team) like the one in Vanity Fair with the classic good old boy exoneration and exaltation, i.e. “All these other people love me and have nothing but nice things to say about me, so this can’t possibly be true.” How many times have we borne witness to this exact scenario, wherein a woman’s word and work are dismissed to uphold a man’s ego based on nothing more than a shoddy bootstraps narrative and a goofy smile? If she’s a liar, show the receipts. No? That’s all the proof I need.
This really is a tale as old as time and it speaks to one of the biggest assertions of artistry; namely, that what you create should not only belong to you, but that it is in fact inseparable from the rest of your being. Taylor’s detractors can all take a seat. With her re-recordings of her first six albums, fans can now enjoy Taylor’s back catalog without helping men like Braun and Borchetta to profit off her work. Looks like Taylor got the last laugh.
As always, thank you for your unwavering support of this blog and my work. I love you all. I think it’s appropriate to close here with a lyric from evermore:
Your nemeses will defeat themselves / Before you get the chance to swing— long story short
Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.