Swift releases own version of ‘Red,’ obtains full ownership

Courtesy of taylorswift.com | Many fans are ecstatic about Taylor Swift’s rereleased album.

Taylor Swift has become one of the most popular artists of this generation since her debut in 2006. She released her new re-recorded album, “Red,” on Nov. 12, breaking the Spotify single-day streaming record within a day, a record previously held by Swift herself for “Folklore.”

“Red” features Swift’s versions of original tracks on the album, as well as nine bonus tracks, including a 10-minute version of “All Too Well.”

Swift originally released “Red” in 2012, first as a 16-track album followed by a 22-track deluxe edition. However, Swift began to re-record her catalog following a 2019 controversy with music manager Scooter Braun and her former label, Big Machine Label Group.

The controversy began when Big Machine Label Group sold the master rights to her first six albums to Braun, who Swift claimed had bullied her in the past. These master rights allow the holder to manage the original recording and earn money from it.

Dr. Lance Beaumont, associate professor of music and associate dean of graduate studies and program development, said artists make money through a variety of avenues, including how many times songs are streamed, how many times songs are played on the radio, the use of songs in commercials and the sale of sheet music. However, many more parties involved receive part of the revenue.

“There is essentially this pie and it’s divvied up by percentages,” Beaumont said. “The pie is pretty large, but to get the music out to that many people, there are certain people who get slices of that and percentages of that, and how those percentages work out is determined upon what the artist does in signing that contract. Most artists when they get the opportunity of getting on a record label will just sign whatever.”

During the controversy, Swift released multiple public statements about the situation, both encouraging other artists to advocate for themselves and own their art and announcing that she would re-record her versions of the albums sold to Braun.

“I think we are going to see artists wanting to own as much of their product as possible because technology makes it possible for them to own everything, (including) distribution and the actual product itself,” Beaumont said.

Sedona Gallardo, sophomore liberal arts major, has been a fan of Swift for a long time. She said she enjoyed the album and is excited that Swift can own her work.

“I listened to it on release night and I loved it,” Gallardo said. “Some of the songs were reinvented and others were classics we know and love. The vault songs were incredible for this album. The moment the first song ‘State of Grace’ began, I had tears in my eyes. She won’t let people bully her and mess with the story she wants to tell. It is empowering and inspirational.”

Chloe Hoopes, senior art therapy major, said she also enjoyed the album, especially considering Swift’s journey in the music industry.

“I wasn’t a big fan of her a few years ago, but after actually learning more about her and all that she has gone through just to do what she loves, she has earned my respect and will continue to be one of my favorite singers,” Hoopes said.

Swift released her version of “Fearless,” one of the albums sold to Braun in April of this year. It featured the original 19 tracks from her platinum edition of the album, originally released in 2008, along with six more songs from the vault that had been cut from the album before its release.

Beaumont believes the new album will help Swift reconnect with fans as well as help her obtain ownership, especially since the album includes songs from that period that she had not released.

“It brings her music back to her audience again and it gives her another avenue to connect with her audience,” Beaumont said. “Those who are fans of her later work will be reintroduced to her earlier work, which they might have forgotten because ‘Red’ was kind of the album that was her transition out of country into the pop genre.”

Beaumont said Swift was able to re-record her album because her contract removed her rights to the recorded musical products, but not to the actual music. However, he does not foresee more artists taking this avenue because few have Swift’s large platform, influence and resources.

“She is just wanting to capture all that she feels owed because, when her older albums are played on Spotify, she does not get the total royalties that she should have had she not given all this stuff away or had it not been taken from her,” Beaumont said. “It’s a business move more than anything.”

Beaumont said Swift’s push for artistic ownership points toward a new future for the music industry, specifically with non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs are a technological way to sell digital art. Beaumont said NFTs could allow fans to own a piece of and invest in an artistic product, developing an unprecedented connection between fans and artists.

“Typically the artist-fan relationship has just been through social media, the stage or the television screen,” Beaumont said. “Now we are going to see a different connection. If you are part of an NFT for ‘Red,’ for example, if it is going in that direction, you would now have part ownership of that, but then you would also be privy to specific releases or items the artist might only make available to those particular individuals.”

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