In July, Scooter Braun purchased Big Machine Records, Taylor Swift’s first label.
- With the purchase, Braun became the owner of the master copies of Swift’s first six albums, something that she said left her feeling “sad and grossed out.”
- In an appearance on “CBS Sunday Morning” that will air August 25, Swift said she “absolutely” plans to re-record the original versions.
- People have been speculating and suggesting that Swift re-record her songs so that she will have ownership over them.
- Something like this hasn’t been done recently, but it has been done before, notably by Def Leppard.
When Taylor Swift let her feelings be known about her former label, Big Machine, ending up in the hands of Scooter Braun, speculation about what little recourse she had in the situation ran rampant: What if she simply re-recorded material from those first six studio albums?
Although that was considered a long shot for any number of reasons, Swift has now asserted in an interview with “CBS Sunday Morning” that she plans to do just that, although the extent or timing of her plans to go back in the studio to revisit her oldies wasn’t addressed.
“Might you do that?” asked interviewer Tracy Smith, wondering whether Swift might make up for not getting rights to her old master recordings by going in to cut new ones.
“Oh yeah,” Swift said.
“That’s a plan?” Smith said. “Oh, absolutely,” the singer responded.
But whether Swift intends to revisit her entire catalog on record or just re-record a few select choices for the purpose of film or commercial licensing wasn’t addressed, at least in the interview excerpts released by CBS. Nor did it come up whether this is something she’d like to do soon or far into the future.
Swift’s ability to re-record her Big Machine songs any time soon was called into question after the issue arose in July. Most contemporary recording contracts have provisions prohibiting the artist from remaking the contracted period for a number of years after the expiration of a contract.
The possibility arose in the public imagination after Kelly Clarkson tweeted out the idea July 13. “Just a thought,” Clarkson wrote, “U should go in & re-record all the songs that U don’t own the masters on exactly how U did them but put brand new art & some kind of incentive so fans will no longer buy the old versions. I’d buy all of the new versions just to prove a point.”
There is no recent precedent for a major recording artist redoing whole chunks of their catalog with a new label. Some veteran acts have done it, however, long after prohibitions on their classic material would have expired. Def Leppard re-recorded several of their hits after a dispute, and in 2012 Jeff Lynne put out “Mr. Blue Sky—The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra,” featuring 12 remakes of ELO classics. At the time, Lynne said, “We were doing our best, but experience and technology also play a big part, and these new ones sound much more solid and tight” — although to most ears the remakes, some of which he ended up licensing for synch purposes, were difficult to distinguish from the originals. In previous decades, country and oldies acts frequently re-recorded their hits as they moved from label to label, although not entire albums.