Taylor Swift was not the first artist to try to reclaim ownership of her music by releasing re-recorded versions, but she is most likely the most successful person to make such an attempt. Her “Taylor’s Version” series of full album re-releases have been a goldmine for Swift, turning what would have been old catalog material (the master recordings of which had been sold out from under her, no less) into in some cases brand new hits. In short, the “Taylor’s Version” plan was a masterstroke by the artist, and now Billboard reports that record labels are working to make sure it never happens again.
The music business’s major labels, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, have all reportedly made changes to their standard contracts for new artists, contractually preventing them from re-recording any material for up to 30 years after leaving the label in question.
Prior to “Taylor’s Version” mania, the standard recording contract would have been much less rigorous on the subject of re-recordings, with artists like Swift bound to somewhere from five to seven years following the material’s original release date, or two years after the end of the contract.
Gandhar Savur, a music attorney who represents such acts as Built to Spill and Jeff Rosenstock, told Billboard about the labels’ new approach:
“I recently did a deal with a very big indie that had a 30-year re-record restriction in it. Which obviously is much longer than I’m used to seeing…I think the majors are also trying to expand their re-record restrictions but in a more measured way — they are generally not yet able to get away with making such extreme changes.”
While UMG issued a statement pointing to such changes in their own contracts that predate the Swift situation, Savur went on to say it’s clear that the hype and money around the new “Taylor’s Versions” of the Swift catalog is something every music exec would rather happen under major label control:
“Obviously, this is a big headline topic — the Taylor Swift thing…Labels, of course, are going to want to do whatever they can to address that and to prevent it. But there’s only so much they can do. Artist representatives are going to push back against that, and a certain standard is ingrained in our industry that is not easy to move away from.”
Swift is currently raking in money hand over first from her massive “Eras” tour and the accompanying concert film, and some reports have her earning more than $8 million per month on the streaming royalties alone on her new re-recorded album issues. Success like that is rare under any conditions, and under these new reported recording contracts it may become an even more unusual scenario for whoever the next pop megastar might be.