It’s a blessed day for Swifties and those who believe in artistic ownership! That’s right: It’s the release day of Red (Taylor’s Version)!!!!
We’re being blessed with this expanded edition of the multiplatinum album (including a 10-minute version of the absolute banger “All Too Well”) because the original master recordings do not belong to Taylor Swift. A private equity firm owns the masters to Swift’s first albums after buying them from Scooter Braun who put them on the market after he purchased Swift’s first label, Big Machine Label Group. Swift attempted to buy the recordings, but she was unsuccessful.
To counteract the money being made by the sale (a deal that would continue to financially benefit Scooter Braun), Swift announced almost exactly a year ago that she would re-record her first six albums and re-release them, thereby diluting the value of her original master recordings.
According to reporting in Financial Times, the new owners Los Angeles private equity firm Shamrock attempted to get out of the deal after her announcement:
While shopping the masters around, they told potential acquirers that Swift might not actually follow through on her threats, and the publicity generated by her ire only boosted listening of the old catalogue, according to three people approached to buy the asset. “The message was: the controversy has been great for us. Every time she lights us up online, people go listen to those songs”, said one of these people. That pitch sounded reasonable enough. After all, what currently charting pop star would bother spending years of their life recreating decades-old work?
Swift is a calculating business owner who already recorded two albums during the lockdown simply because it was fun and she didn’t have to spend two years in Lover album promotion cycle. Why wouldn’t Swift take time to re-record her material? Imagine a private equity firm not doing enough due diligence on one of the world’s most surveilled super stars to think Swift wouldn’t take advantage of the time inside to maintain her artistic integrity. The woman once wrote a song about Katy Perry poaching employees!
One hedge fund manager who was approached to buy the catalog told FT: “To extract maximum value from music assets you absolutely need, if not co-operation from the artist, you at least need them to not be actively angry.”
Of course the singer-songwriter-businessperson is angry! She’s been very clear on her stances. Swift published an op-ed about the rights for artists to own their work and be fairly compensated in The Wall Street Journal, aka America’s most boring newspaper, but a newspaper read by Business People™. She is an artist and a business owner. And Swift’s belief about artistic ownership definitely has roots in her desire to be megawealthy as a result of all her hard work. It’s obviously a strongly held belief! Despite the obviously strained father-daughter relationship exhibited in the Miss Americana documentary, I do think banker/music executive Scott Swift sufficiently drilled “be paid for your work” into her head.
Best of luck to Swift in her attempts to thwart a private equity firm’s attempt to extract maximum profit from its acquisition!