Record labels and recording companies have been working to prevent artists from re-recording their albums like Taylor Swift, according to reports.
The trend – while having been around for decades – has been brought to light recently by Taylor Swift, who has accumulated billions of streams and broke Spotify records with the updated ‘Taylor’s Version’ re-recordings of her albums.
The new projects, which have seen her re-record albums such as ‘Red’, ‘Speak Now’, ‘Fearless’ and most recently ‘1989’, came after Scooter Braun bought Big Machine Records (who owned the masters to Swift’s first six albums) back in 2019 for $300million (£247.2m).
When news broke of Braun gaining the rights to Swift’s masters, Swift wrote in a Tumblr post that this was “the worst-case scenario” for her, calling him out for his “incessant, manipulative bullying”, and proceeded to regain control of her master recordings by re-releasing the albums.
Now, major labels such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group are looking to put a stop to artists following in Swift’s footsteps, and have reportedly overhauled contracts for new signees.
Previously, artists were expected to wait two periods before they could re-release music – for instance, around five years after the original release date, or two years after the contract ended. However, according to a report by Billboard, top music attorneys are saying that they have been seeing contracts that expand that timeframe up to 30 years.
“The first time I saw it, I tried to get rid of it entirely,” Josh Karp, an attorney who saw the new restrictions in UMG contracts told the outlet. “I was just like, ‘What is this? This is strange. Why would we agree to further restrictions than we’ve agreed to in the past with the same label?’”
Gandhar Savur, attorney for Cigarettes After Sex and Jeff Rosenstock, agreed adding: “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.”
As the outlet explains, the concept of re-recording albums in an artist’s discography is by no means a new development, with Frank Sinatra doing so in the ‘60s as well as artists including Def Leppard. It has only been after the immense commercial success of Swift, however, that record labels have gone to implement a change.
Speaking with Billboard following the report, a spokesperson for UMG stated the label does not comment on legal agreements and highlighted an article from The Wall Street Journal which reported changes in contracts before Swift’s re-recordings.
Similarly, representatives for Warner and Sony did not respond to requests for comment.
Following Swift’s attempt to regain control of her master recordings, the singer-songwriter has inadvertently inspired others to do the same too, including 98 Degrees, who credited the singer with creating “an alliance between the artists and the fans now to support the re-recorded masters”.
Reports of record labels extending the period that artists have to wait before they can re-release their albums stem back to the end of 2021, when it was reported the Universal Music Group had set out new guidelines following Swift’s first run of re-releases.
This was first highlighted by The Wall Street Journal, which reported that the new agreements “effectively double the amount of time that the contracts restrict an artist from rerecording their work”.
In other Taylor Swift news, the singer was reported as becoming the most-streamed artist in a single day in Spotify history, and ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’ was confirmed as Spotify’s most-streamed album in a single day in 2023 so far.