Whether Taylor Swift Could Re-Record Her Big Machine Songs Explained – Variety


Her three words echoed around the world within minutes: Asked in a preview of her forthcoming “CBS This Morning” interview whether she might re-record her master recordings from her Big Machine, which are now owned and controlled by her nemesis, Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun, Taylor Swift said, “Oh yeah.”

Asked whether she plans to: “Oh, absolutely.”

No further details were provided, but the comments open up a plethora of legal questions about when and how Swift could re-record her catalog, and thus snatch income from Big Machine by making sure that her new versions, and not the ones owned by her former label, are the ones played by fans and used in any number of commercial ventures, such as advertisements, TV shows, movies, games and other uses.

Prince and Def Leppard are two artists who successfully went that route in the past when they felt they were being unfairly compensated by their original labels, but their contracts dated back to the 1970s. Record companies quickly got wise to the practice and wrote provisions into their standard contracts setting a time period — typically two years after an album’s terms expire (usually, a piece of music is designated catalog 18 months after release) — before such recordings, which include live versions, could be released.

However, while some unnamed sources told other outlets that Swift would be unable to re-record songs from her catalog in the near future, a source with knowledge of such deals asserts that she can. The insider tells Variety that a smart lawyer — Swift’s is Donald Passman, one of the top attorneys in the industry and the man who literally wrote the book on the music industry — would not allow a severe re-record restriction in their artist’s contract. That attorney suggests that any album more than five years old is fair game.

If that’s the case, Swift could re-record the entirety of her first four albums — her eponymous debut, “Fearless,” “Speak Now” and “Red” — any time she desires, with her fifth, “1989,” hitting the fifth anniversary of its release this coming Oct. 27. She would have to wait longer to re-record songs from her final album with the label, “Reputation,” which was released on Nov. 10, 2017.

However, some contracts do have what is called an original production clause, which prohibits a newly recorded version from being too similar to the original — if that’s the case with her contract, a Swift-sung reggaeton version of “Mean” or a heavy metal take on “Love Story” could have moved closer to reality.

Either way, Swift has made her fans more than aware of her feelings about Braun’s acquisition of her masters, and it’s likely that a large percentage of them will follow her to whichever versions of her songs she asks them to. Then again, others may prefer the original. Any such confusion will ultimately have an adverse effect on perception of the worth of the Big Machine catalog, potentially devaluing the assets.

On the other hand, that’s a question of the future. Right now, rights to master recording are seen as incredibly valuable one-of-a-kind works of art, not unlike that of a famous painter. If Braun were to sell today, at multiples of 22x to 25x, he’d be looking at a $1 billion valuation.

If Swift’s battle history is any indication, this one is far from over…

Source : Variety