Taylor Swift Shifts Universal Music Artist Contracts

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Universal Music Group (UMG) is reportedly modifying its artist’s agreements to prevent future Taylor Swift-like re-recordings of music.

To avoid similar situations with artists in the future, UMG has reportedly been “effectively doubling the amount of time that the contracts restrict an artist from rerecording their work” from two years from a contract’s expiration and five years after the delivery of the final contracted work to five and seven years, respectively, or whichever date is later. The UMG contract shifts could urge other major labels like Sony Music and Warner Music to follow suit.

Labels were less threatened by an artist re-recording their music successfully prior to the expansion of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, and the ease of self-recording digitally and self-promoting music on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Recently signing an exclusive global publishing deal with Universal, Swift started the process of re-releasing her first six albums, ending with her 2017 album Reputation, after Big Machine Records was bought out by Ithaca Holdings and then owner Scooter Braun, which took over ownership of the master recordings of Swift’s earlier releases in 2019 without consulting her. (In April of 2021, Braun sold Ithaca Holdings—including SB Projects and Big Machine Label Group—to South Korean company HYBE, formerly known as Big Hit Entertainment, for $1 billion.)

Under Swift’s agreement with UMG, the label serves as her exclusive worldwide music partner and Republic Records as her U.S. label partner.

Swift has already re-released her second album Fearless (Taylor’s Version), originally released in 2008, in November of 2020, and most recently her 2012 release Red, both with featured artists and added tracks from her vault that were never added to the original releases. Her rerecorded songs are already outperforming the originals on streaming services, in addition to landing licensing deals for the artist.

In addition to the reported contract shifts at UMG, iHeart Radio recently committed to exclusively playing the Swift tracks that the artist has re-recorded.

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