In classic Swift fashion, the visual treatment is full of not-so-subtle nods. A prominent “No Scooters” sign on the 13th Street Station, with previous album titles and scrawled on the subway tile wall near a “Missing: If Found Return to Taylor Swift” sign, points directly to her latest object of ire, Scooter Braun, manager of Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen and Ariana Grande, among others. There’s also the closing credits — “Directed by,” “Written by,” “Owned by,” and “Starring,” all attributed to Swift.
Swift is not the first to threaten to re-record her works. Prince and Def Leppard did so after arguing they were being unfairly compensated by their original labels. But it is unheard of move for an artists at her zenith. “You are essentially splitting dollars,” said Sammataro. “You don’t know how the streaming service, the radio station or even your fans are going to consume it. Will they listen to the master or the re-recorded version?”
In the past artists might not have taken this route because marketing and distributing the new versions themselves would have been prohibitively expensive. In the digital age, and with her fanbase, no such issues will hold Swift back. Re-recording a couple of hits might once have satisfied Swift but with relations so strained she may feel like dealing Big Machine a bigger blow.
Lover is the seventh studio album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was released on August 23, 2019, by Republic Records. As executive producer, Swift worked with producers Jack Antonoff, Joel Little, Louis Bell, Frank Dukes, and Sounwave on the album. Described by Swift as a “love letter to love”, Lover celebrates the ups and downs of love and incorporates brighter, more cheerful tones, departing from the dark sounds of its predecessor, Reputation (2017). Musically, it is a pop, pop rock, electropop and synth-pop record that contains influences of country, dream pop, pop punk, funk and R&B.
For artists, master recordings — the original recordings of musicians’ work — are vital musically, historically and financially. In most situations, labels own those masters. But many musicians, both prominent and independent ones, have tried to hang on to their masters. As Prince famously told Rolling Stone back in 1996, “If you don’t own your masters, your master owns you.”
With her open letter and the high-profile back-and-forth, Swift is bringing visibility to one of the music industry’s longest standing issues. And while it’s not a new problem, Swift’s discussion of it was enough to encourage artists including Sky Ferreira and Halsey to come forward about their own difficulties with label deals and ownership.