Taylor Swift's Re-Recordings: A Fight for Feminism
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Written by: Zaria Adnan, 25090021
Taylor Swift re-recording her first 6 albums is not a money move, as many critics claim. It is a fight for property rights. However, it is much more than just that; it is a fight for feminism.
Why is Swift Re-Recording Her Music?
The singer started out in the music industry in 2005 with Big Machine Records. As with most record labels, Big Machine owned Swift's albums even when she shifted to Universal Records in 2018.
Swift had made it clear that she wanted to purchase her albums' masters off from Big Machine as she believes that artists should have the right to own their own music. In fact, she has written each and every song on those 6 albums. However, Big Machine sold the masters to a private equity firm, called Ithaca Holdings, for $300 million without Swift's knowledge in 2019.
Ithaca Holdings is owned by Scooter Braun, Swift's former manager as well as the current manager of pop stars such as Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Kanye West. Because the firm legally owns the original recordings of Swift's first 6 albums, she does not receive any money from streams or purchases. This is quite ironic as she is the mastermind behind those songs and albums, not Braun nor any other businessman.
Why are the Re-Recordings an Act of Feminism?
The entire record label and equity firm debacle can be termed as "new sexism" against Swift, in sociologist Rosalind Gill's terms. The issue stretches beyond the general sexism that women face in the music industry, such as limited opportunities, representation through the male gaze, or restricted genres. Taylor Swift has very clearly risen above these mentioned issues and is one of the highest-grossing artists of this generation. However, it seems that the music industry has come up with newer, more creative mechanisms to limit women's participation, like Swift's record label selling her music's rights to an equity firm without her consent.
Therefore, re-recording those 6 albums is a power move as it is retaliation to the new sexism. It puts the power back into Swift's hands, as the re-recordings of her albums Fearless and Red have significantly reduced streams and purchases of the originals, which are owned by Braun. Now, Swift can own the music she herself wrote and earn from it, and her fans can listen to her older work guilt-free too!
Additionally, female artists who are new to the music industry, such as Olivia Rodrigo have made it clear that they will ensure that they own the rights to their music. So, apart from reclaiming her own music, Swift has opened similar opportunities for her fellow female colleagues in the industry who may have otherwise struggled to take a stand for themselves.