Taylor Swift has made it clear she is never ever getting back together with her old record label, like, ever.
TayTay has been embroiled in a twitterspute with Scooter Braun, more commonly known as Justin Bieber's manager, over the rights to the back catalogue of her master recordings. Let's just say there is some bad blood. In the latest instalment of this feud, TayTay accused Scooter Braun of blocking her from performing some of her older hits at the American Music Awards and controlling her use of her own music.
The music industry has a lot of jargon and complexities, so we will simplify it for you.
In any given song, there are two types of rights at play. These are:
- the 'musical work', which is the words, the lyrics and the composition of the work, also sometimes known as the 'publishing rights'; and
- the 'sound recording', which is the physical recording of the musical work.
A master recording is the original recording of a song. Typically, a record label will own the master rights to an artist's work. This means that the record label can control where and how the recording is used. If you're streaming a song on a streaming service, you can do that because the label has granted a licence to the service to use the master rights. A music publisher will typically share the publishing rights with the artist.
When TayTay was a baby songwriter, she signed a record deal with Big Machine Records. As part of that deal, Big Machine kept the rights to TayTay's masters that she recorded while with the label. She then left Big Machine and signed a deal with Universal's Republic Records. In that deal, Taylor said you belong with me and apparently retained the rights to her masters going forward. This is not the normal course in record deals – but what Taylor wants, Taylor gets.
Meanwhile, her back catalogue of masters stayed with Big Machine, which was then acquired by Scooter Braun's company. So, Scooter has control of Swift's precious masters of her earlier albums.
TayTay tried to get permission to use those recordings, to which Scooter apparently said no. Cue: fight. Scooter said, you need to calm down and the dispute continues as Taylor alleges Scooter is controlling the rights to her own music. In the meantime, Taylor did manage to perform a medley at the AMAs this week. There are some contractual issues at play here as well, which largely relate to Taylor's ability to re-record her masters. Taylor has said she is going to re-record her earlier tracks which may be a breach of contract, to which Taylor will likely say look what you made me do.
Watch this space, it may be a cruel summer.
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