Red (Taylor’s Version) Goes Viral, Opens Conversations About Artists’ Freedom in Music Industry

Taylor Swift blew up the world with her re-recorded album Red (Taylor’s Version). The album dominated major streaming platforms, including Spotify and YouTube, garnering millions of views and streams when it hit audiences on November 12. Red (Taylor’s Version) has officially broken records, landing as one of the most-streamed albums in a day by a female artist. Spotify recently confirmed with Billboard that the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter had reached over 122.9 million streams globally, beating her own record for 2020’s Folklore at 80.6 million. 

Red (Taylor’s Version) features updated recording of all of Taylor Swift’s songs on her 2012 album called Red, including the highly-anticipated 10-minute version of her song “All Too Well,” which was released with a masterfully created short film that premiered on Friday, starring Sadie Sink, Dylan O’Brien, and the singer herself.

Similar to her re-recording of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Taylor Swift offered fans with raw and unfiltered versions of her songs, seemingly offering fans with rediscovered renditions of some of her greatest hits. The album also featured duets from prominent artists, such as Ed Sheeran, Phoebe Bridgers, and Chris Stapleton. Furthermore, the singer-songwriter released renditions of two songs recorded in the intervening years by Little Big Town and Sugarland, “Better Man” and “Babe.”

Taylor Swift began re-recording her songs in the previous year after her early catalog was sold twice behind her back, first to celebrity talent manager Scooter Braun and then to Shamrock Capital Advisors in Los Angeles. 

“I know this will diminish the value of my old masters, but I hope you will understand that this is my only way of regaining the sense of pride I once had when hearing songs from my first six albums and also allowing my fans to listen to those albums without feelings of guilt for benefiting Scooter,” said Taylor Swift in a statement addressed to an investment firm last October. 

Beyond rediscovering her songs, Taylor Swift paved the way for conversations to take place on how artists’ freedom is often limited in the music industry. For some music experts, Red (Taylor’s Version) highlights how the music industry filters what artists are allowed to launch and which versions don’t necessarily make the cut. This is determined, of course, by what music executives think sells.

With Taylor Swift outperforming her original songs with her re-recorded versions, going viral on major social media platforms and even landing lucrative licensing deals, the artist has proactively influenced the power dynamics in the music business.

As Susan Genco, board member of artists’ rights music group Music Artists Coalition and co-president of the Azoff Company, said, “What Taylor did is a game-changer, not just for her fans but for other artists. She is inspiring artists to re-record their songs and control their music.”

From the release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) to the launching of Red (Taylor’s Version), Taylor Swift has sparked the determination of many artists to seek ownership of their original recordings and also make them heard. The shift in power and control has empowered many music creators to take control over their music, decide how they are used, and ultimately have a say in the revenue their works generate. 

According to Angela Weiss of Getty, music artists only get 20% of their streaming revenue while 80% goes to their record label. With this, music lawyers have been emphasizing that artists who own their master recordings could keep around 80% to 95% of that revenue. Whatever the case may be, Taylor Swift’s re-recordings have definitely impacted the music industry. According to The Wall Street Journal, Universal, the largest record label in the world, has reportedly doubled the time it bars artists from re-recording their music in recent contracts. Read more about the story here.

Glenda Drewery
Glenda Drewery is a Media Publisher Lead at Music Observer. She works with publishers, broadcasters, news outlets, sports and music organizations, education, and lifestyle brands (among others) to create a healthy ecosystem of diverse content. She ensures clients from the entertainment industry are positioned for success.

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