Taylor Swift is the music industry — at least, that’s what us Swifties like to say. 

Based purely on sales, there’s a good argument to be made that this is the truth. After being in the music industry for less than two decades, her record sales are already catching up to that of The Beatles. 

Critically speaking, Swift is incredibly renowned. She has more GRAMMYs than Rihanna, more American MTV Moonmen than Justin Bieber or Britney Spears, and more Billboard Music Awards than any other woman artist. She’s also received near-perfect critical reviews for her recent albums from Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and Time Magazine, to name just a few. 

But Taylor is not just some “90s trend” making a comeback either — more than 15 years after joining the industry, she’s still actively writing and recording music. Named 2020 Album Of The Year by the Recording Academy, folklore was the top selling album of that year, with more than one million units sold — an almost unheard-of accomplishment in the age of streaming. 

If you haven’t been living in “exile” for the past two years, you’d know that there’s been no escaping the reemergence of Swift’s classic bops from Fearless, an album she originally recorded in 2008. You might be wondering, why are these old hits coming back with a vengeance, a sense of maturity, and a few unheard songs? 

“long story short”: the reason is Scooter Braun. Braun is a music manager who purchased Swift’s master recordings in 2019 when his company, Ithaca Holdings, also bought Swift’s ex-record label, Big Machine Label Group. This happened unbeknownst to Swift, who was never offered the chance to purchase her master recordings. 

Master recordings are the legal right to control how, where, and when the original recording of a song or album is used or reproduced. When record labels control the master rights to an album, they give a certain percentage of its royalties from sales to the artist who recorded it. Usually record labels have ownership of the master recordings as part of their contracts with artists — although some artists create clauses that require master recordings to revert to their control in two to five years. But Swift left Big Machine Records without owning the rights to her work. 

After purchasing the master recordings, Braun proceeded to resell Swift’s discography to an investment fund for $300 million USD. Unluckily for Braun, Swift’s songwriter or cowriter status on her old songs and a provision in her contract with her former label gave her the unique right to rerecord her old music. So she did. 

By rerecording her old music, Swift is given the opportunity to legally own the master recordings of those new songs and therefore devalue the master recordings of her original work. She also gets the chance to take the music she wrote at different stages of her life and recreate it with the wisdom and experience that she’s gained.

So far, rerecording two of her first six albums — Fearless and Red — has offered Swift the chance to show off her musical growth, and every song sounds more melodic and breathtaking than its original version. For us long-time Swifties, most of whom were prepubescent teens when the original albums and songs were released, it’s also the chance to relive our youth.

As “Sad Beautiful Tragic” as it is that an artist has to fight to own their work, Swift has made it clear that she’s not going to allow a record label control her musical growth. She has, as she has before, made the brave choice of fighting for herself, despite those who “throw rocks” her way.

“The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why?” She’s too busy singlehandedly dismantling the bullying that’s “All Too Well” and alive in the music industry.