We compared the songs from “Taylor’s Version” with the original Taylor Swift albums.

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Here are Taylor Swift’s “wildest dreams”. The pop ballad was released in 2014 as part of their fifth studio album, “1989”.

It’s the same song. Ms. Swift’s “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)” was released on September 17, seven years later.

Recording almost identical covers of her first six albums is the final step in Ms Swift’s legal struggle to control her old catalog. In addition to the re-recording of “Wildest Dreams”, she released “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” and “Red (Taylor’s Version)” was released on November 12th.

Ms. Swift was unable to purchase the main recordings of her first studio albums from her original label, Big Machine Records. Ownership of the recordings changed hands twice against Ms. Swift’s wishes. The first time, when they were sold in 2019, she described it as her worst case scenario. The second time around, the rights were sold to investment firm Shamrock Capital Advisors LLC in the fall of 2020. Both times, Ms. Swift said, the transactions happened without his knowledge.

“Everyone’s talking about Taylor Swift getting her masters back, but there’s nothing for her to get back because she never owned them in the first place,” said Tonya Butler, professor and chair of the Music Business department. / Management of Berklee College of Music. .

Yet Ms. Swift exercises some ownership over her music. How? ‘Or’ What? It boils down to music copyright and long-standing deals in the industry:

Any musical recording that you listen to has two distinct types of ownership under US copyright law: one that covers the sound recording (also called owner of the captain), and the other which covers the musical work (sometimes described as the owner of the composition or edition).

Own the musical work covers the editing side: the words, the melody and the underlying composition. Songwriters or publishers usually own this type of copyright in music.

The same diagram as that described above, except for the magenta editing side, is underlined.  The opacity of the left half of the diagram (the copyright of the sound recording) is lowered.

Own the sound recording means owning the master record. Owning the masters allows you to control, for example, how a master is duplicated and distributed in digital and physical formats.

Ms. Swift has tried, but does not own the masters of her first six albums. Shamrock Capital does.

His solution: make a new recording that sounds almost exactly like the first.

The same diagram as previously described, except for the opacity of the right half of the diagram (copyright of the edition) is now lowered and the orange side of the sound recording is emphasized.

When Ms Swift signed a new recording deal with Universal’s Republic Records in 2018, part of the deal was that she would own 100% of any recordings she made during the term of their contract.

By re-recording – technically, she is repeating her own song – she creates new copyright in the sound recording that she fully owns.

The diagram now shows the magenta partition of

The same idea applies to any other artist who records “Wildest Dreams”.

For example, singer-songwriter Ryan Adams released a cover album “1989” in 2015. His own label, Pax Americana Recording, controls the copyright to the recording. But Ms Swift and the other owners on the publishing side receive royalties through various sources of income, including when a digital or physical copy of her recording is played, such as on vinyl or Spotify. The owners on the publishing side would also be paid if Mr. Adams performed their song in concert.

The same diagram as the one mentioned before, but there is now a third divergent orange line pointing to the cover album art

In November 2020, her restriction on re-recording, a key term in Ms Swift’s original contract, expired and opened up the possibility of returning to the studio. Re-recording restrictions — agreements between an artist and a label that state that the artist cannot re-record a song for a certain period of time — are standard.

“Whatever reasons she’s re-recording, whether out of spite or for good business, the fact that she draws attention to the re-recording restriction agreement alone makes the whole controversy valuable,” he said. said Professor Butler, who previously worked as an entertainment lawyer and record company director. , noted.

In April, Ms. Swift released “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)”, an album featuring 25 tracks, 19 of which are re-recordings of the 2009 platinum edition of “Fearless.” At the time of release, Ms Swift said she intended the lyrics, melody and recorded instrumental arrangements to make little difference.

The business rationale for re-recording identical-sounding versions is clear. If someone wants to use their song in their TV show, movie, game, or commercial, they will need the approval of both the record owner and the edition owner. They would also have to pay a fee to get a license.

If anyone were to ask to use the original “Love Story” in a movie trailer, Shamrock Capital’s approval wouldn’t be enough on its own since Ms. Swift owns the editing part. She could deny the request unless they use her re-registered version, which Shamrock Capital does not own.

Despite Ms. Swift’s intention to reproduce her original sounds, there are slight audible differences in output and voice, according to Paula Clare Harper, assistant professor of musicology at the Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. .

Dr Harper analyzed the music and provided annotations for the recordings below.

Press play to listen to the song along with Dr. Harper’s analysis. Switch between the two versions of the song to compare for yourself.

Switch to compare records

Intrepid

Taylor Swift (2008)

Without fear (Taylor version)

Taylor Swift (2021)

Without fear (Taylor version)

Audio player comparing the original and re-recorded versions of the song “Fearless.

Ms. Swift still performs characteristic aspects of country music in her hits such as “Fearless” and “Love Story,” but she brings the breathy and more chesty vocals evident in her later albums, Dr. Harper said.

Press play to listen to the song along with Dr. Harper’s analysis. Switch between the two versions of the song to compare for yourself.

Switch to compare records

You belong With Me

Taylor Swift (2008)

You belong to me (Taylor version)

Taylor Swift (2021)

You belong to me (Taylor version)

Audio player comparing the original and re-recorded versions of the song “You Belong With Me.

Dr Harper, who hosted a Swift-themed college conference called SwiftCon this summer, said the most obvious differences between the recordings were in her voice. By separating the vocal track in “Today Was A Fairytale (Taylor’s Version)” – using a machine learning tool to extract the lyrics – you can hear Ms. Swift’s vocal performance separated from the texture of the backing.

Press play to listen to the song along with Dr. Harper’s analysis. Switch between the two versions of the song to compare for yourself.

Switch to compare records

Today was a fairy tale

Taylor Swift (2008)

Today was a fairy tale (Taylor version)

Taylor Swift (2021)

Today was a fairy tale (Taylor version)

Audio player comparing the original and re-recorded versions of the song “Today Was A Fairytale.

A casual listener might not notice which version they are listening to, but some Swift fans go out of their way to avoid the original tracks. Ms. Swift has asked her fans to use “Taylor’s Version” in their TikTok videos. According to Billboard, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is one of the best-selling albums of 2021.

An artist can only control part of his career if someone else owns the copyright to his work. For Ms. Swift, re-recording her songs to own the Masters is a way for her to claim more control over her music. For other, smaller artists, it may start with researching alternative musical chords or simply knowing which part of a contract to negotiate more difficult for.

Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


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