Kincart: Taylor Swift’s Re-Recordings Highlight Inequality in the Music Industry


Claire Peterson

(Graphic by Claire Peterson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sydney Kincart, Print Chief, Opinion Writer


I was in fifth grade when Taylor Swift’s “Red” album came out. I remember using an iTunes gift card to download the album onto my iPod Touch. As an 11-year-old, I had never experienced heartbreak, but I could tell that Swift was determined to overcome anything thrown her way.

I still admire the way that Swift holds her ground in public disputes and continues to stand up for herself. Her recent decision to re-record some of her albums is no exception. Swift’s re-recordings give her another platform to speak out against exploitation, which is all too common for women in the music industry.

Taylor’s History with Scooter Braun

In 2005, Swift signed to Big Machine Records at just 15 years old. Big Machine Records owned the original recordings, or “masters,” until they sold them to a private-equity group called Ithaca Holdings. Ithaca Holdings later sold these masters to Shamrock Capital. The purchase included masters to her first six albums: “Taylor Swift,” “Fearless,” “Speak Now,” “Red,” “1989” and “Reputation.” Even after the sale, Ithaca Holdings will continue to make money from her work.

Unfortunately, Ithaca Holdings is owned by Scooter Braun. Swift endured “incessant, manipulative bullying” by Braun through his clients — clients such as Justin Bieber and Kanye West have a poor history with Swift. In 2009, West interrupted her acceptance speech at the VMAs. A few years later, Kim Kardashian, West’s wife at the time, leaked a Snapchat phone call between Swift and West regarding his song “Famous.” This song contains the line “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b— famous.”

Bieber later posted a screenshot from a FaceTime call with Braun and West with the caption “Taylor Swift what up.” In response, Swift said, “This is Scooter Braun, bullying me on social media when I was at my lowest point. He’s about to own all the music I’ve ever made.” Taylor also noted the irony in that her “musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.”

Why is Swift Re-Recording?

Because Swift doesn’t own the masters of her first six albums, she made the decision to re-record them. This allows her to earn the money from the re-recorded albums and own her work, effectively reclaiming them from Braun.

Other artists have re-recorded tracks before. But Swift is unique since her career is at a high point and she’s been vocal in her reason for re-recording. Swift, a leading female artist, has taken a stand against a person who hurt her, Braun. Her re-recordings have hit top charts — a testament to her success in reclamation. Seeing the re-recordings gain popularity shows that she rose above exploitation, a common injustice faced by women in the music industry.

Female Exploitation in the Music Industry

In 2020, men made up 98 percent of producers in the music industry. This allows for the perpetuation of power dynamics like those seen between Swift and Braun. Women often face sexist attitudes and power imbalances in the industry.

This is especially exemplified by the notion that a woman’s appearance goes hand-in-hand with her success. Not only is this attitude overtly sexist, but it triggers health problems. Swift, pressured by the constant presence of cameras, stopped eating at times. 41.6 percent of female artists have an eating disorder, compared to 18.27 percent of male artists. And this is only one of the ways the music industry continues to harm women.

Swift’s re-recordings open the door to an honest conversation about exploitation and disparities in the music industry. Currently, the songs from female pop stars that dominate the charts seem to be those about sexism. For example, Swift’s “Mad Woman” on her album “Folklore” talks about how men use their power to make a woman “mad.” Similarly, Miley Cyrus detailed her experience as a woman in the music industry with her song “Golden G String” on her “Plastic Hearts” album.

Even with a few female success stories like Swift, the gender gap in pop music continues to grow and female artists continue to suffer. Pop stars have started using their music platform to highlight sexism in the industries. Doing so through re-recording albums accomplishes this on an entirely new level. Swift’s re-recordings not only draw attention to her feud with Braun, but the experiences of women in the music industry.

I grew up listening to Swift unabashedly sing about the highs and lows of being in love, despite critics saying, “all of her songs are about her exes.” She held true to herself in her music. As I’ve grown up, I’ve watched Taylor hold true to her music by pursuing these re-recordings. Being a Swift fan teaches me and many others to be confident in using their voices to speak out against injustice.


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