I was in fifth grade when Taylor Swift’s “Red” album came out. I remember using an iTunes gift card to download the album to my iPod Touch. At the age of 11, I had never known heartache, but I could tell that Swift was determined to overcome whatever came her way.
I always admire the way Swift holds up in public conflict and continues to stand up for herself. His recent decision to re-record some of his 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 story 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 then sold these masters to Shamrock Capital. The purchase included the masters of 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 its work.
Unfortunately, Ithaca Holdings is owned by Scooter Braun. Swift has endured Braun’s “relentless and manipulative bullying” through her clients – clients such as Justin Bieber and Kanye West have a bad history with Swift. In 2009, West interrupted his acceptance speech at the VMAs. A few years later, Kim Kardashian, West’s wife at the time, disclosed a Snapchat phone call between Swift and West regarding her song “Famous”. This song contains the line “I feel like myself and Taylor could still be having sex / Why?” I made this b— famous.
Bieber then posted a screenshot of a FaceTime call with Braun and West with the caption “Taylor Swift what’s up”. In response, Swift said, “It’s Scooter Braun, who bullied me on social media when I was at my low point. He’s about to own all the music I’ve ever made. Taylor has also. noted the irony that his “musical legacy is about to be in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it”.
Why Swift Re-Re-Recording?
Because Swift does not own the masters of her first six albums, she made the decision to re-record them. This allows him to earn money from re-recorded albums and own his work, effectively collecting them from Braun.
Other artists have already re-recorded songs. But Swift is unique as her career is at its peak and she has made her reason for re-recording clear. Swift, a prominent female artist, has taken a stand against someone who hurt her, Braun. His re-recordings topped the charts – a testament to his success in recovery. Seeing re-recordings gain in popularity shows that she has moved beyond exploitation, a common injustice faced by women in the music industry.
Exploitation of women in the music industry
In 2020, men made up 98% 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 particularly illustrated by the idea 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, pushed by the constant presence of cameras, sometimes stopped eating. 41.6% of female artists suffer from an eating disorder, compared to 18.27% of male artists. And that’s just one of the ways the music industry continues to hurt women.
Swift’s re-recordings open the door to an honest conversation about exploitation and disparities in the music industry. Currently, the songs of female pop stars that dominate the charts seem to be the ones about sexism. For example, “Mad Woman” by Swift on her album “Folklore” explains how men use their power to make a woman “mad”. Likewise, Miley Cyrus detailed her experience as a woman in the music industry with her song “Golden G String” on her album “Plastic Hearts”.
Even with a few female success stories like Swift, the gender gap in pop music continues to widen and female artists continue to suffer. Pop stars have started using their music platform to highlight sexism in industries. Doing so by re-recording albums accomplishes this on a whole new level. Swift’s re-recordings not only draw attention to her feud with Braun, but also to women’s experiences in the music industry.
I grew up listening to Swift shamelessly sing about the ups and downs of love, despite reviews saying, “All of her songs are about her exes.” She has remained true to herself in her music. Growing up, I saw Taylor stay true to his music by pursuing these re-recordings. Being a Swift fan teaches me and many others how to confidently use their voices to speak out against injustice.