Happy New Year Biz Talkers! As many of you probably know, Taylor Swift lost the rights to the master recordings for her first six albums, when her manager, Scooter Braun, purchased Swift’s former label, Big Machine Records.
In a very savvy business move, Taylor Swift decided to regain control over her master recordings by re-recording her songs from those albums with an eye to ward enhancing their quality and value in the marketplace. What made Swift’s move even more powerful from a business standpoint is that she continues to completely own her publishing rights to the songs themselves (the written compositions). Because of Swift’s control over her publishing, she is now able to devalue the market for the original song recordings (which she no longer owns) by using her control over her publishing rights to only grant publishing approval to third parties for use of the re-recordings of those songs that she has created under her current agreement with Universal Records.
Of course, time will tell whether the attempt to devalue the original recordings will work because this is dependent upon the commercial viability of the new recordings. However, this story does provide two very important lessons for all recording artists and songwriters. 1. Take the time to understand the rights you have under your contracts by consulting with your legal advisor, & 2. PROTECT YOUR PUBLISHING RIGHTS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Remember that there is no value in a master recording apart from the underlying written song that recording is made from. For that reason, I always say that publishing is the gift that keeps on giving, and by not controlling it, you are not only forfeiting potentially significant present income, but possibly generational income for your family! Let Taylor Swift be an example of the fact that it’s never wrong to fight for your rights in the music business and use them to your advantage. After all, it’s your art. So, PROTECT IT!