Why Did Taylor Swift Re-Record Love Story? & How It Differs

In March of 2008, Love Story was released. It became one of the few country songs that have topped both its genre chart, as well as the mainstream billboard charts.

Since then, Taylor has re-recorded Love Story, as well as some of her other songs. But if it did so well, why bother? This is what we’ll share below.

Why Did Taylor Swift Re-Record Love Story?

Why Did Taylor Swift Re-Record Love Story

Taylor Swift re-recorded Love Story as she didn’t own the rights to the song. This meant she had no say in what they were used for, and didn’t make money from them. By re-recording, she now has a version which she owns and has control over.

That’s the short answer, now let’s look at the finer details.

The U.S. copyright law establishes that any music recording has two types of copyrights.

The master is one of them. The master protects the audio file created in the studio. From the master labels create copies to sell and distribute. This is the original recording of the song.

The other copyright protects the creation of the song before it was recorded. Although it may seem more important than the master, the owner of the master has the rights to all the distribution channels, be it streaming or physical media.

Enter Scooter Braun

Braun came into the possession of Swift’s masters from her first few albums, which meant that he was making money off the songs. She didn’t own the masters and therefore had no control over their use. Braun could license a Swift song for a commercial or a TV show, and if it was a product or show Swift herself hated, she couldn’t stop the use of those songs.

Swift originally signed to Big Machine Records, a Nashville label. She was a teenager and an unknown, so signing to a label like Warner Brothers was a pipe dream. But with Big Machine, she released six albums (per the contract) and had huge success. Then the contract ended.

She then signed with Republic Records, an arm of Universal, but Big Machine retained the rights to the master recordings from the work she did as part of that enterprise. And that’s common. Artists don’t usually retain the work they did for an old label.

But then Big Machine was acquired by Ithaca, an entertainment company run by music executive Scooter Braun. Ithaca paid a reported $330 million for the label, and included in the sale was Big Machine’s catalog, only part of which was the Swift master recordings.

The big blow happened right after. In 2019 Braun sold six albums’ worth of material that he neither wrote, recorded, or produced for $300 million to Shamrock Holdings. Further, any time any of the music from those masters gets played on the radio, in a movie soundtrack, or streamed online, Braun makes money from it. Swift does not.

Does This Happen Often?

Does This Happen Often

It’s not an everyday sort of occurrence, but when something like this goes down with a big star involved, things can get ugly.

You might recall when Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and made a slew of public appearances with the word “Slave” written on his face. This had to do with a dispute with his label, Warner Brothers.

He had signed a contract granting the company ownership of his music, so licensing decisions were in their hands. In Warner Brothers’ efforts to make money off Prince’s music, they tried to stop him from releasing so many albums and avoid a market surplus. He was a victim of his own prolificacy.

There was also an instance of Michael Jackson asking Sir Paul McCartney for advice regarding maintaining success in the music world. When Sir Paul told the King of Pop that the key was acquiring publishing rights, Jackson bought the rights to the Beatles’ catalog, wresting control of the music from any actual Beatles.

Both the Prince and Beatles incidents caused bitter fighting as artists tried to claw back control of their output.

To regain control of her music, Swift set out to re-record all of it, including her enormous hit “Love Story.” She hoped that fans would buy and stream the new recordings so that Braun or anyone else not named Taylor Swift wouldn’t make money from the song.

What Is the Difference Between “Love Story” and Taylor’s Version?

What Is the Difference Between “Love Story” and Taylor’s Version

The new recordings carry the parenthetical “Taylor’s Version,” and on paper, that’s supposed to be the only difference. Swift planned to make the new versions essentially the same in the hopes that they would replace the old versions in fans’ playlists.

But a lot of time passed since 2009, when “Love Story” first hit the airwaves, and 2021, when “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” came out. Production and recording technology has advanced. The backing musicians aren’t the same. And Swift is older.

None of those are bad things, by the way.

A side-by-side listen reveals a cleaner sound from the opening banjo notes of the 2021 recording, and higher fidelity allows the listener to hear things he couldn’t on that earlier recording— namely, the percussive sound of the banjo pick on the strings. It’s a subtle difference, and some people would probably even notice.

The mix is a bit different, too—there’s a violin line near the song’s end that is much more prominent on the newer recording, and the guitars are more subdued than they used to be.

There was nothing wrong with the musicians playing on the 2009 version, but the ones playing in 2021 are from Swift’s touring band, so they have a more intimate familiarity with all of the music for having played it all so much.

A More Mature Voice

The most satisfying change is in Swift’s voice. She was still a teenager when she recorded in 2009. Now in her early 30s, she has a more mature, confident, and developed voice.

Again, there was nothing wrong with her singing in 2009, but her vocals on “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” are more crisp, pronounced and richer.

Why Did Taylor Swift Re-Record Love Story? Final Thoughts

Artists have to be extremely careful with the deals they sign and how they distribute their songs. After all, this is a super lucrative business, and there will always be people that try to take advantage of creations that they don’t necessarily own.

She re-recorded “Love Story” not to fix mistakes or rewrite lyrics but to be the one in charge of the song’s destiny. And it’s working.

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