Taylor Swift’s blockbuster re-recording of 1989 could reshape the music industry


With the release of “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” her fourth re-recorded album, Taylor Swift has never been bigger. What started as a seeming passion project to reclaim her life’s work has catapulted the 33-year-old pop artist to be the biggest living musician in the world no matter how you slice it: sales, streams, concert ticket sales, and even the box office.

The newest version of “1989 TV,” released at the end of October, sold 1.65 million copies in its first week, according to Luminate Data, making it Swift’s third album to surpass 1 million sales in the past year and the fifth best-selling week for an album of all-time. More surprising: In an era when no one buys music, it outsold the first week of even the original “1989,” considered the first apex of Swift’s career. It also dwarfs the success of her other Taylor’s Versions re-records—”Fearless,” “Red,” and “Speak Now”—which rocked the industry on their own.

“I imagine it has been beyond what she or anyone could have expected,” says Kelcie Schofield, a 2023 graduate from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business who wrote a case study on the sale of Swift’s masters that kickstarted the entire Taylor’s Version re-recording process. “It has been a career-defining endeavor.”

Swift has been releasing new versions of her first six albums after losing the rights to her master recordings. She says her musical catalogue was sold twice, despite actively trying to buy it herself (some of the parties involved dispute that characterization); the pop star has framed the project as a way to retake ownership of her art and musical legacy.

What began as Swift’s “worst case scenario” has turned into a more artistically and commercially fruitful endeavor than anyone could have imagined when she announced her intentions back in 2020. Between the re-recordings, her record-shattering Eras Tour, and her consistent ability to put out new music, Swift has created her own musical ecosystem, with each component helping to propel the success of the others. The synergy is working so well, she recently joined the ranks of billionaires, according to Bloomberg.

“I don’t think anyone could have predicted they’d be as popular as they have been,” Schofield says of the re-recordings. “You’d expect them to be huge, but they’ve been absolutely massive.”

Impacting industries far and wide

All of that is bad news for Shamrock Capital Advisors, the investment firm that bought the masters to Swift’s first six albums from music executive Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings back in 2020. Shamrock will benefit from the uptick in streams of the original versions of her songs that predictably accompany each re-release. But thanks to her songwriting credits on every song in her catalogue, Swift has been able to block other media—including movies and TV shows—from incorporating them into their productions. Radio stations and streaming platforms have also sworn their fealty to the artist, pledging to put the Taylor’s Versions onto playlists and on air, further devaluing the original recordings.

Other artists have re-recorded their music for similar reasons to Swift, to far less impact, at least in terms of sales and cultural acclaim. Thank Swift’s fans. Over her 15-plus-year career, Swift has formed a fiercely loyal community that is only growing thanks to the symbiotic relationship between the Eras Tour and the re-recordings (not to mention the Easter eggs and deep well of lore surrounding Swift and her music).

As new fans attend the tour (or watch a livestream on TikTok), they discover Swift’s older albums; when those albums are re-released, a new generation of fans get to experience the era for the first time, in real time.

“It’s not like she’s the first person to ever do this. But she’s the first person to make it a phenomenon,” says Schofield. “The Swifties are a powerful bunch.”

The effort has been so successful, in fact, that record labels—including the one Swift is currently signed to— are reportedly reworking contracts so that in the future, artists they sign cannot re-record their music for longer periods of time or at all.

Also playing into Swift’s success? Fans falling back in love with vinyl (and the pop star offering plenty of vinyl options to purchase). “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” sold 693,000 vinyl copies in its first week, a record for the modern era. The re-release is Swift’s largest traditional sales week of all time.


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