Girl Bossing (Taylor's Version)

August 10, 2023

By Julie C. Hancock

Like most everyone, I have been transfixed by Taylor Swift over the years - especiallythe last two. When she dropped her surprise albums, Folklore and Evermore in 2020, it was the highlight of an otherwise godawful year. And then, Taylor took the universe by storm even further; since 2021, she’s been re-releasing her earlier albums, so far with Fearless Taylor’s Version (TV), Red TV, Speak Now TV, and just announced last week 1989 TV, which will release in October.  

Taylor’s 2023 Eras Tour has been one of the most talked about musical outings in years. Data from research company QuestionPro is predicting that the first leg of Taylor’s tour could generate some $4.6 billion in consumer spending in the U.S. alone. Media has even coined the phrase, “Taylornomics”, to explain the phenomenon of her fans pumping dollars into local economies wherever her tour stops, which includes hotels, restaurants, bars, beauty services, fashion retailers, and even fashion-forward protective earwear. In fact, each concert goer is estimated to have spent an average $1,300 to attend a show.  

And let’s not forget that when tickets for the Eras Tour went on sale, Ticketmaster’s site crashed, which eventually led to a congressional hearing. Taylor is and always has been a force of nature. And watching that evolve to even greater power over the years fills me with wonder and inspiration. She’s showing us Girl Bossing (Taylor’s Version) is the path to success.

Pay attention, girl bosses and creators.

From early on in my attachment to the music industry, I learned how record companies are the actual owners of songs created by the artists. I never fully understood until later in life why, or how, that happened. Now, as a copyright attorney, I have a clear picture.

The why is easy: money and control. If you’ve ever wondered why you should register your creative works and safeguard them, look no further than the music industry for an example.

Record labels know the potential value of the master recording, and separately, the value in the composition and lyrics of a song.

What most labels can't predict on the front end is whether a record or artist will become a “hit.” Instincts may dictate what is worth a gamble, but it’s just as likely that something no one ever suspected could blow up as the next big thing. That’s why they make sure to contractually obtain the rights to the master recordings, so they get the royalties.

And that’s why Taylor Swift was met with an unfair deal when she wanted to buy her masters for her hit albums from her label, who owned them.  

Instead, those masters ended up in the hands of someone she would never want to own them. (You can read more details here.)

Ownership under U.S. copyright law can be bought, sold, inherited, contracted, and also, devalued.

Taylor created these songs, recorded them, and they became hits. The record label, no doubt, made a significant amount of money off the master recordings they owned, as well as other aspects of her career as contractually agreed. Taylor wanted to pay money to her record label to gain control over those masters. But instead of offering her a fair deal for that ownership, they offered her ownership of one album instead of all the albums of hers under their control. Then they sold the label to Scooter Braun.

Being Boss Lady (TV), she said, “Okay, fine, you want to profit off my hard work and have control over it? Hold my beer.”

And she began the process of re-recording those albums - Taylor’s Version. Reports like this one from Billboard on Speak Now TV are an indication of the magic that is happening, and indeed growing, with Taylor’s versions of her hit albums. It seems like Scooter Braun’s investment into Taylor’s masters won’t deliver the returns he hoped for.

Whether this outcome is Taylor’s goal or not (and something tells me it's crossed her mind), she is masterfully devaluing her previous masters by creating versions that fans will cherish even more deeply than the first time around. She’s recording new performances of songs she wrote and owns, creating new masters, or new copyright-protected works, owned by her. She’s also adding tracks to the collections from “The Vault” that previously were not included Likewise, she is extending versions of songs included on the original album (“All Too Well” for example) and adding featured artists to update songs. And by doing this she is significantly increasing the value of these new versions. For her fans, when given the choice to buy the original versions or Taylor’s Versions, it’s obvious what they will choose.

Are you ready for it? Here’s the lesson.

If you create art, in whatever form, there is monetary value in that art. And it is not always easy to predict what will go viral, become the next big “jam” or blockbuster movie, or any other type of work people want to own. So take care of your copyrights. These are valuable. And if you’re not careful, someone else might see the value where you do not yet see it and take advantage of that. You don't have to be Taylor’s Version of famous to be concerned about this. Who knows if tomorrow you're the next big TikTok star?

If you want to be a successful girl boss, keep an eye on T-Swift. There are lessons we all can learn from her that do not involve “leaning in” to a man’s world.

Now, please excuse me, I need to make friendship bracelets and put together my outfits for the second leg of the Eras Tour, and get ready to listen to 1989 TV.

Photo is my own, taken at the Eras Tour Minneapolis June 24, 2024.

Editor and Contributor: Kelly Hanlon

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