Owning your art comes at a price

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Taylor Swift is a global phenomenon of music and one of the best songwriters of this generation. She has been also crowned as the Artist of the Decade and even been called ‘The Music Industry’. She recently made history by being the first woman to win the ‘Album of the year’ at the grammys thrice and that too in three different genres.

Owning your art comes at a price
image source-pitchfork

She was also termed as the most powerful woman in 2020 along with being the first female ever to receive the Global Icon Award. And in spite of being so influential, successful and powerful, a person such as her cannot reclaim or own her works.

Right now, she is rerecording all her previous albums one by one and trying to sound really true to the original sounds and that too with the artists and musicians who worked with her previously so that the rerecording stay authentic as compared to the old ones. And these are not revamped or anything new but to stay true to the original as possible. She is doing it with her old six albums which were under her previous label, Big Machine.

This is because Big Machine owns the masters of the original recordings and they refused to sell them to her. They gave her an offer to sign a new contract where she could own her old album if she released a new album, one by one. So in total, she would need to release six new albums to own the masters of her six old ones; an offer she declined because she believed that artists should own their creative works and she wants to have full ownership and control over the final masters of her music.

When it comes to music, there comes an issue of copyright and licensing. In copyright, the artist who has made the song has ownership of that song if it is released to a medium for example, youtube. But when it comes to licensing, the distribution of that music and how it is to be used by people depends upon and is controlled by another body.

In this case while signing a contract with Big machine, Taylor’s music’s licensing rights was owned by Big machine and when she made it big, those rights became really valuable and they ended up selling the masters of Taylor Swift’s music to Ithaca holdings for 300 million dollars. And currently, she has signed a deal with Universal in which she can own the rights to her masters. And through this way, rerecording her old songs gives her the full ownership of her masters.

In fact, Taylor is not the first artist to do so. A british band ‘squeeze’ has rerecorded a number of their songs including their song ‘tempted’. And recently, Anita baker also revealed that she got to own her masters after such a long time.

But what we really need to worry about is why this is mostly happening to the females of the music industry. And if we thoroughly observe, we can find out that the most popular songs, the bestselling albums and the most sold out concerts are all belonging to the females in the music industry.

Well sadly it is because women have had to work harder and faster than their male counterparts because it is them who are constantly criticized not only for their work, but how their body looks like or their behaviour is. Artists like Ariana Grande has been a target for criticisms of how she is too old to behave and perform like a child and how young she is for showing too much skin on her music videos (ironic? Yes, I know).

Change is inevitable

For decades, it has been proven that people are not comfortable with a woman being too successful no matter which field she’s in. like Taylor Swift said in her woman of the decade speech, “And now I realize that this is just what happens to a woman in music if she achieves success or power beyond people’s comfort level. I now have come to expect that with good news comes some sort of pushback. But I didn’t know that then.” The backlash will never cease.

But the truth is that female artists will not back down and let harsh and cruel and baseless criticisms affect their art, their music and the creative fire that drives them, no. They will continue to make art and influence lives and people positively because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But what we can do is make ourselves aware about the hurdles they have to face due to being a woman in the music industry and encourage them to speak about it and provide them platforms wherein they are comfortable to speak and for the others to listen to.

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Nanda J. Devan
Nanda J. Devan
Nanda J is a passionate writer who is interested in researching the social issues and bringing them to light providing a narrative that is unbiased and multilateral. She is a law student from Kochi and also a playback singer in the Malayalam entertainment industry.

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