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Taylor Swift is changing the music industry one re-record at a time – and that’s worth celebrating

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Taylor Swift is changing the music industry one re-record at a time - and that’s worth celebrating

Taylor Swift’s lockdown work ethic is making the rest of us look bad.

Not content with releasing two of 2020’s biggest albums, Folklore and Evermore, in the latter half of last year, the singer will embark on a new phase of her career on Friday when she unveils a re-recording of her 2008 album Fearless. Along with new versions of the hits that kickstarted her chart ascendancy like You Belong With Me and Love Story, she’s dusted off songs written in her late teens that didn’t make the original cut.

But why is one of the biggest, and most prolific, artists in the world focusing her creative energies on recreating old tracks almost beat for beat? Swift’s scheme is the latest chapter in a long-running struggle to reclaim her musical catalogue and in doing so she is not only making money but shaking up the music industry, giving artists more power.

Months later, Big Machine was acquired by Braun, making him owner of the star’s master recordings, the original versions of every track she had released with the company. Every time a fan, say, streamed Shake It Off or downloaded Red, Braun would now profit.

Back catalogues regularly change hands behind the scenes, but almost never make headlines (contract negotiations don’t exactly make gripping reading). This deal was different. Braun has managed some of the biggest pop acts of recent years, from Justin Bieber to Ariana Grande, he was also working with Swift’s nemesis Kanye West in 2016, when she and the rapper became embroiled in a messy dispute over a reference to her in his track Famous.

Excluded from the narrative: Swift and West had a long-running feud

/ Getty Images for NARAS

In an explosive Tumblr post (how else?) Swift described Braun’s buyout as her “worst case scenario”, accusing him of “incessant, manipulative bullying” and Borchetta of betraying her trust. “Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy,” she wrote. “Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.”

Strong words indeed, it’s no surprise that the row split the music industry down the middle. Halsey, Haim and former frenemy Katy Perry supported Swift, while Demi Lovato and Biebs backed Braun. Borchetta also weighed in, disputing in a statement (ominously titled “So, It’s Time For Some Truth”) that Swift had only learned about the sale at the eleventh hour and claiming that Swift’s father Scott, a Big Machine shareholder, would have known beforehand (the singer’s rep, however, said Scott did not join a call ahead of the deal as he would have been blocked from discussing it by “a very strict NDA”).

It wasn’t long before Swift outlined plans to re-record her first five albums, from her eponymous country debut to the all-conquering 1989, in November 2020, as soon as her contracts allowed (she can’t remake 2017’s Reputation just yet — most contracts block artists from re-recording songs until five years after the release).

Things took another turn in November 2019, when the singer claimed that Big Machine and Braun were blocking her from performing old tracks at the televised American Music Awards ceremony as “they claim that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to”. Finally, an agreement was reached — but not before Braun revealed in an open letter that he and his family had received death threats on social media. “I am certain there is no situation ever worth jeopardising anyone’s safety,” he wrote.

In her eventual AMAs performance, Swift wore a white shirt covered in the names of her six albums released with Big Machine.

Heart on her sleeve: Swift wears the name of six lost albums at AMAs

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Another twist came in November 2020, when Braun sold the masters to LA investment firm Shamrock Capital in a rumoured $300 million deal. Swift said she had been “hopeful and open to the possibility of a partnership” with Shamrock but ruled that out upon learning that “under their terms Scooter Braun will continue to profit off my old music catalogue for many years”.

Swift is certainly no stranger to public wars of words (remember the volley of Notes app statements and tweets that characterised her row with West and Kim Kardashian?) but this one feels different. It is not just another celebrity feud, this could have wide-reaching repercussions for the music industry.

Re-making her back catalogue is a financially savvy decision. As Taylor’s versions arrive online, the value of the originals will diminish — given the choice, fans will inevitably pick recordings that support Swift over ones that profit Braun (her new version of Love Story racked up 10,000 downloads within 24 hours of release; the original was downloaded 200 times in the same period).

She has revealed that she will start to license her re-recorded tracks for film and advert use, too, which will prove lucrative (Swift, who still has publishing rights on her old recordings, currently turns down these requests because doing so would — you guessed it — give Braun a pay out).

Hold the cynicism, because there’s more to Swift’s battle than turning over a mega-profit. For years, the singer has spoken out to ensure musicians are fairly remunerated in the streaming era. From 2014 to 2017, she pulled her back catalogue from Spotify over concerns about their royalties package; her 2018 record contract with Universal was hailed as a game changer when she revealed that the label had made a huge promise — that if the company sold off its Spotify shares, it would share out some of that profit to all the artists on its roster.

Swift is one of few artists with the power and profile to create change in the music world — when she acts, the industry listens. In reclaiming her masters, and drawing attention to the saga surrounding it, she has made a dramatic statement about the importance of artists owning their work and refusing to let others capitalise on their creativity. Sure, she’s a multi-millionaire but in using her platform in this way, she’s galvanising other, less established artists to fight for a better deal.

“Hopefully […] kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation,” she wrote in one tweet. “You deserve to own the art you make.” Indeed, Swift’s experience has prompted other female musicians to speak out about their struggles in a male-dominated industry yet to have its #MeToo moment.

You deserve to own the art you make

Singer Sky Ferreira said that she too “signed contracts when I was 15 [and] I’m still paying the consequences for it. Every contract I have ever signed has always been set up to take advantage of me/my work in some way”. Fellow musician Halsey, meanwhile, suggested that industry bosses “are protected because they inspire complicity with fear.” This saga has served to underline the inevitable power imbalance of a world where older men pull the strings of even supposedly empowered female acts.

When Swift wrote in her AMA statement that “the message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished”, it wasn’t hard to imagine her smiling through similar exhortations over her 15-year career. She doesn’t have to grin and bear it any more.

Swift has the clout to change the music industry

/ AFP/Getty Images

Fearless, Swift’s bestselling album to date, is her second record, but feels like the right place for this musical do-over to begin. These songs feature some of her most personal stories, tales of female friendships and growing up and first loves that formed the bedrock of her career.

Knowing that a bunch of faceless, doubtless male execs were profiting from those outpourings felt deeply unpalatable — now fans can listen to some of her best-loved tracks in good conscience.

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‘Finding this community is huge’: story of world’s first homosexual rugby group captured on film

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‘Finding this community is huge’: story of world’s first gay rugby team captured on film

Eammon Ashton-Atkinson was searching for an fulfilling way to counteract the proverbial Heathrow Injection, the immediate weight acquire that can befall new arrivals in London, when he listened to about the Kings Cross Steelers.

The world’s to start with gay rugby club was fashioned in 1995 by a group of good friends consuming in a pub near the station, and has because develop into a trail-blazing force in LGBTQ rugby, central to a globally network of extra than 70 inclusive golf equipment. Russell Tovey’s boyfriend Steve Brockman is on the staff (he wears rainbow socks for game titles). Now it is the matter of a new documentary, Steelers.

Ashton-Atkinson, an Australian Television set producer who moved listed here at the finish of his twenties, experienced an innate enthusiasm for rugby, but he hadn’t had considerably to do with the match since his schooldays, when he was the goal of vicious homophobic bullying that peaked in sports activities lessons.

“I got known as each title beneath the sunlight to the level wherever I would just go down to the audio area and practise the piano rather,” he remembers.

Fast ahead a 10 years or so, and Ashton-Atkinson reached out to the Steelers, only to understand the squad was oversubscribed. “I observed out in which they ended up teaching and rocked up in any case,” he remembers. “I’m pretty persistent, and when I moved to London I experienced this sense of, it is now or never”.

He was hooked right away. “For people of us who had been excluded from activity at college, who had been instructed we did not belong or designed to really feel not comfortable, obtaining this particular neighborhood in which you go to war with your mates is substantial,” he claims.

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Acquiring beforehand struggled with his psychological overall health, Ashton-Atkinson states he benefited enormously from rediscovering rugby with out fearing the intolerance that had marred his childhood activities. In 2018, the workforce was getting ready to travel to Amsterdam to take part in the Bingham Cup — a biannual intercontinental tournament named following Mark Bingham, a gay rugby player who saved life by aiding to end United Flight 93 from reaching its focus on all through the 9/11 attacks — when Ashton-Atkinson endured an damage that would maintain him from playing.

Not information with spectating, he rented some cinema-common machines and established about filming the tour for what would come to be his new documentary, Steelers.

For the film, Ashton-Atkinson turned his digital camera on teammates like Andrew McDowell, an African-Colombian American within centre whose besequinned off-pitch drag persona Drewalicious raises eyebrows between the club’s aged guard, and Welshwoman Nic Evans, the Steelers’ then-director of rugby who talks movingly about her possess activities as a girl navigating the male-dominated earth of rugby, and her tireless devotion to her fees. “I imagine their self esteem is a thin veil more than a deficiency of self-belief,” she problems all through the movie.

Recreation faces: Steelers player Steve Brockman, previously mentioned left, with his boyfriend, Russell Tovey

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But Ashton-Atkinson states the person who has struck the most resonant chord with audiences is a man who initially didn’t want to take part at all. In contrast to Ashton-Atkinson, 38-calendar year-aged Simon Jones was a rugby insider whose formative decades ended up invested steeped in the tradition of the game.

“My parents lived 30 seconds from Moseley Rugby Club in Birmingham, and I try to remember campaigning for them to get me about the road from a incredibly younger age,” he tells me in excess of Zoom.

A common younger man who “was into anything that was outdoor and sporty”, Jones states he realized that he was homosexual from the age of 10 but feared that his sexuality would upend his “happy” existence. He settled to stay a solitary psychological existence, with the family’s pet canine Rolo his template for uncomplicated devotion to other people. “I always say I dependent my lifetime decisions around a black Labrador,” he jokes in one particular of the film’s most poignant moments.

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Jones put in his twenties ascending the occupation ladder in London when enjoying competitively for golf equipment in this article and in Birmingham, devoting every single instant of leisure time to his rugby buddies. He was, he jokes, “the most reliable wingman at Infernos ever”, referring to the Clapham High Avenue nightclub, an infamous den of exuberant twentysomething heterosexuality.

“I definitely imagined that I’d be ready to cope,” Jones tells me. “And then when truth hit, I just shed handle of the circumstance.”

Protracted durations of immobilising melancholy preceded an personal injury that manufactured him re-appraise his foreseeable future in rugby. His subsequent rehabilitation gave him the self esteem to achieve out to Steelers in his early thirties, and his loved ones have been supportive considering that he produced the decision to come out. “Steelers was a lifeline in terms of me becoming in a position to consider what daily life could be like on the other aspect of my isolation,” he suggests.

A handsome, sociable, effective law firm who talks animatedly about his need to enable long run generations of homosexual gamers via his affiliation with Steelers, Jones is the first to accept how incongruous it looks that somebody like him living in 21st century London ought to have had to continue to be closeted for so very long. It would have aided enormously, he states, experienced there been prominent illustrations of openly homosexual players at the very top of the match he liked.

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Of pioneers these as Gareth Thomas, the former Wales global who designed heritage by coming out to the close of his profession in 2009, Jones says: “They are surprisingly courageous but it hasn’t been straightforward for them — they’ve endured substantial emotional turmoil and sacrifice.

“For all the progress, we’re evidently however not in a location where folks can just breeze by means of remaining by themselves, and I’m truly searching ahead to that working day.”

Ashton-Atkinson’s film only begun to consider form a 12 months right after the Steelers returned from Amsterdam, when Wallabies star Israel Folau — 1 of the most important names in Australian rugby and a guy with a historical past of homophobic tweeting — took to Instagram with a publish declaring that “Hell Awaits” homosexuals. It led to the termination of his $4 million contract with Rugby Australia.

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Reviews like Folau’s “are just stupid and unnecessary, and they lead to actual harm”, states Ashton-Atkinson. LGBT persons are much more possible to encounter mental wellbeing difficulties, homelessness and domestic abuse when when compared with the normal populace.

But the Folau episode did at least supply the impetus for Ashton-Atkinson, who married a Steelers teammate and now lives in Washington DC, to dig out his footage from the Bingham Cup and start out making Steelers the motion picture.

It seems ironic that Folau — who is presently trying a return to the Australian recreation with marketing assistance from the country’s Christian Foyer — ought to have inadvertently presented lifestyle to a movie that’s these types of a persuasive testimony to the energy of inclusive activity. And this week it starts streaming to the international audience it warrants. Wonderful attempt, mate.

Steelers is on Amazon Prime now

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