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Kelly Clarkson told Taylor Swift to re-record all of her music. Could that really work?

Taylor Swift calls out music exec
Taylor Swift calls out music exec 02:49

After Scooter Braun acquired Taylor Swift's entire music catalogue, the talent manager and the pop star engaged in a public feud that emboldened other artists to weigh in. While several celebrities showed support for Swift, she still didn't get what she wanted — control over her music. 

Kelly Clarkson offered one possible solution for Swift. "U should go in & re-record all the songs that U don't own the masters on exactly how U did them but put brand new art & some kind of incentive so fans will no longer buy the old versions," Clarkson wrote to Swift on Twitter. "I'd buy all of the new versions just to prove a point."

While this sounds like a lot of work, it's something some artists have resorted to in the past. Swift, like most artists, never owned her own music. Big Machine Label Group, the record label she signed with at the age of 15, owned her whole discography which she recorded under them.

When Scooter Braun bought the company, he also acquired all of Swift's masters, which was her "worst case scenario," she said in a lengthy Tumblr post.

In the fiery post, Swift said Scott Borchetta, the founder of Big Machine Records, did not give her an opportunity to buy back her music. "When I left my masters in Scott's hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter," she wrote.

Most artists do not get the opportunity to buy back their music — simply because it is so expensive, or they are not given the option.

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince performs at Wembley Arena in London, March 3, 1995. Simon Kreitem/Reuters

In 1999, Prince — who at the time changed his name to The Artist Formerly Known as Prince — said he would re-record all of his music after failing to gain possession of it from Warner Bros., The Baltimore Sun reports. Re-recording the music would mean Prince owned a master copy of it and could more make money off his work. He famously compared record company contracts to "slavery."

Billboard reports Prince eventually got the masters back under the terms of a new contract with Warner Bros. in 2014, two years before his death.

Pop singer JoJo re-recorded her music when she found herself in a heated battle with Blackground Records. Because the singer, born Joanna Levesque, did not own the masters, the record company controlled what happened with her music.

When she signed with a new label, Blackground Records refused to put music from JoJo's first two albums on any streaming platforms, Billboard reports. Therefore, she had virtually no way to make money off of her old music — and her fans couldn't listen to it. 

In 2018, she found a way to get those albums back. Her solution: re-record them.

Rihanna is one of the artists who found a way to buy back her past music without re-recording it. When she fulfilled her contract with Def Jam records, she acquired the masters of all of her previous albums, Vogue reports.

Jay-Z also acquired his masters without re-recording. He did so through a unique business deal with Def Jam records. In 2004, when he signed on to be the company's president, he not only negotiated an 8-figure salary but also the return of his masters, Forbes reports.

In 2010, Forbes estimated that ownership of all of his music made Jay-Z $50 million. 

Some artists do own their masters – by either re-recording them, or buying them back. Kelly Clarkson suggested Taylor Swift re-record all of her music following the Scooter Braun drama.  Getty

If an artist is able to own their own masters, they not only have control over their recordings, they also rake in a lot more money. Under typical record deals, artists hand over the rights to their music and are usually paid an advance plus about 10% to 15% in royalties, according to Forbes.

Owning his masters made Jay-Z tens of millions of dollars over the years, and this year, Forbes named him the first billionaire hip-hop artist. So an artist who acquires the rights to their music isn't only in it for justice — it's a smart business decision, too. 

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