Taylor Swift has played the end game to perfection by securing a blockbuster new deal with Universal Music Group and, by the looks of it, creating a better playing field for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of recording artists.
Swift, arguably the biggest pop star on the planet right now, has teamed up with the world’s top music company for a multi-year, global recording agreement.
Financial terms were not disclosed, though it’s safe to say UMG broke the bank to secure the services of a superstar who smashes sales and box office records for fun.
What we do know is this:
TayTay was out of contract with Big Machine and had the upper hand in any negotiation. And she apparently used that checkmate to empower her new labelmates.
Writing on her Instagram after the deal was made public overnight, Swift said: “There was one condition which meant more to me than any other deal point. As part of my new contract with Universal Music Group, I asked that any sale of their Spotify shares result in a distribution of money to their artists, non-recoupable.”
She continued, “They have generously agreed to this, at what they believe will be much better terms than paid out previously by other major labels. I see this as a sign that we are headed towards positive change for creators – a goal I’m never going to stop trying to help to achieve, in whatever ways I can. I’m so happy to have Sir Lucian Grainge as a partner in these efforts.”
In the same post, Swift confirmed that, as part of her new UMG deal, she will retain ownership of the masters of her future recordings. According to Billboard, sources say that Universal will license Swift’s new masters for many years, in order to get returns on its investment.
So, in effect, Taylor wins big time, while UMG has the privilege of representing the top name in pop as its exclusive worldwide recorded music partner (in the U.S., UMG’s Republic Records will serve as her label partner).
“Few artists in history approach Taylor Swift’s combination of massive global hits and creative brilliance,” comments Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group in a statement announcing the deal.
“She is so multi-talented, she can achieve anything. I have such enormous respect for Taylor, in particular for her use of her hard-earned influence to promote positive change.
“Because of her commitment to her fellow artists, not only did she want to partner with a company that understood her creative vision and had the resources and expertise to execute globally on her behalf, she also sought a partner whose approach to artists was aligned with hers.
“With these shared beliefs, there is so much we can accomplish together, and all of us at UMG are enormously proud to be embarking on the next chapter of her career alongside her.”
Local UMG territories aren’t commenting on the new agreement.
TayTay is used to getting what she wants. In 2015, Apple Music changed its policy on withholding payments to artists during its “free” three-month trial period for new customers, after she withheld her then latest album, 1989, from the streaming platform.
She then penned an open letter detailing the tech giant’s failures to support the content creators. Apple’s chiefs listened. And they back-pedalled, fast.
Earlier, in November 2014, Swift yanked her entire catalog from Spotify, just days before releasing 1989, blaming the streaming giant’s “freemium” model as devaluing art.
With her new deal, Swift waves goodbye to Big Machine after more than a decade. As previously reported, Big Machine Label Group, which is home to TayTay’s catalogue and has a long line of country stars on its books, had been engaged in talks with potential suitors. Bids are reportedly topping the $300 million mark.
Swift is a no-questions-asked superstar who has sold more than 32 million albums in the U.S. alone. And when her most recent album, Reputation, shifted 1.216 million copies in its first week in the U.S. She became the first-ever artist to land four million-selling weeks.
She’s a ten-time Grammy winner and is the youngest person in history to win the Grammy for album of the year. Indeed, she has won it twice, a feat no other female solo artist has achieved.
Earlier this month, she completed the Australian leg of her 53-date Reputation Stadium Tour.
Lars Brandle has reported at the frontline of the international music industry for almost 20 years. A former musician, Lars joined the American music trade “bible” Billboard in 2000 and went on to serve as Global News Editor, based in London. Now Billboard’s Australia correspondent and senior writer with The Industry Observer, Lars’ voice has been heard on CNN, the BBC and ABC, American Public Media's Marketplace and South Africa's EastCoast Radio, and he has spoken at Midem in Cannes, Music Matters in Singapore, Amsterdam Dance Event, London's City Showcase and at industry gatherings on both sides of the Tasman. His works have been published by Reuters, Media Week, Spin, and The Hollywood Reporter, and he has featured as a pundit in the Australian Financial Review, Business Review Weekly and Britain’s The Independent.