December 2, 2023


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Taylor Swift’s “1989” may be her biggest re-recording yet.  And here’s why.

Taylor Swift’s “1989” may be her biggest re-recording yet. And here’s why.

Taylor Swift’s “1989” has been in the top 20 on Billboard’s album chart for several months. Filled with some of the singer’s biggest pop hits, like “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space,” the LP was a massive hit when it was released in 2014, and this year Swift has been performing her hits in their record-breaking era. a trip.

But “1989” is about to score a surefire drop to the bottom of the chart.

That’s because Swift will release “1989 (Taylor Version)” on Friday, the latest release in her ambitious and hugely successful project to re-record her first six albums in the studio. What began a few years ago as an attempt to reclaim her music — and perhaps a taste of revenge — after selling her previous record label, has become a massive project in itself, with disastrous consequences for the original recordings.

“1989” will be the fourth of Swift’s remakes, each of which so far has opened at No. 1 with successively larger numbers. In early 2021, the “Fearless” series began selling 291,000 copies in the United States. “Red,” based on a blazing, extended 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” reached 605,000 later that year. “Speak Now” was released in July and went on to sell 716,000 copies, including an impressive 268,500 copies sold on vinyl LP.

Each one arrived with deluxe packaging, a rainbow of colorful vinyl figures and a thick insert of “stock” bonus tracks that gave fans ample material for discussion and decoding – not to mention well-timed batches of themed merchandise. Among the items that Swift sells in her online store are Jacket decorated with seagulls (similar to the new album cover), for $74.89, and a device like Old style view masterfor $19.89.

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It’s anyone’s guess how big “1989” will be, and her label, Republic Records, has refused to make any predictions. But given the trajectory of previous releases, the continuing popularity of the songs on the original album and Swift’s near-total pop-culture saturation this year — in just the past few weeks, she’s released a hit EP, hitting No. 1 with a four-year-old song that nearly topped the NFL Through her relationship with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs – the music industry is poised for a monster debut, even in a year that saw big albums from Morgan Wallen, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo and Travis Scott.

Swift has been building demand for “1989 (Taylor Version)” since announcing it in August, as she partnered with Google in an online puzzle game to uncover clues about the album’s “vault” tracks. Of course, it is has crashed Within hours.

When Swift first spoke about her intention to re-record her albums, in the summer of 2019 — shortly after music impresario Scooter Braun purchased Big Machine, Swift’s original label, for just over $300 million — the music world scratched its collective head; Most previous attempts at re-registration have had little success. But when the remake of “Fearless” came out — by which time Brown had sold Swift’s recording rights to investment firm Shamrock Capital — it became another lesson in Swift’s mastery at galvanizing her fan base.

“When I started the re-recording process with her, it was this curiosity, as no one really knew what she could do,” said Keith Caulfield, Billboard’s managing director of charts and data operations. “But they have become a phenomenon in their own right.”

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Swift’s world tour, which has played to packed stadiums since March and is scheduled to sell more than $1 billion in tickets by the time it ends next year, has generally lifted its entire catalog. At various times this year, at least 10 of her albums, including originals, have charted on the Billboard 200, the magazine’s flagship albums list.

But every time Swift releases a re-recorded album, its corresponding original version is affected. In the year after she released “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” sales of the original fell 20 percent in the United States, according to Luminate, a tracking service that provides data for Billboard’s charts. The original “red” color was reduced by about 45 percent. Neither have been on the Billboard 200 since 2021.

Jaime Marconet, senior director of music insights and industry relations at Luminate, noted how powerful this effect is on a weekly basis. In May, Swift said she would release a new song called “Speak Now” in eight weeks. “This announcement immediately led to a 75.7 percent increase in total consumption of the original,” Marconnet said. But once “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” came on, the original sank. Comparing the 14-week period before and after the new release, the original dropped by 59 percent.

On the Latest chartthe new “Speak Now” is No. 18. The old version, which was most recently No. 191, has fallen off the chart completely.

Statistics like these raise questions about the value of Shamrock’s investment, which is estimated at more than $300 million. In the short term, at least, there’s no doubt that Swift’s re-recordings have severely darkened the originals. But it may take years before it is clear whether there is a lasting effect. A Shamrock spokeswoman said no one at the company was available to discuss the matter.

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Swift is also expected to make more money from her new recordings than from her old ones, thanks to a deal she negotiated with Universal Music, Republic’s parent company, which gave her royalties to her recordings.

As Swift’s new single “1989” approaches release, the singer has been steadily promoting it on social media, and this week she shared a photo of handwritten lyrics that fans interpreted as being from an unreleased song. Truckloads of vinyl and CD copies of the new album were making their way to physical stores.

Even independent record stores are poised to do big business with the new “1989,” as they have with all of Swift’s recent releases. For some of Swift’s previous albums, issues in the supply chain meant stores didn’t always have their records on release day, said Carl Mello of Newbury Comics, a music and collectibles chain with 30 stores across the Northeast. But those issues have been resolved, and the chain expects to have about 1,600 copies ready for sale on Friday.

“I’ve been at Newbury Comics for a little over 30 years, and I’ve never seen someone occupy so many places on our top 40 vinyl record list at the same time, and continuously for months and months,” Milo said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor Swift represents 15% of our vinyl sales,” he added. “It’s unusual.”