UPDATED: Taylor Swift has signed a new global recording agreement with Universal Music Group, the company announced today. Under the multi-year agreement, UMG will serve as the exclusive worldwide recorded music partner for Swift and UMG’s Republic Records will serve as her label partner in the U.S. The singer’s previous deal with Big Machine Records, which released all of her previous albums and is distributed by UMG, ended earlier this month.
According to the announcement, the multi-album agreement, effective immediately, deepens the relationship between Swift and UMG and builds upon the success she achieved with Big Machine — the label whose long-term strategic alliance with Republic Records first brought Swift into the UMG family. A ten-time Grammy winner distinguished as the youngest-ever recipient of the Grammy for Album of the Year — and the first female solo artist to win the award twice — is the only artist in history with four albums with sales of more than one million copies in their first week of release (2010’s “Speak Now,” 2012’s “Red,” 2014’s “1989” and 2017’s “Reputation”), respectively.
While terms of the deal were not announced, Swift stated in a Tumblr post that she will own her master recordings going forward, and that UMG will share with artists the proceeds from the expected sale of its Spotify equity, and make them non-recoupable against the artists’ earnings, as Sony Music has done.
“Over the years, [UMG chairman/CEO] Sir Lucian Grainge and [Republic founder/CEO] Monte Lipman have been such incredible partners. It’s so thrilling to me that they, and the UMG team, will be my label family moving forward. It’s also incredibly exciting to know that I own all of my master recordings that I make from now on. It’s really important to me to see eye to eye with a label regarding the future of our industry. I feel so motivated by new opportunities created by the streaming world and the ever-changing landscape of our industry… I also feel strongly that streaming was founded on and continues to thrive based on the magic created by artists, writers, and producers.
“There was one condition that 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. They have generously agreed to this, at what they believe will be much better terms and paid out previously by other major labels. I see this is a sign that we are headed toward positive change for creators – a goal I’m never going to stop trying to help achieve, in whatever ways I can. I’m so happy to have Sir Lucian Grainge as a partner in these efforts.
“I want to express my heartfelt thanks to [Big Machine founder] Scott Borchetta for believing in me as a 14-year-old and for guiding me through over a decade of work that I will always be so proud of. I’m extremely grateful to get to do what I love, especially with the people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. The best thing I’ve been lucky enough to receive is the dedication, trust, and loyalty of the fans who have cared about the words and melodies I’ve written. My biggest goal moving forward is to make you proud. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to show you what I’m making next.”
Further details about Swift’s new Universal deal were not immediately available, although Grainge nodded to the company’s stance on Spotify equity in his statement.
“Few artists in history approach Taylor Swift’s combination of massive global hits and creative brilliance,” Grainge said. “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.” A UMG source added to Variety that the company was “completely aligned with her approach on the treatment of equity from the outset.”
Monte Lipman said, “Taylor has not only captured the imagination of an entire generation, but has also redefined the paradigm of the modern music industry. Her commitment to songwriting and performing has earned her the respect of her peers and millions of adoring fans around the world. I can only imagine what Taylor is capable of achieving in the years to come, both culturally and creatively. I’m beyond thrilled to create an alliance with Republic Records and the incomparable Taylor Swift.”
Moments before the announcement arrived, Swift posted a photo of herself with Grainge and Lipman on Instagram.
The pop superstar became the music industry’s most eligible bachelorette on Nov. 10, when the one-year anniversary of the release of “Reputation” freed her from her contract with Big Machine Records. For months beforehand, as previously reported by Variety, industry attention had swirled around which suitors had the best shot at getting on her dance card. Reupping with Big Machine looked less likely as time went on and label chief Scott Borchetta showed little interest in giving her ownership of the master recordings of previous albums, which was believed to be a condition of her sticking around.
What does it mean for Big Machine? Borchetta has been reported to be putting the company up for sale again in recent months, with a starting asking price well into the nine-figure range. The label group has some of the biggest stars in country, including Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett — and, of course, the valuable catalog of Swift’s that they didn’t want to give up. Their opportunities to exploit that catalog are limited in areas that require a sign-off from Swift’s publishing company as well. The rumored auction of Big Machine at least offers another big mystery for the business to speculate about, now that the one about Swift’s intentions has been solved. A rep for the label did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment on Monday, although Borchetta tweeted congratulations to Swift a few hours after the deal was announced.
— Scott Borchetta (@scottborchetta) November 19, 2018