How Streaming Services Are Telling a Different ‘Love Story’ With Taylor Swift’s Re-Recorded Version

Taylor Swift
Republic Records

Taylor Swift’s campaign to re-record her first six albums — the rights to which she feels were unfairly sold to a group of investors led by Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun in 2019 — bore its first fruit on Thursday night as she dropped a new version of “Love Story,” the song that was in many ways her introduction to the world.

Swift’s motivation in re-recording her first six albums is about ownership of her creative work, a crusade that she has said she hopes will inspire other artists to rail against a music industry that in many ways has been anything but artist-friendly. Re-recordings are hardly a new phenomenon: many artists, from multiplatinum pop-metal quintet Def Leppard to ‘80s alt-rockers the Chameleons, have re-recorded songs from their catalogs in order to create a new master recording that they (or another entity) own and receive income from, rather than the company that originally released those recordings. But Swift’s situation is intended also to shine a brighter light on music industry contracts in general, which traditionally place the artist at a substantial disadvantage regarding ownership of their work.

So how is that industry, particularly the streaming services that are the main platform for music fans today, handling Swift’s new-old song? On Spotify, searching for “Taylor Swift Love Story” brings up the original version as the top result, with the new recording — billed “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” — appearing seventh, below various remixes and a live version.

However, the new version comes up first in the next category down, “Albums,” along with various covers and karaoke takes of the song, all of which have the words “Taylor Swift Love Story” in the title.

The new version is featured in Spotify’s “New Music Friday” and “Valentine’s Day Love” playlists (both of which were updated on Thursday night), although not “Today’s Top Hits” (which favors numerically proven hits). Both versions of the song appear in multiple user-created playlists; the original version in many more, but it had a 12-year head start.

Oddly, on Tidal the new version takes some digging to find — it’s not featured on the home page, and even a search places it far down the list of official recordings and remixes, but that search seems to be chronologically based. The new version does appear on Tidal playlists, including “New Arrivals,” “Pop” and “Love Ya Valentine.”

On Apple Music, a search of “Love Story” brings up “Taylor’s Version” first, followed by the original. As of the time of this writing, when you bring up the service’s “Taylor Swift” playlist, which ranks her songs by popularity, the new version does not yet appear — but that’s not a case of newbie suppression; the list is still noted as being “updated yesterday,” even though the image being used for the list is the cover art for the new version’s. In that slightly dated ranking from Thursday, compiled before the release of the new single, the Big Machine “Love Story” sits at No. 4, behind three of the songs Swift released this past year, suggesting that fans did take a somewhat avid interest in revisiting the old song before the new one arrived.

As would be expected, “Taylor’s Version” did immediately top the more regularly updated iTunes sales chart shortly after its midnight Thursday release and remains there as of mid-day Friday. The old version is not anywhere in the top 100 listed by iTunes.

On Amazon Prime Music, a search for “Taylor Swift Love Story” brings up a listing that has the Big Machine version first and Swift’s new one is relegated to second position. Moving over to the digital tracks bestseller list on Amazon, though, as with the iTunes sales ranking, “Taylor’s Version” is listed as the top seller and the old one does not appear.

On YouTube, unlike Amazon, doing a search on “Taylor Swift Love Story” brings up the new version first and the old version second. That emphasis on freshness in search results is even though the Big Machine version has accumulated 572 million views since 2008 and the lyric video for the fresh remake had, as of 2:30 p.m. ET Friday, about 14 hours after its release, a “mere” 3.5 million looks.