Less than one month after becoming a free agent, Taylor Swift announced on Monday (Nov. 19) that she’s signed a new worldwide record deal with Universal Music Group, with UMG’s Republic as her U.S. partner.
In an Instagram post announcing the deal, Swift posed with Universal Music Group Chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge and Republic Records CEO Monte Lipman, writing, “I’m ecstatic to announce that my musical home will be Republic Records and Universal Music Group. Over the years, Sir Lucian Grainge and 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’ll own all of my master recordings that I make from now on.”
The move means Swift is departing Big Machine, her label home since 2006. Swift has sold more than 32 million albums in the U.S. alone. Even in a streaming world with diminishing sales, Swift’s sales numbers remain daunting. Reputation sold more than 1 million copies in its first week, making Swift the only act to have four million-selling weeks, with four different albums, since Nielsen began tracking in 1991. Her biggest-selling album in the U.S. is 2008’s Fearless at 7.2 million copies. Republic had handled promotion of Swift’s singles to radio for several years. In her Instagram post, Swift expressed “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.”
Under the terms of the deal, sources say that Universal will license Swift’s new masters for many years, in order to get returns on its investment. Typically, such long-term licensing agreements include an option for the artist to renew the licensing deal when it expires. The deal with Swift is UMG’s third with a global superstar this year, following its expansion of its deal with the Rolling Stones this summer and a new agreement with Elton John. Industry executives see these as major wins for the global record company model given that it’s easier than ever for such mega-acts to license their music directly to streaming services.
UMG is still actively pursuing the purchase of Big Machine, which owns Swift’s first six albums, sources say, though add that the Nashville label is still in play.
In a statement Grainge said, “Few artists in history approach Taylor Swift’s combination of massive global hits and creative brilliance. 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.”
“Taylor has not only captured the imagination of an entire generation, but has also redefined the paradigm of the modern music industry,” added Monte Lipman, founder and CEO, of Republic Records. 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.”
In celebrating her new home, Swift made it clear that owning her own masters was a big part of the deal, as well as having a forward-thinking outlook on the business. “It’s really important to me to see eye to eye with a label regarding the future of our industry,” she wrote. “I feel so motivated by new opportunities created by the streaming world and the ever changing landscape of our industry.” She also advocated for her fellow artists, making it a negotiating point that any share of UMG’s Spotify shares result in distribution of money to their artists, non-recoupable.
Depending on the year, Swift’s portion of Big Machine’s U.S. sales and streaming activity ranges from the 21.2% of the labels total in 2016 to the 56.6% she had in 2015. In 2017, she comprised 41.2% and so far this year, her sales and streaming account for 34.1%, according to Billboard calculations using Nielsen Music data.
Big Machine did not immediately respond for a request for comment.
Assistance in preparing this story provided by Hannah Karp.