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Taylor Swift Signs New Deal With Universal Music Group

Variety logo Variety 11/19/2018 Chris Willman
a person in a dark room © Provided by Variety

Taylor Swift has signed a 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.

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 Records—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, a source close to the situation tells Variety that a key element of the deal was a guarantee that UMG will share with artists the proceeds from the expected sale of its Spotify equity next year, and make them non-recoupable against the artists’ earnings, as Sony Music has done.

“In the same vein as her Apple letter [in 2015], Taylor Swift negotiated a history-making record deal that positively affects artists,” the source said. “She knew she had an incredible amount of leverage and could have used that to get her own previous masters back, or to merely focus on getting the biggest cash advance for herself but instead, the most important thing to her was to negotiate a better deal regarding Spotify payments for Universal artists and make them non-recoupable.” In 2015, Swift wrote a letter to Apple slamming the company for not paying artist royalties during its free-trial period; the following day, the company changed that policy. Further details about Swift’s new Universal deal were not immediately available, although UMG Chairman and CEO Lucian 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.”

Monte Lipman, founder and CEO, of Republic Records 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.

Related video: Shawn Mendes has Taylor Swift to thank for helping him over his stage nerves (Provided by Splash News):

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