And Finally Artist News Business News Labels & Publishers Media

iHeart pledges to only play Taylor’s versions of her records on air

By | Published on Friday 19 November 2021

Taylor Swift

US broadcaster iHeart has pledged to only play Taylor’s versions of Taylor’s songs, because – you know – iHeart may be the big machine of radio in the US, but that doesn’t stop it from standing up to the Big Machine of music. Which isn’t really that big a machine in the wider scheme of things, of course. Nor is the Big Machine label really a big part of this story anymore. But hey, stick with me.

So, yes, iHeart has announced that it is replacing tracks from the original versions of Taylor Swift’s ‘Fearless’ and ‘Red’ albums with the new versions she’s released this year on its servers, so that only the new versions will get aired on its radio stations. And it will do the same with tracks from her other Big Machine released albums once any re-records have been made and put out.

Swift, of course, pledged to re-record the six albums she released with indie label Big Machine after it – and the rights in those recordings – were bought by Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.

Her record contract with Big Machine included the customary restrictions on re-records of old songs, but as soon as those restrictions started lifting the big re-record project began – even though, by that point, Braun’s company had sold the rights in the Big Machine versions of her albums to equity outfit Shamrock.

‘Taylor’s Version’ of ‘Fearless’ was released in April, while her new version of ‘Red’ came out last week. And although basically a project motivated to financially hurt Braun and his business partners, both have been well received.

Confirming it would only be playing Taylor’s versions of Taylor’s songs, where available, iHeartMedia’s Chief Programming Officer Tom Poleman said earlier this week: “Whenever Taylor re-records a new track, we immediately replace the old versions. Our stations will always deliver songs that artists are eager to share and fans want to hear. Listeners have made it known that they cannot wait to hear ‘Taylor’s Version’ of each track. We are THRILLED to provide a platform to share those with them, as well as the stories behind the songs from Taylor herself”.

Of course, when Taylor’s new versions of her old records are streamed – or if they are ever licensed for sync – that will financially benefit Swift and deprive Shamrock of income. And, actually, Braun and his partners – and by association the Big Machine Label Group – do lose out too, given $50 million of the $300 million the equity fund paid for the rights in the original records is reportedly dependent on how well they perform.

However, when iHeart switches to the new versions on its AM and FM radio stations, that won’t make any difference, because American broadcasters don’t pay any royalties to artists and labels – and they are still fighting hard against any proposals in US Congress that copyright law there be brought in line with much of the rest of the world when its comes to airplay.

Royalties are paid to the songwriters and music publishers, but on that side Swift will earn the same whichever version of her songs get played.

I’m sure Swift would tell you this isn’t about the money though, it’s just about getting her new versions played. Even though it definitely is about the money.