Taylor Swift Might Be About to Sign the Biggest Record Deal of the Century
Taylor Swift's current record deal is about to expire, and according to a new report, she may be about to strike the biggest deal of any artist in contemporary music.
Swift signed with Big Machine Records when she was 15, and she has spent her entire career on that label as its biggest star. According to Variety, sales of Swift's music account for a whopping 80 percent of the label's revenue, and they're trying to renegotiate her deal so she will stay. But with her enormous crossover success, she could strike a deal with any major label after her contract with Big Machine expires on Nov. 10, on the one-year anniversary of the release of her current album, Reputation.
Swift is an exceptional bargaining position; her first five albums all sold between six and 10 million copies, and in an age in which virtually no artists are selling physical product, Reputation has sold more than three million copies. Every date of the first 18 cities of her Reputation Tour sold out, and Swift has been earning between five and nine million dollars each night on the tour.
According to Variety, it's likely that Swift will be able to strike a deal in which she owns her master tapes for all future recordings, and she's trying to re-negotiate ownership of her past masters in ongoing talks with Big Machine. Several music business sources tell Variety that if Swift and Big Machine cannot come to terms, she could opt to release her own music without a label deal in the future, though she's also been talking with other major labels.
Another possible scenario would be leaving Big Machine, but remaining with another label under the Universal umbrella; for instance, Republic, whose staff has already been working Swift's music to radio since she went pop a few years ago. "This is the team partly responsible for making you one of the biggest stars the world," a source at UMG says. "To change that up midstream is a risk."
Several music insiders tell Variety Swift may strike a deal that earns her $20 million per album, and the numbers on the table are staggering. Universal is particularly interested in retaining Swift as an asset.
[Universal Music chairman] Lucian [Grainge] will do everything in his power to make sure she doesn’t go away,” an insider at the label says. “Bear in mind, UMG is looking to sell 50 percent of the company. If someone offers her $100 million, he’ll go to $120 million.”
“Taylor Swift is at an extraordinary point in her career where she can write her own ticket in regards to the commercial terms and deal structure," says Doug Davis, a top music business attorney. "If she is seeking to break financial records and extend with a major, she could have the biggest artist deal of the century so far. If she wants to be creative and choose an alternative structure for capitalization, she could create her own business model. It’s very exciting.”
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