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From “Dumbest Idea Ever” to Billion Dollar Empire: How Kelly Clarkson Inadvertently Caused the Rise of Taylor’s Version

Kelly Clarkson’s Suggestion That Revolutionized Taylor Swift's Career
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“@taylorswift13 just a thought, U should go in & re-record all the songs that U don’t own the masters on exactly how U did them but put brand new art & some kind of incentive so fans will no longer buy the old versions. I’d buy all of the new versions just to prove a point,” Kelly Clarkson tweeted amidst fellow singer Taylor Swift’s battle with Scooter Braun over her masters. Many thought it was “the dumbest idea ever.” But with the success of (Taylor’s Version), it’s reached legendary status. As fans said, it aged like fine wine. 

Rewind: Swift vs. Braun

2019 was a tough year for Swift, with Scooter Braun purchasing her former record label, Big Machine, along with the masters of her first six studio albums. And that wasn’t even the worst part. She only learned about it at the same time the whole world did. She tried to purchase it herself for years, as stated in her Tumblr post, but she was given unfavorable conditions. 

She wrote, “I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future.”

Did Kelly Clarkson give Taylor Swift the idea to re-record her music?

In the midst of the heated battle, Clarkson gave Swift sage advice and a lifeline. She suggested through X (formerly called Twitter) that she should re-record her albums. Fans saw this as a brilliant business move, but some questioned the need for it. 

While some flat-out thought it was “the dumbest idea ever.” 

But for the most part, people were skeptical, though it wouldn’t be unprecedented for an artist to go down that path. 

Skepticism: Can Taylor Swift Really Re-Record Her Old Songs?

Following Clarkson’s tweet, debates and discussions about whether Swift could really re-record her old songs flooded the Internet and social media. After all, she wouldn’t be the first. In an article published by Variety, they cited the ‘80s rock band Def Leppard, who refused to allow Universal Music to use any of their original recordings for anything other than physical products. 

Music legal experts thought it was worth a try, but they doubted that Taylor could do it right away due to common “re-recording restrictions,” which typically run from two to three years after the agreement or five years after releasing the track. JoJo also went through a similar situation, and she fought for seven years to earn back her albums. 

Behind The Revolutionizing Idea

In her appearance on the special Sunday edition of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon a few months after her tweet went viral, the American Idol alum revealed that she actually got the idea from her then-mother-in-law, Reba McEntire. She shared that it was exactly what McEntire did to own her masters. Taylor was an artist who had been writing songs since she was a little girl, so she understood why it was vital for her to get complete ownership of her work. 

In an interview with SXM in June 2023, Clarkson shared that she didn’t know much about Swift’s situation when she tweeted her career-revolutionizing suggestion. She said that all she heard was the fact that the singer wanted to own the songs she had written. That was it. And even if she hadn’t said it, Clarkson believed Swift would’ve come up with that on her own – maybe she already knew about it way before she posted the tweet. 

What is the Difference Between Fearless and Taylor’s Version?

A month after Clarkson made the suggestion, despite widespread skepticism, Swift announced her intention to rerecord her first six albums. Two years later, she dropped her first: Fearless (Taylor’s Version). 

Talking with PEOPLE, she outlined the process behind her re-recording her project. Production-wise, she wanted to stay loyal to the original melodies. But if there was anything they felt they could improve upon the sonic quality, they did. That is, they went in with a mindset to create “the same but better” version. As for the vocals, she was very detailed, going through the songs line by line. 

But it wouldn’t be Swift if it didn’t come with a twist. For Taylor’s Version, she gifted fans with never-before-released tracks, which she called “From the Vault.” These were the ones that were cut from the album at the time. She then followed with Red TV in the same year. And then, in 2023, she released Speak Now TV and 1989 TV. 

Overturning Skepticism: The Success Story

RELATED: Top 15 Taylor Swift Country Hits: Our Favorites from Her Catalog

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Swift dominated the music scene when she released her first re-record. And it only got bigger from there. In fact, 1989 TV sold 1.65 million copies in its first week, outselling the first week of the original 1989. Take note, she isn’t even done yet. She still has two left: her self-titled debut album and, of course, Reputation.  

Kelcie Schofield, a 2023 graduate from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business who wrote a case study on the sale of Swift’s masters, said that people expected it to be huge. But no one would’ve predicted it would be this massive. “It’s not like she’s the first person to ever do this. But she’s the first person to make it a phenomenon.” 

Her re-recorded albums inspired Swift’s biggest tour yet: The Eras Tour. As of December 2023, her career-spanning tour sold over 4.3 million tickets, crossing the billion-dollar mark. And it’s projected that 2024 would make her another billion in sales. 

Nevertheless, Swift’s feet are rooted on the ground. And in every release of her project, she would send flowers to Clarkson as a thank-you, along with a gift particular to that album. The most recent was a cardigan in honor of 1989 TV. 

From Skepticism to Success

The indelible success of Swift’s re-recordings is a double-edged sword. While it empowered artists, it also prompted record labels to put clauses in place to make sure it would never happen again. But the positive still outweighed the negative, as Atty. Gandhar Savur noted that there was only so much that the companies could do to prevent it. “Artist representatives are going to push back against that, and a certain standard is ingrained in our industry that is not easy to move away from.”

To Kelly Clarkson, it was a harmless suggestion. All she wanted to do was extend help to a fellow singer who wanted and deserved to own her life’s work. To Swift, it was a passion project to reclaim the music she had worked so hard for despite the skepticism. Now, “the dumbest idea ever” ended up becoming the biggest and most empowering thing they both had ever done. 

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