In the midst of his Twitter tirade against Universal over his own record contract, Kanye West has made an overture sure to send shockwaves throughout the music industry. Despite an ongoing feud that’s left the two artists in a constant passive-aggressive power struggle for the past decade, Kanye has offered to help Taylor Swift obtain control of her master recordings from Big Machine Records, citing his friendship with her former manager Scooter Braun as leverage. “I’M GOING TO PERSONALLY SEE TO IT THAT TAYLOR SWIFT GETS HER MASTERS BACK,” he tweeted. “SCOOTER IS A CLOSE FAMILY FRIEND.”
I’M GOING TO PERSONALLY SEE TO IT THAT TAYLOR SWIFT GETS HER MASTERS BACK. SCOOTER IS A CLOSE FAMILY FRIEND
— ye (@kanyewest) September 18, 2020
Over the past few days, Kanye’ tweets have brought industry standards and practices into focus — especially with regards to the terms of their contracts, which many artists have felt are unfairly titled in favor of labels. Kanye posted his own contract — and several of its amendments — page-by-page in order to illustrate to followers how complex the language and terms can be. While doing so may have undermined his point — his contracts are very favorable, relatively speaking, and he’s had the leverage to renegotiate multiple times over the past decade and a half — it also renewed interest in the inner workings of the recording industry.
Taylor Swift knows a thing or two about trying to drum up support for a crusade for ownership of her hard work. When Taylor Swift left Big Machine for Republic in 2018, she did so without the master recordings from her first few albums. After announcing that she was never given the opportunity to purchase her masters back (an accusation that Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta denies), she went on her own quest for restitution, noting that she planned to re-record her old catalog and completely cut ties with her former manager and label.
While Kanye and Taylor have had their fair share of friction over the years — in fact, enough for both entertainers’ labels’ entire rosters — Kanye’s vow could be the catalyst in finally putting their rivalry to rest for good, if he follows through. Kanye has unfortunately been known to half-ass his plans (see: his entire 2020 presidential campaign, for instance) and he’s just as likely to reverse course in a fit of pique if Taylor wears Pumas around him. But as two of the biggest pop stars in the world, for either or both to have complete control of their music could change the way the entire industry does business in the future.