Taylor Swift just joined the Big Three — and that's not a This Is Us reference. Monday, Swift revealed on Instagram that Republic Records, a label under the Universal Music Group, is her new record label, marking a significant shift for the artist who has been the biggest freelancer in the business since the release of reputation fulfilled her contract with Big Machine Records.
"Over the years, Sir Lucian Grainge and Monte Lipman have been such incredible partners. It's so thrilling to me that they, and the UMG team, will be my label family moving forward," Swift wrote in an artful Instagram post.
As part of this deal, she said, she would gain ownership all future master recordings. And, in a power move, UMG agreed to distribute profits from sales of its Spotify stock shares to the artists themselves as part of Taylor's contract stipulations — something Sony Music already did with their artists. This shift isn't entirely about Swift: Like her previous business moves within the industry, Swift's negotiations with UMG will affect many more than just her. UMG reportedly made $4.5M every day in 2017 from streaming revenue.
This is a big move for Swift, who recently entered into a new "era" of her brand identity. Last year, she wiped her Instagram and proceeded to rebuild from scratch, part of her promotional efforts for her 2017 album reputation. In the first single from that LP, Swift said plainly: "Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Cause she's dead!"
Enter the era of New Taylor, which actually wasn't that different from Taylors of years past. The move to UMG feels like the first real sign of a newish Taylor. For starters, UMG is the biggest of the "big three" music labels. Along with Sony and Warner, it leads the industry.
Swift has been signed to Big Machine Records since she was a teen. The label, which was founded by Scott Borchetta, released her first single "Tim McGraw" in 2005 and has been her home ever since. (She thanked Borchetta in her post as well for the label's partnership over the years.) Carly Pearce, Sugarland, and Lady Antebellum are included in Big Machine's impressive roster which is, notably, mostly country.
Republic Records, the label with which Swift will soon be working, is pop. Ariana Grande is signed to them, as does Nicki Minaj. Add to that list Drake, DNCE, Florence + the Machine, and Jessie J, among others. In other words: this is where the big kids play. Swift is, of course, the biggest of the kids, leading album sales in 2017 with over 2 million copies sold in the U.S. alone. She took home the Billboard Music Award in 2018 for highest-selling album; in terms of album sales, her grip on the industry is unshakeable.
Streaming has long been a sticking point for Swift. In 2014, she wrote an essay for The Wall Street Journal in which she derided streaming as a medium. Later, when she removed her back catalog from Spotify, she told Yahoo, "I'm not willing to contribute my life's work to an experiment that I don't feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don't agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free." In 2015, she made a ruckus when Apple Music declined to pay artists during the service's three-month trial period — this ruckus led Apple Music to change its stance. Subsequently, for a few years, Swift's music was exclusively available on Apple Music. In 2017, she made her music available on Spotify, rising to the top of the charts again in the process.
This was all, apparently, part of a bigger plan to change the industry more drastically. By stipulating that UMG must distribute Spotify stock sales amongst its artists, she's changed the industry for more than a few power players. She's also maybe officially left the land of country music, a process she started with the launch of her previous album 1989.