There are few people more cynical in the world right now than Universal Music Group. This one is a whopper, even by their standards. In 2018, Republic Records – whom they own – signed Taylor Swift as an artist. The deal was done in a blaze of publicity and featured the explicit clause that she owned her own masters.
Since then, she’s re-recorded a number of her past songs – following a dispute over the ownership of her old recordings. An album called “Red” was re-recorded recently and released by Republic. It’s done extremely well on streaming and Universal are raking in the money. And at exactly the same time, they’ve tightened up their own contracts to stop their other artists from doing it.
I thought this was a joke when I first read it, but sure enough, it’s true. And this news came out on the week we found out UMG boss Lucian Grainge would be taking home ar least £150million this year. It looks like the increasingly greedy record baron could be getting similar amounts in future years – and all off the back of his artists work.
A source at the majors contacted me this week to complain that my criticism of UMG has been “unfair, one-sided and totally tabloid”. And he is, of course, completely wrong. With moves like this, which just make Universal look like a protectionist racket, they bring it entirely on themselves…