Taylor Swift Is About to Become the Music Industry's Biggest Free Agent

Taylor Swift signed with Nashville-based Big Machine Records as a fresh-faced 16-year-old pop country star.  But she’s about to become the biggest A-list free agent in the music industry.

BMLG grew alongside Swift from a small indie label into a powerhouse with Universal Music Group distribution.  These days, Big Machine serves other country music superstars like Florida Georgia Line and Reba McEntire.

Swift’s November 2017 album Reputation was her last underneath BMLG, meaning she’ll become a free agent in just a few months. BMLG has reportedly been courting Swift for months in an attempt to get her to re-sign with the label, but Variety reports that no deal has been reached, citing inside sources.

Considering Swift is still near the height of her popularity, she’s in a unique position to attract plenty of generous offers from competing labels.  Her record for most YouTube views in a 24-hour period was recently smashed by K-pop boy band BTS, but Swift’s musical prowess is undeniable.

Her first five albums sold between 6 and 10 million copies each.

According to a report from Nielsen, Reputation was the best-selling album of 2017, boosted by a strategy that limited availability on digital streaming services at release.  Overall sales have been softer than earlier albums, based on a number of different factors (including shifts in format technology).

One source says the primary concern for Swift may be getting ownership of her masters from Big Machine.

It’s likely that BMLG is hoping to reach a favorable deal with Swift that avoids giving her that control, especially given the long-term revenue potential involved.  One source even reports that Big Machine’s owner, Scott Borchetta, may have been considering a sale of the company in 2015 while the label was at the height of its estimated value and retained ownership of Swift’s contract.

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Subtract Swift’s masters from Big Machine, and you can also subtract a serious chunk of the company’s estimated value.  According to one estimate, Taylor Swift’s album sales and streaming account for more than 34.6% of BMLG’s revenue, so it’s no surprise that the label wants to keep her happy and willing to re-sign.