Swift joined Big Machine in 2005; she was its first artist. When she signed with the fledgling company, Swift also signed away ownership rights of her first six albums to the label. That means whenever anyone bought Swift’s eponymous first album or streams “Shake it Off,” the money goes to Big Machine first, with Swift earning royalties. It’s a completely commonplace arrangement in the music industry.
Owners of master recordings also control the rights to put the artist’s music on a streaming service like Spotify or to chop up albums into greatest hits packages or to place songs on a movie soundtrack. Owners of master recordings have incredible control.
Swift makes clear in her Tumblr post that the age she started her musical career is significant.
“This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.”
Swift has been vocal about controlling her career and about artists getting ripped off. In 2015, she chastised Apple for its initial decision to not pay artists anything during a free three-month trial period for anyone who signed up. Apple actually listened, and the company decided to pay its artists, albeit at a reduced rate.