“This is really the worst possible outcome.” The news that Scooter Braun (38) is the new owner of record company Big Machine Records, and therefore also of her masters (the original recordings of a song, ed.), came in hard at Taylor Swift (29). But why actually? And what has happened since the announcement of the acquisition?
On Sunday, it was announced that Ithaca Holdings, the company of Scooter Braun, had bought over record company Big Machine Records. In one fell swoop, Braun also became the owner of all masters – the original recordings of a song – by Taylor Swift. When the 14-year-old singer signed a contract with the record company in 2004, she gave the rights to the masters of her first six albums ‘to eternity’ to record manager Scott Borchetta in exchange for a large sum of money – which by the way is not an abnormal scheme.
Last year Swift changed Big Machine for Universal’s Republic Records, but her masters were left behind. The takeover of the record company gives them a new owner: Scooter Braun, who is the manager of Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, and Ariana Grande, among others.
Taylor Swift expressed her dissatisfaction with the acquisition in a long message on her Tumblr page. “For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work,” she writes. “Instead, I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future.”
She continues, “I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it. This is my worst case scenario.”
Swift also points an accusing finger at Scott Borchetta, the former record manager of Big Machine Records. “When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually, he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.”
But why does Swift have such a big problem with Scooter Braun? That actually has to do with a (former) client from Braun: Kanye West. You probably remember that West took to the stage at the 2009 VMA award ceremony, pulled the microphone out of Swift’s hands and shouted that Beyoncé should have won that award? Since then, the two musicians have not been able to smell or see each other, and the boom reached a new high in 2016 when West released the song ‘Famous’, complete with an explicit music video in which Taylor Swift is in bed with Anna Wintour, Donald Trump and Rihanna – all naked.
Kim Kardashian shared a telephone conversation in which Swift agrees with the concept of the video – something the singer always denies. According to Swift, Scooter Braun is behind both ‘harassment’ – the video and the leaked telephone conversation – and is the brain behind the photo in which Justin Bieber, Kanye West, and Scooter Braun are on FaceTimen, and on which they wrote ‘Taylor Swift what up’. “This is Scooter Braun, bullying me on social media when I was at my lowest point,” she adds. “He is about to own all the music I’ve ever made.”
Scott Borchetta, record manager of Big Machine Records, couldn’t laugh at Taylor Swift’s statements and decided to give his version of the facts. “It’s time to put the dots on the ‘i’,” he writes. Scott Swift, Taylor’s father, was a shareholder in Big Machine Records, LLC. On Thursday 20 June we informed the shareholders for the first time of an official telephone call from the shareholders for Tuesday 25 June. Then we told them about the pending deal with Ithaca Holdings. They had three days to view all the details of the proposed transaction. On Friday, June 28, we had the last phone call on which the transaction was approved with the majority of votes: 3 out of 5 shareholders voted ‘yes’ with 92% of shareholders’ votes.
“And what her comments about ‘being in tears or on the verge of’ when the name of Scooter Braun was mentioned, I certainly never experienced that. Did I know of previous problems between Taylor and Justin Bieber? Yes. But there were also times when Taylor knew that I was fat with Scooter and that Scooter was a very good source of information regarding album releases, tours and such and that I asked him for information. Scooter was only positive about her.”
A spokesperson for the singer also denies that Scott Swift was aware. “He did not participate in the phone call because he did not want to retain information from his own daughter. Taylor discovered the news through news articles when she woke up before she saw a message from Scott Borchetta, and he didn’t call her in advance,” it sounds.
Supporters and opponents
Meanwhile, a lot of celebrities have also responded to the fuss. Nicki Minaj, Camila Cabello, Miley Cyrus, and Rihanna no longer follow Scooter Braun on Instagram, which is a clear sign in these times that they do not agree with his actions.
Singer Halsey expresses her support for Swift a little more emphatically: “Taylor Swift is a great reason why I always insist on writing my own music,” it sounds on Twitter. “I believed that when she did it, I had to do it. Because that’s how you make someone feel something. (…) It makes me sick that no matter how much power or how successful a woman is in this life, she is still susceptible to someone who makes you feel powerless out of spite. It says a lot about how far we’ve come in the music industry. About how writers are treated. About how to be respected as an entertainer, but how to be exploited as a writer.”
Martha Hunt, the lead singer’s supermodel, and girlfriend can’t believe that Braun is the owner of Swift’s masters. “Taylor doesn’t deserve for someone who has constantly BULLIED her to OWN THE RIGHTS to her blood, sweat, + tears. It’s not the dark ages – artists shouldn’t be held down, and I couldn’t be prouder of my friend for standing up for what’s right.”
Iggy Azalea also has her doubts about the deal: “I think from what I can see; it’s more about the fact they didn’t even give her the opportunity to at least bid on her own masters; when she’s made it known she wanted to purchase. I can totally understand where she’s coming from.”
But Scooter Braun can also count on support. Justin Bieber, Braun’s protégé for years, was one of the first to openly express his support for his manager and at the same time apologize to Swift for that photo from years ago. “I thought it was funny but looking back it was distasteful and insensitive,” it sounds. The singer admits that he posted the photo online and that Scooter was still trying to stop him.
“Scooter has had your back since the days you graciously let me open up for you.” He continues, “What were you trying to accomplish by posting that blog? seems to me like it was to get sympathy u also knew that in posting that your fans would go and bully scooter. Anyway, One thing I know is both Scooter and I love you. I feel like the only way to resolve conflict is through communication. So banter back and forth online I don’t believe solves anything. I’m sure Scooter and I would love to talk to you and resolve any conflict, pain or any feelings that need to be addressed. Neither scooter or I have anything negative to say about you we truly want the best for you.”
Pop star Demi Lovato also stands up for her manager. “I have dealt with bad people in this industry, and Scooter is not one of them. He’s a good man. Personally, I am very happy that he came into my life at that particular moment. Please stop bullying him. There is enough hate in this world as it is.”
And Yael Cohen Braun, the wife of Scooter, also elaborated on the whole fuss. She writes on Instagram: “You were given the opportunity to become the owner of your masters, but you let it pass by. Interesting that the man you ‘disgust’ so much believed in you more than you believed in yourself. Your father is a shareholder and was informed, and Borchetta told you personally about this before it became known. So no, you didn’t discover this together with the rest of the world. And girl, who are you to talk about bullying? The world has seen how you collect and drop friends like withered flowers. My husband is not a bully at all, he does nothing but stands up for the people and things he believes in.”
She continues: “He is a manager, not God. He cannot control the actions of other people, not even those of the people he manages. Don’t blame him Kim caught you lying. (…) What you have not seen is what happens behind closed doors. When he has supported you and defended you. When he has asked his clients to be friendly or quiet. When he has tried several times to make peace with you.”
What is it really like? Has Braun effectively bought over Big Machine Records to chop Taylor Swift? From the manager’s camp, it remains very quiet for the time being – except for a meme that has already been removed in which it was alleged that he had ‘bought’ Taylor Swift.
Tim Ingham from Music Business Worldwide, however, tells BBC that he certainly does not consider that a decisive argument: “People don’t spend 300 million dollars with the main motivation that they want to make a superstar angry.”
Mark Sutherland, the journalist at Music Week, also agrees. “All of her albums have huge sales figures – some of the highest in recent pop history. A lot of those songs are going to be a small gold mine in the streaming world since they will still be streamed for the next 20, 30, 40 years.” The big motivation of Braun seems to be money, and no matter how bad Taylor may be, it won’t hurt her either, lawyer Ben Mclane thinks. “Scooter is going to want to make money from it, and Taylor is still going to get royalties. It will certainly not harm her economically. The only thing she doesn’t like is that he is now checking what happens to the masters.”
And this has not been a bad move for Dad Swift either, says Ingham. Scott Swift is said to have about 4% of Big Machine Records, which makes him earn about $12 million from the acquisition. “She may be very upset by the takeover,” says Ingham. “But her father has just received a large sum in his bank account.”
The only way Swift can get her masters back is to make a deal with Braun. So for the time being the singer is only concerned with small revenge actions on Spotify. She blocks pop stars who have expressed their support for Braun, such as Demi Lovato and Kacey Musgraves, and listens continuously to Halsey and Camila Cabello, who have supported her.