Taylor Swift vs Scooter Braun: All you need to know about the singer's legal battle with Big Machine Records
The tea is scalding hot! The Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun feud has a Season 2. The 'Back to December' singer and Braun made headlines this week when the latter released a new album comprising her live performances under Swift's name without her permission. The 30-year-old pop star called him out on it on her Instagram Stories, saying it is "just another case of shameless greed in the time of coronavirus. So tasteless, but very transparent." The live album, titled 'Live from Clear Channel Stripped 2008', was recorded when Swift was 18, around the time that her Grammy-winning second studio album, 'Fearless', was released.
Over the years, Swift has established herself as public icon, starting out from a girl-next-door vibing country singer to a pop star selling out arenas in a matter of seconds. Just as she's climbed up the ladder with her hard work and one chart-topping hit after another, she's also voiced out her political advocacy but hasn't exactly been left unscathed by her leanings. She's gained public enemies and so every new musical milestone in her career is accompanied by some A-lister rivals and the occasional backlash on social media.
Swift's very public altercation with Braun dates back to 2019 post her 'You Need to Calm Down' single release and here's a lowdown on what actually transpired between the two.
Braun buys Swift's former record label
Braun bought out Big Machine, the label that managed Swift until 2018, from its founder, Scott Borchetta, through his holdings company, Ithaca, for a $300 million deal and basically established a new independent music powerhouse. The company comprises the immensely successful School Boy Records, Atlas Music Publishing, Big Machine Music and SB Project, its artist management and services company.
This was also a new achievement for Braun, who also manages pop acts like Justin Beiber, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato. It meant a new partnership with the CEO of possibly one of the biggest record labels in the US music industry, a new company designation under his name and the icing on the cake — his full-fledged involvement in an influential company with an impressive stream of income.
Swift slams Braun and Borchetta
With the purchase of the company, Braun had control over Swift's masters, basically, all the songs she had recorded while under the label. And Swift wasn't too keen about it either, especially since she had been trying to buy back her masters herself. After the news broke out, Swift took to Tumblr and slammed Braun and Borchetta in a post, titled 'Don't know what else to do', for allegedly preventing her from performing her discography as a medley at the 2019 AMAs when she received the award for Artist of the Decade.
She claimed that she hadn't been informed about Braun's purchase of the company before it was public knowledge and so she was never given the chance to buy her music. "For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. 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," she said, before referring to Borchetta.
"I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future," she added.
Swift also criticized Braun of "incessant, manipulative bullying", saying Borchetta and been aware of it for years and arraigned the latter's decision to work with Braun so they could control "a woman who didn't want to be associated with them."
She said both Scott and Braun declined the use of her older music and performance footage in her new Netflix documentary, 'Miss Americana'. They also supposedly told her the only way she could gain access was if she didn't record "copy-cat" versions of her old songs (she had planned to re-record and re-release the six albums she produced under Big Machine) and stopped talking about them entirely.
Big Machine fires back
Things got nasty with Big Machine responding to Swifts' claims in a very lengthy statement on its website. "As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her Tumblr statements yesterday based on false information", the statement read. "At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere. Since Taylor’s decision to leave Big Machine last fall, we have continued to honor all of her requests to license her catalog to third parties as she promotes her current record [Lover] in which we do not financially participate."
Furthermore, the label arraigned Swift of "contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company, which is responsible for 120 hardworking employees who helped build her career."
"However, despite our persistent efforts to find a private and mutually satisfactory solution, Taylor made a unilateral decision last night to enlist her fanbase in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families," the label added. "Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist. All we ask is to have a direct and honest conversation. When that happens, you will see there is nothing but respect, kindness, and support waiting for you on the other side."
Taylor's team refutes label's claims
Later that day, after Big Machines's statement went public, Swift's representative, Tree Paine, issued a statement alleging Big Machine declining Swift the rights to her old music for her AMAs performance. Paine also said Big Machine's claim about Swift owing the company a million dollars were false, and the truth is that it is Big Machine that owes Swift, a whopping $7.9 million in unpaid royalties. Paine took to her Twitter (which has since been deleted) to say, "The truth is, on October 28, 2019, at 5:17 pm the vice-president of Rights Management and Business Affairs from Big Machine Label Group sent Taylor Swift’s team the following: "Please be advised that BMLG will not agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recording restrictions in connection with these two projects: The Netflix documentary and The Alibaba ‘Double Eleven’ event."
"In addition, yesterday Scott Borchetta, CEO and founder of Big Machine Label Group, flatly denied the request for both American Music Awards and Netflix. Please notice in Big Machine’s statement, they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post", she added referring the label's response to Swift's Tumblr post. “Lastly, Big Machine is trying to deflect and make this about money by saying she owes them, but an independent, professional auditor has determined that Big Machine owes Taylor $7.9 million of unpaid royalties over several years.”
Taylor allowed to perform her songs at AMAs
A Big Machine executive informed TMZ that "Taylor Swift can 100% perform all of her catalog, past, and present, on the AMAs." Seemingly, the reason for the whole muck-up was because Big Machine wasn't exactly aware of what happens during a live AMA broadcast after airing on television. Big Machine and Dick Clark Productions, later confirmed that Swift was given the green light to perform any of the songs in her discography during the award show and the re-broadcasts.
Threats against Braun
Braun, who had maintained his silence for about six months since purchasing the label, went public on the issue two days after Swift's AMA performance and said the whole thing was a "miscommunication." In a post on Instagram, the music executive said he received severe backlash for his involvement and some Swifties have gone as afar as to threaten the well-being of his children. He basically asked Swift to intervene in this predicament, but there wasn't any response from her side.
Swift didn't hold back at AMAs
On the 2019 AMAs stage, Swift rehashed some of the iconic hits from her decade-long music catalog and for good measure threw in a healthy dose of shade directed at Big Machine. It was so subtle that many may have missed it, but Swift made sure that her performance began with the stage backdrop lighting up to mimic the Big Machine Records logo. She was also adorned in an oversized shirt that spelled out the names of all her albums to date, including the ones that Braun has control of.
Season 2 of the Swift vs Braun feud
Now five months since the AMAs, in April 2020, it has come to public attention that the feud has been sparked yet again. Swift informed her followers of Bug Machine's plan to release her old line performances from 2008 without her authorization and also alleged that it was the company's seedy attempt at making money to recover the loss from purchasing her masters.
In her Instagram Stories, the 'Lover' singer said, "This release is not approved by me. It looks to me like Scooter Braun and his financial backers, 23 Capital, Alex Soros and the Soros family and the Carlyle Group have seen the latest balance sheets and realized that paying $330 million wasn’t exactly a wise choice and they need money."