Taylor Swift vs Scooter Braun, Scott Borchetta: A case of bullying or just plain business?
Taylor Swift has lost rights to own the masters of her first six albums - 'Taylor Swift', 'Fearless', 'Speak Now', 'Red', '1989', and 'Reputation' - all of which were produced between 2006 and 2017. These albums were produced by Big Machine Records owned by Scott Borchetta who had in 2005 left DreamWorks Records and began producing music with three young artists Jack Ingram, Danielle Peck, and Swift.
The label, however, was sold to Scooter Braun's Ithaca Records for an impressive $300 million and this deal also included Swift's catalog. It must also be noted Swift is no longer with Borchetta's record label as she signed a deal with Universal Music Group in November 2018. While Braun and Borchetta celebrated the new business opportunity and shared wishes from their acquaintances and friends on social media, Swift allegedly had no idea that her work was sold to Braun.
At this time, Braun shared a screenshot of a friend who posted a picture of Braun and Borchetta with Swift photoshopped between them and captioned it "When your friend buys Taylor Swift", which Braun later deleted. However, this resulted in heavy backlash on social media and Justin Bieber, who happens to be one of the stars managed by Braun, posting a now-deleted sarcastic picture on Instagram to take a dig at Swift, did not help matters. Swift than changed the narrative of what was until then a business deal into a tale of bullying that she reportedly suffered at the hands of Braun.
She wrote a post on Tumblr in response to Bieber's sarcastic post and said, "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. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future."
Speaking about the news of the deal between Braun and Borchetta, she wrote, "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."
She then went on to recall an incident involving how Kim Kardashian had orchestrated a phone call to be leaked "and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it. (See photo) Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. 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," she added.
She also attacked her former music producer Borchetta who is now a minor stakeholder at Ithaca Holdings and claimed, "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. 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."
Taylor also called her upcoming album 'Lover', "a healthier option" in light of recent events. Borchetta, who had, until then, not commented on things that had occurred between Braun and Bieber, then took to the official Instagram handle to release a statement.
He captioned it, "So, it’s time for some truth... In regard to a post earlier today from Taylor, it’s time to set some things straight." He added, "Taylor’s dad, Scott Swift, was a shareholder in Big Machine Records, LLC. We first alerted all of the shareholders on Thursday, June 20th for an official shareholder’s call scheduled for Tuesday, June 25th. On the 6/25 call the shareholders were made aware of the pending deal with Ithaca Holdings and had 3 days to go over all of the details of the proposed transaction. We then had a final call on Friday, June 28th in which the transaction passed with a majority vote and 3 of the 5 shareholders voting ‘yes’ with 92% of the shareholder’s vote."
He added that he had also texted Swift the night before the news break to keep Swift in the loop. He also claimed Swift was given the option of owning her work in its entirety and not just her masters if she were to stay with Big Machine Records.
He wrote, "As you will read, 100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement. We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to ‘albums’ but more of a length of time. We are an independent record company. We do not have tens of thousands of artists and recordings. My offer to Taylor, for the size of our company, was extraordinary. But it was also all I could offer as I am responsible for dozens of artists’ careers and over 120 executives and their families."
He further said, "Taylor had every chance in the world to own not just her master recordings, but every video, photograph, everything associated to her career. She chose to leave. As to her comments about ‘being in tears or close to it’ anytime my new partner Scooter Braun’s name was brought up, I certainly never experienced that. Was I aware of some prior issues between Taylor and Justin Bieber? Yes. But there were also times where Taylor knew that I was close to Scooter and that Scooter was a very good source of information for upcoming album releases, tours, etc, and I’d reach out to him for information on our behalf. Scooter was never anything but positive about Taylor. He called me directly about Manchester to see if Taylor would participate (she declined). He called me directly to see if Taylor wanted to participate in the Parkland March (she declined). Scooter (Braun) has always been and will continue to be a supporter and honest custodian for Taylor and her music."
The text Borchetta had sent Swift the day before the Wall Street Journal broke the story read, "I wanted to pass along to you the same courtesy that you passed along to me in regard to my future. Tomorrow morning (Sunday, June 30th) at 10 [am] central, the Wall Street Journal will announce that I am entering into a merger/acquisition with Scooter Braun and Ithaca Holdings. This move will give us more pop culture super-power than ever before and I’m so excited about the future. I want you to know that I will continue to be the proud custodian of your previous works and will continue to keep you and your team abreast of all future plans for releases of you[r] work."
It did not end there, Swift's representative responded to claims that Swift's father, Scott Swift, was aware of the deal and according to a report in Daily Mail, they released a statement. "Scott Swift is not on the board of directors and has never been. On June 25, there was a shareholder phone call that Scott Swift did not participate in due to a very strict NDA that bound all shareholders and prohibited any discussion at all without risk of severe penalty. Her dad did not join that call because he did not want to be required to withhold any information from his own daughter. Taylor found out from the news articles when she woke up before seeing any text from Scott Borchetta and he did not call her in advance."
Swift's problems with Braun predates the current business deal between Big Machine and Ithaca and dates all the way back to 2009 when Braun's client Kanye West grabbed the mic from Swift at the MTV VMAs to protest her winning the award. So, the narrative is not surprising, but it does take the attention away from what is otherwise an issue that musicians such as Paul McCartney and Prince have faced - the right to own their work.
With Swift's accusation, the attention has veered away from the business and has become a Pandora's box that has Kim Kardashian West, Kanye, Bieber and Ariana Grande rooting for Braun while Swift's supporters have gunned for him since her blog post was released.