Today, it was announced that Scooter Braun — manager of Kanye West and Justin Bieber — purchased Big Machine Records, the label that Taylor Swift had been signed to for more than a decade (and which she recently left). She wasn’t happy about it.
Earlier today, Billboard reported that Braun’s Ithaca Holdings acquired Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group, although Borchetta will acquire a minority interest in Ithaca and join its board while remaining president and CEO of Big Machine.
Swift left the label late last year, but her back catalog — from her debut, 2006’s Taylor Swift through 2017’s Reputation — remains with Big Machine.
She responded to the sale on her Tumblr, noting that she knew that Borchetta was going to sell the label, and saying that Braun’s acquisition of Big Machine is her “worst case scenario.”
Swift said that she has long wanted to own her own master recordings and the rights to her music. She tried to negotiate ownership of her music from Big Machine, and their counteroffer led her to leave the label: “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. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.”
She noted that, despite her long relationship with Borchetta, he didn’t warn her about the deal. “Some fun facts about today’s news: 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. Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it… 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. This is my worst case scenario.”
Swift continued, “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. 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.”
She closed by looking towards her future, noting that her deal with Republic allows her to retain ownership over her music: “Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future. And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make. I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23.”
Although Swift left Big Machine, their current roster still includes Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Brantley Gilbert, Lady Antebellum, Jennifer Nettles and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Cheap Trick.
Borchetta and Braun have yet to respond to Swift.