After news broke on Sunday June 30, 2019 that music manager Scooter Braun had bought record label Big Machine Records for $300 million United States dollars, 29 year old famous singer Taylor Swift (who as of June 2019 has a fortune of approximately $360 million United States dollars according to Forbes magazine) said she was “sad and grossed out,” taking aim at both Scooter Braun, whom she accused of “incessant, manipulative bullying,” and her former label in a lengthy article.
Taylor Swift has bad blood with Scooter Braun, the famed music executive who just acquired the rights to most of her music, and understanding why requires a little context on both the pop star’s record deals and her personal feuds going back more than a decade in the music industry. To understand Taylor Swift’s anger, it’s important to understand the terms of her Big Machine Records contract, which the artist signed at age 15 when she was just a teenager. Taylor Swift left Big Machine Records last year after her 10 year music contract expired, leaving behind masters of all six of her music albums, from her 2006 self titled music album debut to 2017’s blockbuster Reputation music album.
“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.
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. (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.
This is my worst case scenario. 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.
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.
Sad and grossed out,
Taylor”Taylor Swift – June 30, 2019.
What Taylor Swift essentially said in her blog post to her hundreds of millions of fans located around the world is that Big Machine Label Group – and now Scooter Braun, as its new indirect owner – will profit from the use and sales of Taylor Swift’s old music, in perpetuity. Taylor Swift at one point tried to own her first 6 music albums herself and alleges that Big Machine Records offered her one path to securing the rights to her original music: namely, do another 10 year deal with Big Machine Records, which would have seen Taylor Swift earn back the rights to one music album for each new music album she released (Taylor Swift would also own the rights to all her new music going forward).
Taylor Swift declined the offer from Big Machine Records, believing that Big Machine Label Group founder Scott Borchetta would use Taylor Swift’s continued alliance with Big Machine Label Group (the parent company and owner of Big Machine Records) as a major selling point. Instead, Taylor Swift signed a new deal with Republic Records (owned by Universal Music Group) that would allow her greater ownership of any new music she would make in the future.
But Taylor Swift frustrations with Scooter Braun aren’t just professional. Her distaste for Scooter Braun (whose clients include music artists and famous singers Kanye West and Justin Bieber) is tied into a prolonged bitter and continuous hostility between Kanye West and Taylor Swift that dates back nearly a decade. In 2009, Kanye West took the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards while Taylor Swift was receiving an award for Best Female Video, interrupting her acceptance speech to say Beyoncé should have won. Kanye West would go on to barely apologize after it was all over the news, and over the next few years make statements that sounded as if he were canceling his apology, until the 2016 release of his song “Famous” started the feud again with the lyrics: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have s**. Why? I made that b**** famous.” Taylor Swift later said that she was surprised by the “Famous” song from Kanye West, though Kanye West was insistent that Taylor Swift gave him her blessing for the song.
Taylor Swift Wants To Own Her Music Masters, But What Does That Mean?
On Sunday June 30, 2019 legendary country pop singer Taylor Swift set the internet on fire by talking about her latest feud with artist manager Scooter Braun and her former label head at Big Machine Records, Scott Borchetta. Taylor Swift’s article on Tumblr prompted responses from several of her famous friends and foes, from Justin Bieber to supermodel Cara Delevingne to singer actress Demi Lovato. After reading all the ways Taylor Swift feels Scooter Braun has bullied and treated her poorly, it’s time to break down on the other issue at hand: Taylor Swift controlling the rights to her masters. But, what exactly does that mean?
There are multiple ways to earn money from a song or album in the music industry and royalties derived from master recordings are a big one. A master recording refers to the actual original recording, be it a song or album. So, if you’re streaming Taylor Swift’s Fearless from Apple Music or buying it on vinyl at your local record store or hearing it in a movie or television show, you can do that because Big Machine Records granted a license using their “master” rights.
When music labels control the master rights to a music album, they agree to give a certain percentage of the royalties from sales to the music artist. We don’t know what that royalty percentage or Taylor Swift’s advances were with Big Machine Records, as her music contract with Scott Borchetta is private. The record label keeps the fee for that master recording use every time a Taylor Swift song is performed on television, played in a movie, streamed on Spotify, etc. Taylor Swift would only begin being paid her share on the master side after she earned back her advance money.
Taylor Swift lawyer released a statement denying Scott Borchetta’s claims that Taylor Swift was offered the chance to buy her masters from Big Machine Records. “Scott Borchetta never gave Taylor Swift an opportunity to purchase her masters, or the label, outright with a check in the way he is now apparently doing for others,” Passman said in a report published by Billboard.
Swift left Big Machine Records without having the master rights to her work — those rights would allow her to continue to make money from the catalog of her first six albums, but Swift will continue to only earn a percentage of the money they make. Labels are historically known to not have transparent accounting practices, and part of Swift’s problem with Braun may be a lack of trust. If any “creative accounting” should happen, she may never see another dime from her master recordings or simply a drastically reduced payout from Big Machine.
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