The sale of Taylor Swift’s former record label, Big Machine Records, to Scooter Braun has boiled over into a dispute that has the “Bad Blood” singer furious. The evolving feud has pulled some secondary players into its gravitational field, including label founder Scott Borchetta, Justin Bieber, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
The $300 million sale means Braun now owns the masters to Swift’s first six albums — a deal the singer-songwriter called “my worst case scenario.”
Swift alleged in a lengthy blog post on Sunday following reports of the sale that she was never informed of the deal and had her previous requests to buy back her masters denied. She also accused Braun of “manipulative bullying.” Borchetta, Bieber and Braun’s wife have since fired back at the “Mean” singer’s claims.
Here’s what to know about the squabble and who is involved.
What is Big Machine Records?
Big Machine Records is a Nashville-based independent record label. It was founded in 2005 by Scott Borchetta, who signed Swift to the label shortly after the company was formed.
Its other artists include Rascal Flatts, Florida Georgia Line, Sugarland and Jennifer Nettles, among others. Swift left the label in November 2018.
Who is Scooter Braun?
Scooter Braun is a talent manager and entrepreneur whose roster has included Bieber, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato, among others. He is the former manager of Kanye West.
Did Taylor Swift know about the sale?
Swift claimed she was never made aware of the sale and learned Braun had acquired her first six albums through news reports.
Borchetta responded to the claims Sunday night, writing that he sent a “courtesy” text to Swift on June 29, the night before the deal was first reported in The Wall Street Journal. Whether Swift saw the text before seeing media reports is disputed.
Borchetta also wrote that Swift’s dad, Scott Swift, was a shareholder in Big Machine Records, LLC. He said that all shareholders, including Scott Swift, had been alerted on June 25 to the label’s sale to Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.
However, a rep for Swift told Variety that her dad didn’t participate in the June 25 shareholders call “due to a very strict NDA” and “did not want to be required to withhold any information from his daughter.” A proxy had instead represented him on a conference call into the meeting, sources told the outlet.
Why doesn’t she own her work?
Swift signed with Big Machine in 2005 when she was 15 years old. The terms of her deal gave the label the rights to her recordings – a common practice in the music industry. But Swift claims that she has tried to buy them back in the years since.
“For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work,” Swift claimed in her post. “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.”
Borchetta claimed there were terms negotiated for her to purchase her masters which she declined. Sources with knowledge of the deal also told Variety that there were at least two offers to sell Swift her masters and that she declined both.
Why didn't she buy Big Machine?
It’s unclear whether Swift could have bought the Nashville-based label outright or if she even had any interest in doing so before its $300 million sale.
The singer had an estimated net worth of $320 million in 2018, according to Forbes. She left Big Machine that year and signed a new deal with Republic Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, in November. Sources told the outlet that the deal could be worth from $100 million to $200 million in guarantees.
Swift accuses Braun of 'bullying'
Swift has lamented the loss of her “life’s work” to Braun, who the singer accused of taking part in “incessant, manipulative bullying” over the course of years. To illustrate her point, she included a screenshot of Braun, Bieber and West posted to Bieber’s Instagram in August 2016 that Bieber had captioned, "Taylor Swift what up."
Swift accused Braun, West’s former manager, of assembling Bieber and the rapper to bully her online after Kim Kardashian released her infamous recording of Swift appearing to give her blessing to the lyrics to West’s song "Famous." Swift later denied giving West permission to use her name in the song.
Swift’s post claimed that Kardashian's video recording and release were illegal. She also pointed out that in the "Famous" music video, a wax figure of her likeness (and numerous others) appears nude, which she likened to "revenge porn."
Bieber weighs in
Bieber, who Braun currently represents, apologized to Swift with a throwback selfie of the two singers on Instagram following the blowup.
The “Baby” singer wrote that Braun had actually discouraged him from writing "Taylor Swift what up" on his Instagram caption. He also questioned Swift’s intentions with the blog post, accusing her of trying to "get sympathy" and that she used her platform to get her fans to bully Braun.
While Braun has yet to publicly respond to Swift’s claims, his wife Yael accused Swift of being a bully and a liar, who blames her husband for her feud with West.
Taylor Calls out Braun, Borchetta and Big Machine
Swift took to Twitter on Nov. 14 to accuse Braun and Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta of not allowing her to perform her old songs at the American Music Awards.
"Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun have now said that I'm not allowed to perform my old songs on television because they claim that would be re-recording my music before I'm allowed to next year," Swift alleged.
She also noted that the duo prevented her music from being used in a planned documentary for Netflix.
"Additionally [...] Netflix has created a documentary about my life for the past few years," Swift continued. "Scott and Scooter have declined the use of my older music or performance footage for this project, even though there is no mention of either of them or Big Machine Records anywhere in the film."
She then alleged that Borchetta "told my team that they'll allow me to use my music only if I do these things: If I agree not to re-record copycat versions of my songs next year (which is something I'm both legally allowed to do and looking forward to) and also told my team that I need to stop talking about him and Scooter Braun."
Big Machine responds
Big Machine Records responded to Taylor Swift’s claims with a statement denying it ever blocked Swift from performing.
"At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special,” a statement released by Big Machine Records Friday reads. “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 in which we do not financially participate.”
The statement went on to allege that Swift owed "millions of dollars and multiple assets" to the company.
"We started to see progress over the past two weeks and were optimistic as recently as yesterday that this may get resolved. 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.”
Swift disputes deal, dollars
In a statement provided to Fox News, a spokeswoman for Swift alleged that Big Machine did, in fact, block Swift from using old recordings in the Netflix documentary.
"In addition, yesterday Scott Borchetta, CEO and founder of Big Machine Label Group, flatly denied the request for both American Music Awards and Netflix," the statement read in part.
The spokeswoman also denied that Swift owes the company any money, writing: "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 dollars of unpaid royalties over several years."
Fox News' Jessica Sager contributed to this report.