By Stephen Sorace
Published July 01, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Big Machine founder 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.
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.
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 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, who Braun currently represents, apologized to Swift with a throwback selfie of the two singers 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.