At Billboard’s Women in Music event in December 2019, Taylor Swift used her acceptance speech for the Woman of the Decade award to call out the men who had purchased her masters without her consent. Specifically, she called out music manager and mogul Scooter Braun, whose holdings company acquired Big Machine Music Group and the rights to Swift’s first six albums, leading to her to re-record and re-release them (Taylor’s Version).
"Lately there's been a new shift that has affected me personally, and that I feel is a potentially harmful force in our industry,” she said at the event. “And as your resident loud person, I feel the need to bring it up. And that is the unregulated world of private equity, coming in and buying up our music as if its real estate. As if it's an app, or a shoeline. This just happened to me without my approval, consultation or consent. After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalog was sold to Scooter Braun's Ithaca Holdings, in a deal that I'm told was funded by the Soros family, 23 Capital, and the Carlyle group. Yet to this day, none of these investors have bothered to contact me or my team directly to perform their due diligence on their investment. On their investment in me, to ask how I might feel about the new owner of my art. The music I wrote, the videos I created, photos of me, my handwriting, my album designs. “
After facing the ire of the Swifties for a year and a half, Braun sold off the catalog; he’s also since sold his own company to South Korean entertainment company HYBE, and continues to both run it and manage Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and others musicians. He’s also said over the past two years that Swift rebuffed his attempts to talk after the sale went through, while Swift said in a November 2020 post, “My team attempted to enter into negotiations with Scooter Braun. Scooter’s team wanted me to sign an ironclad NDA stating I would never say another word about Scooter Braun unless it was positive, before we could even look at the financial records of BMLG (which is always the first step in a purchase of this nature). So, I would have to sign a document that would silence me forever before I could even have a chance to bid on my own work. He would never even quote my team a price. These master recordings were not for sale to me.”
Now, in a new interview with NPR’s Jay Williams, Braun says he “regrets” the way things were handled. “The regret I have there is that I made the assumption that everyone, once the deal was done, was going to have a conversation with me, see my intent, see my character and say, great, let’s be in business together,” Braun said. He also hinted that Big Machine owner Scott Borchetta was part of the problem.
“I learned an important lesson from [the Big Machine acquisition],” Braun said. “When I did that deal, I was under a very strict NDA with the gentleman who owned it, and I couldn’t tell any artist. I wasn’t allowed to. I wasn’t legally allowed to. What I told him was, ‘Hey, if any of the artists want to come back and buy into this, you have to let me know.’ And he shared a letter with me that’s out there publicly that – you know, the artist you’re referring to said, ‘I don’t want to participate in my masters. I’ve decided to, you know, not make this deal,’ blah, blah, blah. So that was the idea I was under.”
He continued: “I was excited to work with every artist on the label. So when we finalized the deal, I started making phone calls to say, hey, I’m a part of this. And before I could even do that – I made four phone calls; I started to do those phone calls – all hell broke loose. So I think a lot of things got lost in translation. I think that when you have a conflict with someone, it’s very hard to resolve it if you’re not willing to have a conversation.”
Braun concluded by saying, “So I choose to look at it as a learning lesson, a growing lesson, and I wish everyone involved well. And I’m rooting for everyone to win because I don’t believe in rooting for people to lose.”
Swift is currently in the midst of rolling out of her tenth studio album, Midnights, out October 21st.