Taylor Swift has refused to stay silent about the sale of her entire back catalog of music saying she was ‘sad and grossed out’ by news of the deal that she called her ‘worst case scenario’.
It emerged on Sunday that Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings had purchased Big Machine Label Group from Scott Borchetta, which released all of Swift’s studio albums and owns her masters, in a $300 million deal.
The sale prevents Swift from owning the first six albums in her catalog.
When Swift left Big Machine and signed with Universal Music Group back in November, the 29-year-old singer said she made peace with that fact her masters would eventually be sold.
But she said she never imagined that Braun would be the one to purchase them and described it as her worst nightmare. Swift has accused Braun of subjecting her to years of manipulative bullying, referencing clashes with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
So how did Swift lose the rights to her last six albums?
Swift signed her deal with Big Machine back in 2005 when she was 15 years old. Under the terms of her deal, which is standard for most artists, the record label owns the rights to her music.
The music she produced under that deal includes everything from her 2006 self-titled debut album to her 2017 Reputation album.
It is standard practice in the music industry for an artist to sign away the master rights to their recordings but Swift says she tried to gain ownership of her recordings for several years.
When she announced she had signed with Universal Music group in November, Swift said it was exciting to know that she would own her future master recordings.
Following the news on Sunday that Big Machine had been acquired by Braun’s Ithaca Holdings, Swift posted a scathing Tumblr post claiming that the label didn’t offer her the chance to buy her catalog and didn’t inform her of the sale.
She claims that when she was in negotiations with Big Machine prior to her signing with Universal, they only offered her the chance to earn one album back for each new one she produced.
‘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,’ she said.
‘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.
What owning Taylor Swift’s master recordings means:
Owning an artists master recordings has become more profitable with the rise of streaming services because it means less is spent on marketing, with users able to stream a back catalog at the touch of a button.
Swift’s streaming numbers represented a 21.2% share of Big Machine Records’ total in 2016 – a year without an album release – and a 56.6% share in 2015 – after the fall 2014 release of her ‘1989’ record.
And in 2017, she accounted for 41.2% of their streaming share and 34.1% so far this year, Billboard reported.
It’s standard practice in the music industry for an artist to sign away the master rights to their recordings.
In exchange, the contract will award the musician an advance and sales royalties.
Artists including Metallica, AC/DC, Pink Floyd and Chicago have bought back rights to their music, but this is rare as it undermines how the industry makes its money.
She said she knew that re-signing with the group that had managed her since she was 15 would only result in her not owning her future work.
Swift said learning that Borchetta – who had years earlier pledged loyalty to her – had sold the label to Braun was her ‘worst case scenario’. She accused Braun of bullying her at her ‘lowest point’.
‘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,’ Swift wrote of the deal.
‘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.’
Borchetta, however, claims that Swift has been misleading about the deal and claims she was offered the chance to purchase her work during ongoing negotiations.
Sources told Variety that Swift was offered at least two offers to buy back her masters but she turned them both down.
Swift’s team has denied these two offers existed and that she was only given the trade-off deal she spoke of in her social media post.
In his own lengthy statement, Borchetta outlined the terms of what he called an ‘extraordinary’ offer to Swift, which would have kept her at Big Machine Records and given her ownership of her material.
It fell through when she inked a pact with Universal Music Group.
‘Taylor had every chance in the world to own not just her master recordings but every video, photograph, everything associated to her career. She chose to leave,’ he wrote.
He went over their interactions during the critical time period in which she switched labels.
Borchetta said Swift’s management went over the deal points and relayed them to her before he also talked through the deal with her.
‘100 percent of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement. We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to ‘albums’ but more of a length of time,’ he said.
Borchetta said he and Swift ‘remained on very good terms’ throughout the negotiation process, and upon her pact with Universal.
In her social media post on Sunday, Swift said she was thankful she would now own anything she creates.
‘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,’ she said.
Scott Borchetta’s open letter on Taylor Swift-Scooter Braun controversy
So, it’s time for some truth…
In regard to a post earlier today from Taylor, it’s time to set some things straight.
Taylor’s dad, Scott Swift, was a shareholder in Big Machine Records, LLC. We first alerted all of the shareholders on Thursday, June 20th for an official shareholder’s call scheduled for Tuesday, June 25th. On the 6/25 call the shareholders were made aware of the pending deal with Ithaca Holdings and had 3 days to go over all of the details of the proposed transaction. We then had a final call on Friday, June 28th in which the transaction passed with a majority vote and 3 of the 5 shareholders voting ‘yes’ with 92% of the shareholder’s vote.
Out of courtesy, I personally texted Taylor at 9:06pm, Saturday, June 29th to inform her prior to the story breaking on the morning of Sunday, June 30th so she could hear it directly from me.
I guess it might somehow be possible that her dad Scott, 13 Management lawyer Jay Schaudies (who represented Scott Swift on the shareholder calls) or 13 Management executive and Big Machine LLC shareholder Frank Bell (who was on the shareholder calls) didn’t say anything to Taylor over the prior 5 days. I guess it’s possible that she might not have seen my text. But, I truly doubt that she ‘woke up to the news when everyone else did’.
I am attaching a few very important deal points in what was part of our official last offer to Taylor Swift to remain at Big Machine Records. Her 13 Management team and attorney Don Passman went over this document in great detail and reported the terms to her in great detail.
Taylor and I then talked through the deal together.
As you will read, 100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement. We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to ‘albums’ but more of a length of time.
We are an independent record company. We do not have tens of thousands of artists and recordings. My offer to Taylor, for the size of our company, was extraordinary. But it was also all I could offer as I am responsible for dozens of artists’ careers and over 120 executives and their families.
Taylor and I remained on very good terms when she told me she wanted to speak with other record companies and see what was out there for her. I never got in her way and wished her well.
The morning that the new Taylor/UMG announcement was going to be made, she texted me shortly before letting me know that the announcement was coming in a few minutes.
As we both posted on our socials, we saluted each other and cheered each other on.
Taylor had every chance in the world to own not just her master recordings, but every video, photograph, everything associated to her career. She chose to leave.
As to her comments about ‘being in tears or close to it’ anytime my new partner Scooter Braun’s name was brought up, I certainly never experienced that. Was I aware of some prior issues between Taylor and Justin Bieber? Yes. But there were also times where Taylor knew that I was close to Scooter and that Scooter was a very good source of information for upcoming album releases, tours, etc, and I’d reach out to him for information on our behalf. Scooter was never anything but positive about Taylor. He called me directly about Manchester to see if Taylor would participate (she declined).
He called me directly to see if Taylor wanted to participate in the Parkland March (she declined). Scooter has always been and will continue to be a supporter and honest custodian for Taylor and her music.
This is the text Taylor sent to me on Monday, November 19th at 8:57am:
I hope this finds you well. Since communication ran dry on our negotiations, I’ve done what I told you I would do and gone out exploring other options. Owning my masters was very important to me, but I’ve since realized that there are things that mean even more to me in the bigger picture. I had a choice whether to bet on my past or to bet on the future and I think knowing me, you can guess which one I chose. I also saw a rare opportunity to effect positive change for a lot of other artists with the leverage I have right now. I know you believe in the same things I do and I’d like to think you would be proud of what I’ve negotiated for in my deal. I wanted to tell you first that I’ll be signing with Lucian. I honestly truly cherish everything you and I have built together and I plan on saying so in my announcement of the new deal. What we accomplished together will be a lasting legacy and a case study on excellent partnerships, and may it continue. I still view you as a partner and friend and I hope you feel the same. Sending you a hug and my most sincere gratitude.
And SO much love,
Here is the text I sent on the evening of June 29 at 9:05pm:
Hope all is well and congratulations on the success of your first two singles from ‘Lover’!
I can’t wait to hear the entire album…
I wanted to pass along to you the same courtesy that you passed along to me in regard to my future.
Tomorrow morning (Sunday, June 30th) at 10a central, the Wall Street Journal will announce that I am entering into a merger/acquisition with Scooter Braun and Ithaca Holdings. This move will give us more pop culture super-power than ever before and I’m so excited about the future.
I want you to know that I will continue to be the proud custodian of your previous works and will continue to keep you and your team abreast of all future plans for releases of you work.
Nothing but the best,
And, that’s the truth…