Why are major pop stars turning their backs on Scooter Braun?
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Scooter Braun is taking a step back, in damage control, or somewhere in between when it comes to managing some of the world’s biggest pop stars. Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato are all embroiled in intense speculation and/or denials of a now rocky relationship with 42-year-old Braun.
Bieber reportedly denied rumours he is splitting with his longtime manager, but that’s done nothing to lessen chatter online about Braun’s A-list stars looking for new management deals.
Is karma coming back to bite Braun after a long-running spat with Taylor Swift, or has he simply moved on to a new role in his vast business empire? Is Bieber even on speaking terms with the man who helped shape his career, and will anyone spill the beans on what’s fuelling the rumours?
Who is Scooter Braun?
A college dropout, lavish party planner and former entertainment consultant for US baseball team the Atlanta Hawks, Scooter Braun is an entrepreneur, talent spotter and music executive.
His first claim to fame was discovering a teenage Justin Bieber, but perhaps more famously he was the guy who bought and then sold the rights to Taylor Swift’s first six albums.
Braun’s stable of pop stars is now shrinking, as reports emerge of Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and Bieber himself severing ties with Braun’s entertainment and marketing company SB Projects.
Justin Bieber signed with Scooter Braun’s management company when he was a teenager on the verge of stardom.Credit: Invision
Braun inked a management deal with Bieber when the Sorry singer – who has sold more than 150 million albums globally – was only 13, and has guided his chart-topping career for 16 years.
Grande signed on with Braun’s management company in 2013. Other stars he’s managed include Kanye West, Black Eyed Peas, Carly Rae Jepsen, David Guetta, and The Kid Laroi.
And what was that about Taylor Swift’s first six albums?
In 2019, Braun’s holding company, Ithica Holdings, bought independent American record label Big Machine Records from the label’s founder Scott Borchetta. The eye-watering $300 million (AUD $460 million) sale price made headlines, but more significantly Braun’s purchase of BMR gave him control over the masters to six albums Taylor Swift recorded with BMR.
Braun later sold Swift’s masters, associated videos and artworks to a private equity firm, earning him, in addition to a tidy profit, the ongoing wrath of Swifties around the world.
Swift’s feud with Braun centred around this purchase and eventual sale of her master recordings. After labelling him an “incessant, manipulative bully” in 2019, Swift received support online, including from other artists, for speaking up and trying to protect her own work.
Soon afterwards, Swift announced she would re-record her first six albums – in order to own the new masters – and released the first of those, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in April, 2021. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) will be released in October, four months before her Eras Tour arrives in Australia.
Ariana Grande is among the pop stars rumoured to have split from celebrity manager Scooter Braun.Credit: AP
Ok, but why is Scooter Braun making headlines this week?
Justin Bieber and Braun haven’t spoken in months, according to Matthew Belloni, writing for online site Puck. Belloni’s report says Bieber is “poking around for a new agency or manager,” and their respective lawyers are now involved, although neither side is confirming a split.
Bieber, Grande and Demi Lovato all publicly defended Braun in the aftermath of his dispute with Swift, but speculation is rife that Grande and Lovato have also now split from Braun.
Lovato’s departure, according to Variety, was confirmed “off the record by sources from both camps,” while Grande’s fractured relationship with Braun was “strenuously denied by sources close to Braun”.
“People are spreading rumours based on what they know, but they are off,” according to one source in this week’s Variety story. “Scooter’s team at SB Projects are still handling both Justin and Ariana as they work through what this new structure looks like.”
The new structure stems from further speculation that Braun is “continuing to step back from day-to-day management” since becoming the sole chief executive officer of HYBE America, the US arm of the South Korean entertainment company behind K-pop stars BTS.
And Bieber, Grande and Lovato have not commented. According to another industry source, the rumours about Bieber and Grande’s exit from Braun’s SB Projects are false, while Lovato, 31, is searching for new representation.
Lovato’s split from Braun was amicable, according to a Billboard report, and it was “time for Lovato to go in a new direction, even though she was thankful for her time with SB Projects”.
Meanwhile, one source, according to Variety, says “he’s imploding,” and yet another says Braun is “getting out of management” and that executives inside SB Projects had been managing their biggest artists for years.
Does Braun’s management company still represent Kanye West?
No, it does not. West, or Ye as he likes to be called these days, parted company with Braun in 2018. Not unlike the speculation swirling this week in relation to Braun, exactly who dumped whom five years ago depends on which celebrity gossip you trust most.
More recently, Columbian singer J Balvin left Braun’s roster of artists, signing with Jay-Z’s entertainment agency Roc Nation Management earlier this year.
Broadway actress and Frozen star Idina Menzel is also no longer managed by Braun, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Has Braun said anything about all this speculation?
Braun addressed the rumours about Bieber, Grande and Lovato circulating online this week, but only in jest. He posted on X, formerly Twitter: “Breaking news… I’m no longer managing myself.”
Until somebody goes on the record about who’s staying, and who might be out the door, Braun seems happy to let rumours about his stable of stars keep piling up. In celebrity circles, that’s better than not being talked about at all.
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