Taylor Swift vs. Scooter Braun: The Latest in Their Big Machine Feud
Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun’s feud is heating up again.
The 30-year-old pop star and the 39-year-old music executive have been sparring over the rights to Swift’s music for over a year now and everybody from Justin Bieber to Selena Gomez has had something to say about it.
Keep reading for a complete timeline of the entire spat.
Swift accuses Braun of “bullying” her after he buys Big Machine Records
Last June, Braun — through his holding company, Ithaca Holdings — purchased Big Machine Label Group for a reported $300 million. Doing so gave him the rights to Swift’s master recordings that were made prior to her exit from the label in 2018.
After news broke, Swift took to Tumblr to blast the deal, claiming that she wasn’t told about Braun’s purchase before it became public and was never given a chance to buy her music.
“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 wrote in part, before referencing Scott Borchetta, who founded Big Machine.
“I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future,” she wrote.
Swift went on to claim that she received “incessant, manipulative bullying” from Braun over the years — which she alleged Borchetta knew about — and criticized Borchetta’s decision to work with Braun in order to control “a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them.”
Borchetta releases a statement to “set some things straight”
Just hours after Swift released her lengthy statement, Borchetta fired back, claiming that Swift was given the opportunity to buy her music and alleging that he personally texted her about the deal before it was made public. He also noted that Swift’s father, Scott Swift, is a shareholder at the record label and alleged that he was thus made aware of the sale five days before it was announced.
“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,” Borchetta wrote in part.
Borchetta also addressed Swift’s claims of Braun’s bullying, stating that he “certainly never experienced” seeing Swift in tears over Braun, adding, “Scooter has always been and will continue to be a supporter and honest custodian for Taylor and her music.”
Swift stands by her initial statement
Despite Borchetta’s claims, a rep for Swift told ET, “Scott Swift is not on the board of directors and has never been. On June 25, there was a shareholder phone call that Scott Swift did not participate in due to a very strict NDA that bound all shareholders and prohibited any discussion at all without risk of severe penalty. Her dad did not join that call because he did not want to be required to withhold any information from his own daughter.”
“Taylor found out from the news articles when she woke up before seeing any text from Scott Borchetta and he did not call her in advance,” the statement added.
Celebrities take sides
Amid the back-and-forth, celebs came forward as Team Taylor or Team Scooter, with Halsey, Brendan Urie and Camila Cabello siding with the former and Yael Cohen, Demi Lovato and Sia with the latter.
In a series of tweets, Todrick Hall, one of Swift’s best friends, said Braun was “an evil person who’s only concern is his wealth and feeding his disgusting ego.”
However, Justin Bieber, one of Braun’s biggest clients, spoke out in support of his manager, writing that Swift was trying to “deface someone I love” and encouraging her fans to “go and bully Scooter.”
Swift says she’ll rerecord her songs
As things quieted a bit, Swift sat down for an interview with CBS Sunday Morning and revealed that she “absolutely” plans to rerecord her early music. During an appearance on Good Morning America, Swift elaborated on those plans.
“It’s something that I’m very excited about doing because my contract says that starting November 2020, so next year, I can record albums one through five all over again,” she said on GMA. “I’m very excited about it. I just think that artists deserve to own their own work. I just feel very passionately about that.”
Braun congratulates Swift on Lover
After announcing her plans to rerecord her music, Swift dropped her seventh studio album, Lover, in August. On the day of its release, Braun shocked many when he took to Twitter to praise Swift’s latest work.
“Regardless of what has been said the truth is you don’t make big bets unless you are a believer and always have been,” he tweeted. “Brilliant album with #Lover. Congrats @taylorswift13. Supporting was always the healthier option. #brilliantalbum #brilliantcampaign congrats.”
Swift says she thought Borchetta looked at her “as the daughter he never had”
When Swift covered the October 2019 issue of Rolling Stone, she spoke out about the “betrayal” she felt — particularly from Borchetta — after Braun purchased Big Machine.
“When you have a business relationship with someone for 15 years, there are going to be a lot of ups and a lot of downs. But I truly, legitimately thought he looked at me as the daughter he never had,” Swift said of Borchetta. “And so even though we had a lot of really bad times and creative differences, I was going to hang my hat on the good stuff. I wanted to be friends with him.”
“I thought I knew what betrayal felt like, but this stuff that happened with him was a redefinition of betrayal for me, just because it felt like it was family,” she continued. “To go from feeling like you’re being looked at as a daughter to this grotesque feeling of ‘Oh, I was actually his prized calf that he was fattening up to sell to the slaughterhouse that would pay the most.'”
Of the sale itself, Swift said, “the fact that those two are in business together after the things he said about Scooter Braun — it’s really hard to shock me. And this was utterly shocking.”
“These are two very rich, very powerful men, using $300 million of other people’s money to purchase, like, the most feminine body of work. And then they’re standing in a wood-panel bar doing a tacky photo shoot, raising a glass of scotch to themselves,” she added. “Because they pulled one over on me and got this done so sneakily that I didn’t even see it coming. And I couldn’t say anything about it.”
Swift claims Big Machine is preventing her from performing her old music
The feud was reignited last November, when Swift took to social media to share a lengthy statement accusing Borchetta, Braun and Big Machine of blocking her from performing a medley of her older songs at Sunday’s American Music Awards, where she’s set to take home the Artist of the Decade Award. Additionally, Swift alleged that the same people “have declined the use of my older music or performance footage” for a Netflix documentary.
Those things would only be allowed, Swift claimed, if “I agree to not 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.”
Swift continued her statement by encouraging her fans to “let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this.”
“I just want to be able to perform MY OWN music. That’s it,” she concluded. “I’ve tried to work this out privately through my team, but have not been able to resolve anything. Right now, my performance at the AMAs, the Netflix documentary and any other recorded events I’m planning to play until November 2020 are a question mark.”
Big Machine says Swift’s narrative “does not exist”
The day after Swift released her social media message, Big Machine denied Swift’s allegations, which, they claimed, were “based on false information.”
“At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere,” the statement read in part.
The statement went on to claim that Swift “has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company, which is responsible for 120 hardworking employees who helped build her career.”
Additionally, Big Machine blasted Swift’s decision to “enlist her fanbase in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families.”
“Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist,” the statement added. “Rumors fester in the absence of communication. Let’s not have that continue here,” the statement concluded. “We share the collective goal of giving your fans the entertainment they both want and deserve.”
Swift releases a portion of an email that Big Machine allegedly sent her team
In response to Big Machine’s statement, Swift’s spokeswoman released an additional statement from the “Paper Rings” singer, sharing a portion of an email that the record label allegedly sent Swift’s team in October.
“Please be advised that BMLG will not agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recording restrictions in connection with these two projects: The Netflix documentary and The Alibaba ‘Double Eleven’ event,” the email allegedly read.
Swift’s statement continued by writing that, yesterday, Scott Borchetta “flatly denied the request for both American Music Awards and Netflix.”
“Please notice in Big Machine’s statement, they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post,” the statement continued. “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.”
A Big Machine executive denies Swift’s claims
Following Big Machine’s statement and Swift’s response, an executive from the record label told ET, “Taylor can 100 percent perform all of her catalog, past and present, at the AMAs. Big Machine has no issue with her performance going out on live broadcast because it recognizes it doesn’t have the right to block her. Labels can’t block any artists from performing any songs live.”
Celebrities take sides, part two
Stars once again made their voices heard on the feud as celebs and fans alike got #IStandWithTaylor trending on Twitter. Lily Allen, Gigi Hadid, and Tinashe expressed their support for Swift, though no one was a more outspoken member of Team Taylor than Selena Gomez.
“It’s greed, manipulation and power. There is no heart or thought of anyone else. No respect for the words my friend has written since she was a 14 year old in her bedroom,” Gomez wrote in part. “You’ve robbed and crushed one of our best song writers of our time an opportunity to celebrate all of her music with fans and the world.”
However, Bieber, once again sided with Braun, sharing a screenshot of a TMZ article with a headline that read, “Taylor Swift Free to Play All Her Hits During AMAs… Big Machine Can’t Stop Her”
Big Machine offices shut down after threats
After the multiple statements from both sides, a source with knowledge of the situation told ET that, on Nov. 15, 2019, Big Machine Label Group’s headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, were forced to shut down at 12:30 p.m. local time, due to direct and hostile death threats being made to employees of the company.
The source believed that Swift fans were going to extremes to leak personal contact information and addresses of company employees — not just Braun and Borchetta. Authorities were not immediately notified.
Swift’s AMAs performance is OK’d
With the American Music Awards less than a week away, Big Machine Label Group announced on Nov. 18, 2019, that they and “Dick Clark Productions have come to terms on a licensing agreement that approves their artists’ performances to stream post show and for re-broadcast on mutually approved platforms. This includes the upcoming American Music Awards performances.”
“It should be noted that recording artists do not need label approval for live performances on television or any other live media,” the statement continued. “Record label approval is only needed for contracted artists’ audio and visual recordings and in determining how those works are distributed.”
Following Big Machine’s statement, though, Dick Clark Productions told ET in a statement that, “At no time did Dick Clark Productions agree to, create, authorize or distribute a statement in partnership with Big Machine Label Group regarding Taylor Swift’s performance at the 2019 American Music Awards. Any final agreement on this matter needs to be made directly with Taylor Swift’s management team. We have no further comment.”
Braun speaks out
After months of silence — and a cryptic post about kindness — Braun finally spoke publicly about the feud for the first time. During a Q&A at the 2019 Entertainment Industry Conference, which was co-sponsored by Variety and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Braun spoke about “toxic division” and the “confusion” that can come through a social media feud.
Though he said he was not “going to participate” in that kind of spat, he went on to add, “people need to communicate.”
“I think that these problems that are being discussed can be discussed behind closed doors and figured out pretty easily, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for six months,” he said. “And it’s hard, because I can handle it pretty easily, but when it gets to a place where there’s death threats and there’s offices being called and people being threatened… it’s gotten out of hand. And I think people need to come together and have a conversation, because that’s not what we got in this industry for.”
“I have no ill will for anybody. And the moment people want to have a conversation with me, I’m ready to have that conversation, and I’m not going to add to the narrative,” he added. “I disagree with it, but I’m not going to add to the narrative. I just want to fix things and set a better example for people.”
Though he didn’t address Swift by name in his initial comments, that changed hours later when he took to Instagram to share a lengthy message, which largely addressed the threats his family has received amid the drama.
“I came home tonight to find my wife had received a phone call threatening the safety of our children as well as other threats seen above,” he wrote of his wife, Yael Cohen, and their two kids, Jagger, 4, and Levi, 2. “I am certain there is no situation ever worth jeopardizing anyone’s safety. I assume this was not your intention but it is important that you understand that your words carry a tremendous amount of weight and that your message can be interpreted by some in different ways.”
Braun went on to say that he was “disappointed” that Swift has “remained silent” after allegedly being notified by her attorney four days ago about the “ongoing threats.”
After writing that he was “shocked and disheartened” by Swift’s earlier bullying claims, he once again expressed a desire to meet, writing that he’s “open to ALL possibilities.”
He went on to address the AMAs controversy, telling Swift that she “can and should perform any song you would like at the AMAs.”
“I’m right here, ready to speak directly and respectfully. But if you would prefer to make large public statements while refusing to work towards resolving things amicably then I just pray that nobody gets seriously hurt in the process,” he added at the end of his note. “I continue to wish you the best and hope we can resolve this.”
Swift alludes to the drama at the AMAs
While accepting her first award of the night at the AMAs, for Favorite Album — Pop/Rock, Swift made sure to give a big thank you to her current record label. “I really love my record label, Universal Republic. Monte Lipman, Lucien Grainge, thank you for being so generous to me and allowing me to make whatever music I want to make,” she said in a simple message that fans speculated was a dig against Big Machine.
Swift slams Braun after he sold her master recordings for over $300 million
Swift took to Twitter to slam Braun after Variety reported that he sold her masters to an investment fund. According to the report, Braun’s Ithaca Holdings LLC is receiving over $300 million for Swift’s first six albums, spanning from 2006’s Taylor Swift through 2016’s Reputation.
In a note to her fans on Nov. 16, Swift claimed that her team attempted to enter into negotiations with Braun for her masters over the past year, but that he wanted her to sign an ironclad NDA stating that she would never say another word about him unless it was positive before they could even look at any financial records.
“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,” she wrote. “My legal team said that this is absolutely NOT normal, and they’ve never seen an NDA like this presented unless it was to silence an assault accuser by paying them off. He would never even quote my team a price. These master recordings were not for sale to me.”
She shared that a private equity company called Shamrock Holdings now owns her masters, and she claimed that they told her that although they wanted to reach out before the sale to let her know, Braun had required them to make no contact with her or her team. She said that she stopped communication with Shamrock after she learned that under their terms, Braun would continue to profit off her old music catalog for many years.
“I was hopeful and open to the possibility of a partnership with Shamrock, but Scooter’s participation is a non-starter for me,” she wrote
Swift said she has already begun re-recording her older music. She also shared the letter she says she sent to Shamrock about her masters, which states that Braun’s participation makes it impossible for her to partner with them in any way.
Been getting a lot of questions about the recent sale of my old masters. I hope this clears things up. pic.twitter.com/sscKXp2ibD
ET has reached out to Braun for comment.
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