Yesterday, I was going about my business when I got a push notification that really surprised me. My phone was chiming in to inform me that, once again, Taylor Swift has beef with Scooter Braun. I know this entire year has felt like a bizarre alternate universe and time is a social construct, but I really thought we had left Taylor Swift’s drama with Scooter Braun in 2019. But despite my initial surprise (and the eye roll that went along with it), of course I had to get to the bottom of exactly what is going on. The saga of Taylor and Scooter is still going strong, and unsurprisingly, Scooter still looks like an asshole.
But before we get into the new developments, how about a quick refresher of how we got here. Scooter Braun is best known as the manager of major recording acts such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato, but he’s also a major record executive and investor. Taylor Swift is… Taylor Swift. Duh. In 2018, after over a decade of releasing music through the Big Machine record label, Taylor signed a new recording contract with a different label. Due to the terms of her Big Machine contract, the label still owned the master recordings of her first six albums, even after she left. In the summer of 2019, without Taylor’s knowledge, Scooter Braun’s company bought Big Machine, which basically made Scooter the owner of Taylor Swift’s entire catalogue.
Taylor was livid when she found out about Scooter’s purchase, and this was when the drama ignited publicly for the first time. In a searing public statement, Taylor accused Scooter of years of “incessant, manipulative bullying,” and claimed that “my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.” Later in the year, Taylor also claimed that Big Machine (aka Scooter Braun) was trying to stop her from performing a medley of her hits at the American Music Awards, or from using her songs in her documentary Miss Americana. In her post, she invited her fans to let Braun know how they felt about these actions, and as you can imagine, the response was intense. In a subsequent post, Scooter Braun said he received death threats, and pleaded with Taylor to bury the hatchet. Ultimately, Taylor was allowed to perform at the AMAs and use her songs in the documentary, but even though that particular beef was squashed, it wasn’t like Taylor and Scooter were going to get brunch anytime soon.
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So where does that leave us now? Well, fast forward a year, and Scooter Braun has already sold Taylor’s masters to another company. Last month, all of the recordings, videos, and album art from Taylor’s first six albums were purchased by Shamrock Holdings in a deal believed to be worth over $300 million, and on Monday, Taylor Swift shared an open letter, in which she made some important clarifications about the recent deal.
First of all, Taylor makes it clear that she wanted to purchase the masters herself, and she tried to do so. But before Scooter’s team would enter discussions with Taylor or even quote a price, she was told she would need to agree to sign a permanent NDA agreeing to never say another negative thing about Scooter Braun. This request was a dealbreaker for Taylor. She says plainly, “These master recordings were not for sale to me.”
Been getting a lot of questions about the recent sale of my old masters. I hope this clears things up. pic.twitter.com/sscKXp2ibD
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 16, 2020
Then, she gets into the stuff with Shamrock Holdings. She says she received a letter from the private equity company after the deal was done, and they told her that Scooter Braun made it clear the deal would be off if they told Taylor before it was completed. While Taylor says she was initially “hopeful and open to the possibility of a partnership with Shamrock,” she soon found out that under the deal, Scooter Braun will continue to profit from the masters for the foreseeable future. Taylor writes that “Scooter’s participation is a non-starter,” and makes it clear that she will be moving forward with her previous plan to re-record the songs from her first six albums.
So at the end of the day, we’re basically in the exact same place as before. Taylor Swift still doesn’t have any ownership over the recordings from the first decade of her career, and Scooter Braun is still profiting off of the work of someone who hates his guts. Nothing has really changed, yet here we are (things I say about being on day 287 of quarantine).
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Images: tinseltown / shutterstock.com; scooterbraun / Instagram; taylorswift13 / Twitter
There we all were, enjoying the last day of Pride month in peace. Birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and things were quiet—a little too quiet. Then Taylor Alison Swift fired up her Tumblr account and fired some shots at Scooter Braun. Buckle up everyone, because this whole Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun situation is a giant mess, with even more messes built on top of it. There’s been a lot of confusion, but I’m going to break down what you actually need to know to avoid getting roasted in the group chat.
First, if you don’t know anything about Scooter Braun, listen up. Scooter is an A-list talent manager and record label owner. He’s worked with many, many big names, but his current holy grail trifecta of artists are Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Demi Lovato. He’s managed Ariana and Justin for basically their whole careers, but Demi was just signed a few months ago. That’s going to be important later.
Over the years, I’ve heard whisperings about how Scooter Braun is sketchy, or how he’s done sh*tty things to artists, but he’s managed to dodge the criticism and stay at the top of the industry. He and his wife Yael hang out with an elite crew, and last weekend they were at Karlie Kloss’ extra af wedding weekend in Wyoming. To say they’re well-connected is an understatement.
Enter: Taylor Swift. Yesterday, it was announced that Scooter Braun’s company was buying Big Machine Records, the label under which Taylor Swift released her first six albums. The Big Machine deal is massive for Scooter, but probably the biggest part of it is that he now owns the master recordings for Taylor’s first six albums. That basically means he controls all her music up until her August release. For an artist as legendary as Taylor, owning these masters is like owning a half-dozen Picassos.
As you could probably surmise from this whole fiasco, Taylor wasn’t real happy about the deal with Scooter. This news led to her Tumblr post, which obviously broke the internet. In the post, Taylor accuses Scooter Braun of bullying her throughout her career, including through a photo posted years ago by Justin Bieber on Instagram. Taylor even dredged up the Kanye West drama again, which seems like a lost cause, but whatever.
Taylor lays a lot of the blame for this whole situation on Scott Borchetta, the head of Big Machine Records, who orchestrated the deal with Scooter Braun. Taylor insists that Scott has known about her negative feelings toward Scooter for years, and assets, “He knew what he was doing; they both did” by selling Big Machine to Scooter. You should probably read the full post (above) for more context, but the message is obviously clear that Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun do not get along.
Taylor’s original post obviously gave us a lot to think about, but she’s done this before. We’ve all seen her use her clout to get what she wants, or to expose someone, or to play the victim, so it was hard to know right away if this was going to really go anywhere. But then Justin Bieber responded.
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Hey Taylor. First of all i would like to apologize for posting that hurtful instagram post, at the time i thought it was funny but looking back it was distasteful and insensitive.. I have to be honest though it was my caption and post that I screenshoted of scooter and Kanye that said “taylor swift what up” he didnt have anything to do with it and it wasnt even a part of the conversation in all actuality he was the person who told me not to joke like that.. Scooter has had your back since the days you graciously let me open up for you.! As the years have passed we haven’t crossed paths and gotten to communicate our differences, hurts or frustrations. So for you to take it to social media and get people to hate on scooter isn’t fair. What were you trying to accomplish by posting that blog? seems to me like it was to get sympathy u also knew that in posting that your fans would go and bully scooter. Anyway, One thing i know is both scooter and i love you. I feel like the only way to resolve conflict is through communication. So banter back and fourth online i dont believe solves anything. I’m sure Scooter and i would love to talk to you and resolve any conflict, pain or or any feelings that need to be addressed. Neither scooter or i have anything negative to say about you we truly want the best for you. I usually don’t rebuttal things like this but when you try and deface someone i loves character thats crossing a line..
Moment of silence for this absolutely adorable photo, because it really left me speechless for a second there.
Okay, let’s dig in. I absolutely cannot with Justin Bieber here. Credit to Justin for apologizing for that old photo he posted, but it’s not cute that he then immediately turns it around and lectures Taylor about how wrong she was for posting her thoughts on social media…while then posting his thoughts on social media. You don’t have to love Taylor Swift’s way of going about things, but this caption is just patronizing, aside from being almost unintelligible.
In general, I hate when celebrities criticize things like this for being done in a public forum. Sure, Taylor Swift’s post was public, but Justin’s Instagram post tearing her down isn’t any less public. Scooter’s wife Yael also came for Taylor (and specifically called her out for going public) in a Notes app screenshot Insta. Again, still public.
I have to laugh at Yael trying to tag Taylor in the actual text of the note, because that’s literally not how phones work. The other hilarious part of this is that Scooter’s real name is Scott, so in the same sentence, Yael is talking about Scott (Scooter), Scott Borchetta, and Taylor Swift’s dad, whose name is—you guessed it—SCOTT SWIFT. For the love of god, someone please get one of these boring white men a new name.
Aside from all the sh*t talking about Taylor, the important issue that Yael raises is the timing of when Taylor knew about the Big Machine deal. In her Tumblr post, Taylor says that she first learned about the deal “as it was announced to the world.” Yikes. Yael claims that Taylor not only was given a chance to buy her masters, but she was also notified of the deal with Scooter before it was made public.
So who would know more about the timing of the deal? Let’s hear from Scott Borchetta, shall we? As a reminder, Borchetta is the founder of Big Machine. He posted an open letter on the Big Machine website yesterday, aiming to clarify what Taylor Swift knew and when. He said that last week, there was a shareholder meeting about the pending deal, and as a major shareholder in Big Machine, Taylor’s dad Scott Swift was invited. One of Taylor’s lawyers was also apparently invited to the call. Ironic that the latest Taylor Swift drama involves what she knew or didn’t know before a certain phone call…
In addition to this meeting, Scott Borchetta says that he texted Taylor on Saturday evening to make sure she was aware of the deal before the impending announcement. I believe this part, but I don’t think that really makes much of a difference when it comes to the point Taylor is trying to make. Even if she first found out about the deal a week ago, it was still too late for her to do anything about it.
Surprisingly, this was astutely pointed out on Twitter by Iggy Azalea, who, even if you don’t like her, obviously knows a thing or two about contract negotiations in the music business:
Telling someone about a deal days before it’s public means the deal was already done & she never had the opportunity to even make a bid to own her own work. These deals take months to negotiate in long form. https://t.co/Ra7NdxzcOM
— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) June 30, 2019
So, yeah, that’s pretty much what you need to know here. There are way more people who have gotten involved, but I wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page about what’s actually going down with Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun before digging deeper into the mess. You can decide for yourself whether you’re on Team Taylor here, but the whole deal with Big Machine and Scooter definitely feels a little shady.
If you have any specific questions, let me know in the comments!
Images: Shutterstock; Taylor Swift / Tumblr; justinbieber, yael / Instagram; iggyazalea / Twitter