Scott Borchetta's Response To Taylor Swift's Open Letter Claims He Gave Her A Chance To Own Her Masters
On Sunday, June 30, it was announced that Big Machine Label had been acquired by Scooter Braun's Ithaca Holdings LLC. Swift, who released her first six albums with the label, responded publicly hours later on June 30, claiming in a Tumblr post that she had been manipulated and unable to buy back the rights to her music before the sale. And now, Big Machine Label Group CEO Scott Borchetta has responded to Swift, titling his open response on the company's website, "So, It’s Time For Some Truth…"
In the post, Borchetta accused Swift of lying about certain details of their negotiations. However, some details in the post also seemed to corroborate Swift's claims regarding their contract negotiations. Bustle reached out to Swift for comment on Borchetta's response, but did not hear back before publication.
Over the weekend, Swift claimed that she had been asking her former label, Big Machine Records, for the ability to buy back her masters — essentially meaning the rights to all the songs, videos, and any other property, she created while under contract with the labor. However, she wrote, "I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and 'ear' one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in." Swift then left the label, and though she wrote that she "made peace with the fact that eventually he [Borchetta] would sell them [her masters]," but was surprised to find out that Big Machine Records was sold to Scooter Braun.
Borchetta pushed back on many of these claims in his own post late on Sunday night, saying that he wanted "to set some things straight." He began by denying Swift's claim that she had found out about the sale "as it was announced to the world." The record exec wrote, "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." Later in his statement, Borchetta also claimed that he sent Swift a text message prior to the news going public. In the text, which he claimed was sent Saturday night, he informed Swift of the merger and wrote that he would "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."
Borchetta also responded to Swift's claims regarding their contract negotiations, sharing a photo of part of the new contract he claimed Swift was offered before she left Big Machine. "As you will read, 100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement," he wrote. "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." The attached contract states that in exchange for Swift's masters, she would have to sign up for 10 more years with the label, something the singer said she rejected because "I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future."
Borchetta went on to write that Big Machine is "an independent record company," which doesn't have a large roster of artists, saying that his offer "for the size of our company, was extraordinary." He then insisted that it's all just business. "But it was also all I could offer as I am responsible for dozens of artists’ careers and over 120 executives and their families." According to a 2018 article from Variety, Swift's music made up to 80% of Big Machine's revenue, although that wasn't confirmed by the label themselves. He also responded to the singer's claim that Braun bullied her, writing, "Scooter was never anything but positive about Taylor."
At the end of the day, the music industry is a business that is complicated, a bit scary, and meant to make money with a system of contracts that have historically been designed to benefit the labels, not the artists. Borchetta may be pushing back on some details in Swift's post, but the fact remains that the singer and songwriter doesn't own her own work, which points to a much bigger issue than one contract negotiation.