On Sunday, June 30, a Tumblr post from Taylor Swift revealed how she feels about Scooter Braun owning the "masters" to her older music. Music producer Braun recently purchased the record label Big Machine from former owner Scott Borchetta for $300 million, per Billboard. The company holds the rights to Swift's first six albums, and in her post she alleges that she's been asking for the opportunity to buy them back for years. In her lengthy post, the "Me!" singer explained why Braun buying Big Machine is her "worst case scenario." Bustle reached out to Swift's, Borchetta, and Braun's reps for comments on Swift's claims, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
In her post, Swift not only expresses disappointment in her masters being sold, she also accused Braun of bullying her throughout her career. She wrote on Tumblr,
"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. 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."
The business of "masters" and recording contracts are a bit confusing, but essentially in a lot of record deals, artists sign away their masters, or the rights to their recordings, and in return the artist gets "an advance that's recoupable against the artist’s royalties," according to a post from AWAL, a British record label.
Swift continued, stating that she was not personally notified about the deal before the news went public.
"Some fun facts about today’s news: I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years."
At the top of the post, Swift has a screenshot of an Instagram Justin Bieber posted on Aug. 2, 2016. It appears to be a Facetime screenshot featuring Braun, his manager, and Kanye West. It came weeks after the whole Swift-Kardashian-West drama that involved an audio recording of a phone call with Kardashian in which Swift seemingly approved West's lyrics in "Famous," where he states "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that b*tch famous."
(At the time, Swift commented on the situation via Instagram in a post that has since been deleted, but BuzzFeed reported it read: "Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me 'that b*tch' in his song? It doesn't exist because it never happened. You don't get to control someone's emotional response to being called 'that b*tch' in front of the entire world. Of course I wanted to like the song. I wanted to believe Kanye when he told me that I would love the song. I wanted us to have a friendly relationship. He promised to play the song for me, but he never did.")
Swift continued, "Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it. (See photo) Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it."
Bieber has since responded with his own post on Instagram. He wrote, "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.." He then went on to defend Braun claiming that "Scooter has had your back since the days you graciously let me open up for you."
She went on to highlight the tough reality of recording contracts and being a budding, young singer when she signed.
"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.
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.
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.
I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23."
In terms of the business side of the deal, on June 30, the news broke that Braun's Ithaca Holdings — his "media holding company," according to Variety — acquired the Big Machine Label Group owned by Scott Borchetta. That acquisition also comes with the publishing part of the company, Big Machine Music. Big Machine still has artists like Florida Georgia Line, Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, and Taylor Swift's catalog of music, which is why the artist herself spoke out about the sale.
Swift is one of the biggest artists to come out of Big Machine, and a source told Variety that 80 percent of Big Machine's revenue comes from Swift's music, although Big Machine would not confirm the information. In a statement to Billboard, however, Braun said that he's wanted to work with Borchetta since they became friends in 2010, and Big Machine has been "on the block" since last summer.
However somber and disheartening this news is for Swift, it was announced in August of 2018 that Swift would be a free agent following her contractual end with Big Machine in November 2018, and that her personal company, Taylor Swift Productions, Inc, would have full ownership, and therefore control, of all master recordings going forward, along with those master rights.
Since she shared her post, fans have been applauding Swift for speaking out. Twitter user @courtneypochin wrote, "Taylor Alison Swift put her heart and soul into these six works of art/albums. For a man who has done nothing but hurt her to be able to claim ownership of them is absolutely disgusting. She deserves so much better #WeStandWithTaylor." And @Katie_Krause added, "Confused how Taylor Swift standing up for herself and speaking truth and trying to change the music industry is her asking for sympathy?!? She doesn’t want sympathy. She wants to have a chance to own HER music."
So even though this acquisition means her past work is in Braun's hands, it looks like she's looking ahead to releasing her music on her own terms.