Scooter Braun sold Taylor Swift’s masters for a profit, to someone other than Taylor

Save the Children

I was on Twitter yesterday when this story broke and the absolute scrambling from the Snake Fam was something to behold! First, a quick recap: in the summer of 2019, Scooter Braun and a consortium of investors purchased Big Machine for about $300 million. Included in the deal: the masters for Taylor Swift’s first six albums. The reason it was a problem is that Taylor hates Scooter and thinks he was part of a bullying campaign against her. Taylor spent months wildly misrepresenting what was a pretty normal business deal and a pretty average contractual situation. She also whipped up the Snake Fam into a frenzy and then said nothing as they threatened and harassed Scooter, his family and innocent people who work at Big Machine. Smearing Scooter was Taylor’s 2019 drama.

Taylor swore up and down that she would simply re-record all of her songs when she was able to, and that just happened in the last month. Taylor hadn’t said anything about re-recording her masters recently (before yesterday), but the point might might have moot because Scooter just sold all of Taylor’s masters for a profit.

Some 17 months after Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings LLC acquired Big Machine Label Group and all of its recorded music assets, sources tell Variety the veteran manager and entrepreneur has sold the master rights to Taylor Swift’s first six albums. The buyer, an investment fund, is as yet unknown but the deal is believed to be north of $300 million and closed in the last two weeks.

Ithaca purchased the Nashville-based independent record label Big Machine, founded by Scott Borchetta in 2005, in June 2019 for just over $300 million. The acquisition encompassed all aspects of BMLG’s business, including its client roster, distribution deals, publishing and owned artist masters. Swift signed with BMLG at the beginning of her career. Her contract with the label expired in fall 2018, after which she signed a deal for future recordings with Universal Music Group.

Swift is free to re-record songs from her first five BMLG-issued albums as of this month. While most contemporary recording contracts have provisions prohibiting the artist from recutting material for a period of years, Swift likely had favorable terms in her contract that would make her songs eligible for re-recording at a certain point after the end of each album cycle, not the end of her overall contract. In Aug. 2019, she declared publicly that it was her intent to do.

What does that mean for the assets sold by Braun? Master recordings earn revenue through multiple avenues, including streaming and consumption, sampling, public broadcast, use in television, film and commercials. They’ve also become a hot property on Wall Street as funds like Merck Mercuriadis’ Hipgnosis Songs have snapped up catalogs from the likes of Timbaland and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart to Jack Antonoff and Jeff Bhasker. Between March 2019 and March 2020, the company spent nearly $700 million to acquire 42 catalogs.

[From Variety]

The Snake Fan first claimed that Taylor likely bought her masters herself. Which would have been great – why re-record all of the old stuff when you could just own everything free and clear? One of the many issues Taylor in 2019 was that she reportedly asked Scott Borchetta for the right to buy her masters from Big Machine, only to get them (and everything else) sold out from under her to Scooter Braun. And now, according to Taylor, Scooter sold the masters out from under her. Taylor did not buy her masters – she began a negotiation with Braun, only to walk away early in the process when he wanted her to sign an NDA.

Not to take the side of Snake Enemy #1, but I would imagine Scooter wanted Taylor to sign an NDA because she spent months whipping her fans into a frenzy and then she said nothing when they harassed and threatened the people around him? Taylor doesn’t get to play the victim when she said nothing as her fans were calling Scooter’s wife and harassing her and calling in bomb threats to Big Machine. I also don’t understand how she would have been willing to negotiate with Scooter – through their lawyers, I’m sure – but is unwilling to now work with the third party who purchased her masters because Scooter still profits in some vague way.

It definitely feels like the Snake Fam is a bit unsettled because Scooter Braun found a way to come out ahead. He sold only *part* of his investment for a huge profit, and now Taylor’s masters are clearly still a ticking time bomb because Tay confirms she’s re-recording those songs. Scooter walked away pretty clean.

Taylor Swift attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards, Golden Globes, at Hotel Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, USA, on 05 January 2020. | usage worldwide

Photos courtesy of WENN, Avalon Red.

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45 Responses to “Scooter Braun sold Taylor Swift’s masters for a profit, to someone other than Taylor”

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  1. ce says:

    This whole situation is so SHADY. I am fascinated by entertainment law, and read all the statements by both parties. Scooter is shady as hell, but Taylor reportedly didn’t engage in negotiations past a certain point and her dad I guess was also involved in the legal side which fell through/was neglected. Add to that Taylor’s parents were apparently divorcing arund that time too?? Something else isn’t being made clear. Apparently scooter did offer Taylor some sort of deal she was unhappy with and never followed up with, then had the audacity to claim she was never consulted. What are we missing??

    • Alissa says:

      her parents divorced in 2011, so I don’t think that had anything to do with it.

    • Likeyoucare says:

      They offer her to buy one album but she need to add new album for exchange.
      Wth its like you can buy this cake for one dollar but you need to bake another one for exchange to the cake that you had already bought.

      Taylor is problematic with her victim persona, but scooter kept baiting her early on. But, if you look at it, he didnt do it to male artist. They baiting her to promote kanye. Taylor shoudn’t took the bait, they played her.

  2. Levans says:

    Taylor is absolutely twisting the whole ordeal to make herself the victim. She took a risk with leaving Big Machine and part of that meant the loss of her masters. She knew that and is now going for blood with Scooter Braun and his family because he rightfully saw a profitable investment opportunity. She needs to grow up and stop the pity party. Find another to get the masters back or re-record.

    I will continue to listen to the original recordings. If that makes Scooter or this new holdings firm more money then so be it.

    • Jen says:

      Agreed-her “this is the type of NDA used in an assault case” really rubbed me the wrong way.

    • Gunna says:

      Exactly. She made the choice to give up her masters when she left Big Machine. She could have stayed and gotten them back that way (the one for one deal she was offered is not a bad deal at all) or she could have made a competitive offer for the label, which she knew Borchetta was looking to sell. She would have had absolutely no problem getting financing. She chose to do neither, knowing her masters would be sold.

    • coolspray says:

      Completely agree – she has powerful name recognition, negotiating cache, deep pockets, enough business sense/savvy to understand the finer points of the legalities, a tide of public opinion and so many other resources but she HAS.TO.BE.THE.EFFING.VICTIM. In every damn situation. She could have taken any number of legit or legal strategies but she CHOSE to play the victim and make this all public. NDAs in negotiations are STANDARD – which she would 100% know – and comparing it to an assault case is just gross.

    • Kärent says:

      No she is NOT. You have no idea what you’re talking about. I actually disliked Taylor for many years, she was petty and passive aggressive, but she’s grown up.

      Obviously the deal and treatment at Bg Machine were not good enough. She should have been able to buy them without some shady buy one record one tactic.

      Haven’t you ever wanted to leave a workplace because it was so bad. Imagine 6 more years and 6 more albums at a place you’ve already made millions for

      Scooter didn’t have to adhere to those terms. All he needed was the money, which Taylor could have had or sought.

      As a musician myself, I understand very well how these men consistently try to get one over on you. Scooter Braun is s pig, snd you’ll all come to see that sooner than later.

  3. Chris says:

    I generally like her, but I don’t like when people who have big fandoms utilize them to intimidate their “enemies.” NDAs in negotiations are pretty normal so I don’t understand why she balked at it. It looks more and more like she didn’t like the terms or cost and walked away as a negotiating tactic. When Braun offered more and got the masters, she was furious. That’s just a guess.

    Her focus on social issues was good for her, this public business argument amongst rich people is not garnering any sympathy from me.

    • SmalltownGirl says:

      She says he wanted a permanent NDA before even agreeing to open negotiations, meaning she could never discuss him in the press again, which would also have allowed him to potentially cancel the deal and legally she couldn’t say anything. I also bet he put that in there, knowing she would refuse because he never intended to sell to her.

      • Darla says:

        ^^^Exactly. No one reads the fine print because they go into default mode to defend the sleazy man. It’s shocking.

      • SmalltownGirl says:

        Darla agree, because I don’t see how Taylor is in the wrong here. If someone said to me “I am going to make you sign an incredibly powerful and binding document before even agreeing to talk to you and if you sign it, you will never be able to say a word against me again”, I would say no. Especially since there was no guarantee he would even agree to sell to her.

      • Flamingo says:

        It’s not that unusual. Back in my younger days when I was representing big companies, the NDA process basically went like this: employee sues my client for discrimination. I get them to agree to negotiate outside of court, as soon as they agree they get an NDA. The NDA generally doesn’t come at the end of the process, it comes at the beginning. You don’t want someone who doesn’t like how the negotiations are going to decide that it’s time to involve the media.

      • Ronin says:

        Darla, am also shocked-not-shocked at people rushing to defend Scooter. The man’s a sleaze and was putting forth a crap offer.

        Taylor’s story has always been that she was never offered the right to buy her masters outright. She could buy them, but for each one she bought she would owe Big Machine another album they owned. It would create an never ending cycle of her working to “earn” the rights to her music. It was a bad deal, so she walked away and the rights were sold to scooter without her blessing. Then, Scooter comes along and dangles her masters in return for her signing an upfront, permanent NDA. For all she knew, he could have her sign the NDA then walk away without ever making a good faith attempt to negotiate with her. No lawyer worth their salt would tell her to sign. Taylor was actually being shrewd and instead it’s the same old, tired, “Look, she’s playing victim again!” nonsense.

      • SmalltownGirl says:

        Flamingo, but she wasn’t suing or settling, she was trying to make a business deal and he also wanted not the terms of this deal, but all future dealings to be covered and yes, I would balk at that, especially as she says he hadn’t even given her a price point. He created a situation he knew she would at no to because he never intended to sell to her.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        Making the NDA a prerequisite for even starting negotiations was too far.

        I think the public at large sees artists as rich and powerful, and they don’t realize how even the most successful artists get royally SCREWED by labels alllllllll the time. What is “pretty normal”, isn’t always right. Even legendary artists with power like Prince. Tom Petty, James Taylor had to do crazy extreme things to get a fraction of what they were entitled to.

        Taylor is putting a spotlight on the mess, but the music industry has been a mess working against artists (and consumers) for a very long time. That anyone would take Scooter’s “side” just because they dislike Taylor is puzzling to me.

    • Chris says:

      None of us know what actually happened behind the scenes. I’m not sure how everyone knows the terms of the NDA, did they release it somewhere? It’s totally possible I missed parts of the story. In my line of work, NDAs are pretty normal in negotiations and not nefarious. I don’t work in music so I can’t say it’s the same, but NDA does not immediately mean something evil. Both Taylor and Scooter are shrewd, smart, and successful business people, taking what either say at face value is naive. I like Taylor Swift, her music and her business acumen. Doesn’t mean she is off limits to even light criticism. I don’t know why it would mean I’m defending Scooter Braun. I find it weird and offputting when a grown man likes to hang out with people Bieber’s age and goes by Scooter.

      • SmalltownGirl says:

        Chris, in Taylor’s statement she says that Scooter’s team required her to sign an NDA that would force her to never say anything negative about Scooter ever again (not just in relation to this) before even opening negotiations or discussing financials.

  4. SmalltownGirl says:

    I mean if she is telling the truth, they wanted a permanent NDA, not just on this situation but anything to do with Braun , before even agreeing to sit down with her. I’d walk away too because those are sketchy terms and also limit her legal recourse if the deal were to go bad. Also what would have stopped him from just stopping the talks once he got his permanent NDA?

  5. Digital Unicorn says:

    TBH I think this was always his game plan – sell the masters on for a profit when she got the right to re-record them, that way its someone else’s problem. His goal was to always make a sh!t load of money off her – with her help or not. Wonder how it long it will be before he completely sells BMG?

    Taylor is no angel in this mess but there is something seriously creepy about him and his obsession with her. He’s a massive control freak, look at how he controls Bieber and Ariana Grande.

    • Redder says:

      I mean… why else would you buy someone else’s masters but to make a profit? Taylor was given the option in the beginning to negotiate for them but her and her team decided to not go for it, and now she’s upset because the person she doesn’t like did.

      Scooter had to sell because she was beginning to re-record her songs, he wasn’t going to make much money after she releases them. It’s business, she’s the one pretending it’s personal.

      I don’t see him obsessed with her, I see her obsessed with making herself a victim. That’s how she created her career, and how she continues to make headlines.

  6. Beth says:

    Scooter Braun is a shady toad. Requiring an NDA to even negotiate is not normal. I hate NDAs in general and wouldn’t sign one unless I absolutely had to. Taylor can be grating but I don’t think she made the wrong choice here.

    • STRIPE says:

      In my experience NDAs are VERY normal before entering into a negotiation of this size. Taylor even says so herself in the note. The content Taylor is describing is NOT.

      It is very normal to have an NDA that essentially states “since you have to see confidential information about our company and finances to know if you want to invest in/buy it, you will be allowed to see that but only if you do not disclose what you see after”

      That is normal. Saying “you are never allowed to talk about the CEO of this company in any way that isn’t flattering regardless of outcome” is absolutely not normal.

      • Emily says:

        I completely agree. The NDA Taylor is talking about is way outside the scope of a negotiation for her masters.

  7. MissMarierose says:

    Sounds like a win-win, honestly.
    Scooter made a tidy profit and Taylor gets to play the victim again. I guess they both got what they really wanted.

  8. Case says:

    Scooter is absolutely the shady one here and I’m surprised that’s being called into question. The NDA agreement was shady and per Taylor’s own legal team, not normal.

    She didn’t want to work with the third party because that would mean continuously benefiting Scooter rather than making a one-time purchase from him. Understandably she was interested in that. She’s been talking about re-recording her masters this entire time and I don’t doubt she’ll start releasing things as soon as she can.

  9. shanaynay says:

    I’m sorry I think Scooter Braun is as shady and sleazy as them come!!!!

  10. Mina_Esq says:

    When this was happening last year, there were some reports of Scooter “joking” that he now “owns” Taylor Swift. That just rubbed me the wrong way. It’s abuser language. I know Taylor is a bit of a drama queen, but she is also very smart with her business dealings. I don’t think she would let her emotions drive a major business deal without a good reason.

  11. Leanne says:

    Taylor was not given the option to buy the masters first. What people seem to be forgetting is they told her she had to RE-SIGN with their record label and THEN she could negotiate buying her masters – which is total bullshit.

    • Div says:

      Yep. The deal was awful. Scooter’s a shady POS no doubt, but the label was the one who truly did her wrong. It’s also indicative of how bad the music industry can be even to one of its biggest names in terms of intellectual property.

    • Gunna says:

      That’s not a bad deal. A lot of artists get their masters back via a one for one deal. She should have negotiated for it earlier in her career, but otherwise it’s a good way for artists to get their masters back if they don’t want to make the financial outlay for them. If she’d chosen to go with a big label at the start her career she would have been able to get a better deal, but she chose a label that would dedicate itself to her alone. This is the main drawback of that.

      Also Taylor’s never actually said she made an offer for her masters, she’s just danced around that by saying she wasn’t given the option, as though Borchetta was supposed to approach her. This was a business. She knew he wanted to sell the label. If she was interested in her masters she’d have had her lawyers approach him with an offer. If she’d done that, and her offer was competive, you’d think she’d have mentioned it, because that would be 100% proof that Borchetta sold to Braun purely out of spite. Instead she just dances around it, letting people think she actually tried to buy them when it appears she actually had no intention of doing so and had made peace with leaving them behind when she switched labels.

      • Emily says:

        Sure it’s common for artists to be offered a 1:1 deal but that doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. Why should any businessperson or company be able to buy them outright but the same opportunity not be offered to Swift? She was treated differently by Big Machine than Scooter because she’s the artist and even if she made a competitive offer for her masters, they’d rather continue to own her.

  12. Snuffles says:

    I’m on Taylor’s side.

  13. Div says:

    Multiple things can be true:

    1) Taylor should not have weaponized her fandom and yes, it was clearly done on purpose & not by accident. That was terrible.

    2) Scooter is shady asf. He literally joked on social media about “owning her” (and it was defn. real). He once heavily implied that he could have “ruined” Ariana Grande when she temporarily dropped him as a manager. He clearly was behind a smear campaign in the media to paint Swift in very sexist tropes. There are many other examples of him doing shady sh*t.

    3) The Big Machine thing wasn’t a normal deal. They would only sell her masters back if she agreed to re-sign & record as many albums as she wanted to buy the masters back. Basically, she’d have to give the label one new album for every master she wanted to buy back. There’s a reason entertainment lawyers on twitter were saying it was an awful deal.

    4) The whole thing with her masters, as awful as the deal was, is not atypical of the music industry. It’s why so many musicians sided with her…and Scooter, as shady and gross s he was, probably was in it for the cash instead of just to “harass” Taylor. Taylor should have saved her ire for Big Machine & probably would have come off far better if she had focused her fire on them & how the music industry can exploit even it’s biggest stars.

  14. Ada says:

    I sooo look forward to her re-recordings of her first 6 albums!

  15. Valiantly Varnished says:

    Im not mad at him. That whole situation was basically Taylor playing the victim – as usual. When it was honestly just business. Do I think it sucks that so many artists don’t own their masters? Yes. Do I feel sorry for Taylor? No. The way she handled the entire thing was childish and unprofessional and I imagine Scooter felt it was nice big middle finger to her to just sell them and make a nice profit.

  16. D says:

    Looking at this situation at face value it was purely a business deal for Scooter and he took this opportunity to make an attempt to ensure that Taylor does not attack him personally again in the future with the NDA. Taylor has historically played victim and often uses her various platforms to subtly “attack” others while making herself look like she needs “protection”. If anyone here has taken the time to read the fine print of a typical NDA it’s clear that it’s whole existence is to stifle the signee to never speak about the topic/company/person that the NDA is drafted for. It’s not shady, it’s common business practice.

    Granted, Scooter could have sold the masters to her instead of to someone else but why bother? What would he get in return? His goal is to make a profit. If he sold it to her, she would have never agreed to give him the same deal that he was able to get from others.

  17. olliesmom says:

    Never trust a grown man who goes by the name Scooter.

    • Meghan says:

      The Scooter in my life “fired” me on April Fool’s Day, via text message. Then was pissed that I showed up to work the next day.

  18. HeatherC says:

    I’m not knowledgeable about the way sausage is made in the music industry so honest questions here .

    What is the point of re-recording and releasing the first six albums? Vanity? Does that lessen the value of the original set of masters? If someone wanted to use her music from the first six albums (in a commercial, sampling, or movie/tv) do they get in a bidding war with the owner of the original six and TS’s people for lowest price to use? Who is the potential customer? Albums cost money to produce and distribute, wouldn’t most people who want her first six albums already have her first six albums?

    I’m neither a Taylor fan nor a hater, her genres of music don’t appeal to me so I don’t listen. Just honestly asking as it seems like a vanity project in futility?

    • Case says:

      Once she re-records the albums, they’ll be the preferred albums and the owner of the original masters will no longer make as much money off of her work. Her fans will re-purchase the new songs, stream them, etc., and Taylor will make money from it. Fans are excited for the-releases because her voice is much stronger as an adult than when she started releasing music as a teenager. She can get royalties from her music being used in commercials and movies again, and so on.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      It helps to think of it as sound vs. song writing. There are 2 kinds of rights, and the “masters” refer to the SOUND of the recording. So if Taylor makes new versions of these old songs, then when people use those songs for licensing, etc., they will use the new recording and pay Swift instead of the investors. If you own the masters, you also get to decide who you let use the sound of your recording. The investors, for example, could take the original recordings and allow them to be used for any number of things that Taylor might object to.

      With song writing, you get paid for your work if someone does a cover, but you don’t get to decide who is able to make a cover.