Commentary

Taylor Swift Blasts Deal That Sells Her Masters To Nemesis

Scott Borchetta sold his Nashville-based Big Machine Label Group to music manager Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings for more than $300 million over the weekend, touching off a social media brouhaha among some of the biggest names in pop music.

Taylor Swift, who was signed by Borchetta when she was 15, ignited the battle with a post on her Tumblr blog, calling the deal “my worst case scenario.” Included in the deal are the rights to the master recordings of all six of Swift’s multiplatinum albums. 

“Unsigned artists are often desperate to catch a break, and so, perhaps under bad advice, will sign away their rights, indefinitely, in return for the security of immediate funding and label support. However this model is beginning to come under pressure. On the demand side, artists are becoming far cannier about the sort of deals they are signing,” Jamie Powell reports for Financial Times.

“Lover,” Swift’s new album with her new label, Universal Music Group, will be released Aug. 23. Part of the terms of her deal with Universal are that she owns the master rights to her songs going forward. She says she eschewed resigning with Big Machine Records under a deal where she could "'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.”

“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…. 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.... Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked,” Swift wrote.

Borchetta, who is joining the Ithaca board and will remain president and CEO of BMLG, “responded to Swift’s accusations in his own blog post, titled ‘So, It’s Time For Some Truth…,’ later on Sunday night. In his statement, Borchetta said that he had offered Swift an opportunity last year to gain ownership over her previous recordings in exchange for signing a new contract with Big Machine Label Group. He posted a section of a deal proposal that he said was from the negotiations, showing Big Machine requesting Swift’s services for a period of 10 years -- instead of a typical recording agreement for a number of albums -- after she proposed a seven-year deal,” Joe Coscarelli writes  for the New York Times

Justin Bieber, who opened for Swift when he was starting out, was among the celebrities who weighed in on Borchetta’s side with an Instagram post on Instagram accusing Swift of bullying tactics herself. 

Writer Yashar Ali followed some of the back and forth among stars and music business honchos in real time, as well as a bunch of irrelevant and irreverent jabs and quips aimed at both parties, on his Twitter account.

Meanwhile, “the deal for Big Machine comes amid a wave of consolidation among media companies seeking to bulk up to compete, as streaming has upended how consumers watch television and movies and listen to music,” writes Anne Steele for the Wall Street Journal. 

“Mr. Braun’s deal for Big Machine diversifies his interests to capitalize on multiple aspects of a resurgent music industry, driven largely by the rise of streaming, which has returned record labels to growth in recent years,” Steele adds.

“In recent years, Swift has become something of an activist on behalf of recording artists. She withheld ‘1989' from Apple Music in 2015, citing dissatisfaction with how the organization compensates artists when customers with trial subscriptions stream music,” Travis M. Andrews writes for the Washington Post. “The company quickly responded, changing its policy.

“The year before, she had written  an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that railed against streaming services for not paying artists a fair share.”

Swift’s more recent controversy was over her new single, “You Need To Calm Down,” with Toney Bravo asking in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Does Taylor Swift have the right to wade into the gay pool as a straight woman to help sell her latest release?”

One thing that’s not in dispute: Sell, she does.

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