Unpacking the Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun drama: This is how things got here

Scott Borchetta, Scooter Braun, Taylor Swift (Photo: Getty)
Scott Borchetta, Scooter Braun, Taylor Swift (Photo: Getty)

Cape Town – So you've seen the Instagram and Tumblr posts; scrolled past the headlines on Twitter and now you're confused about how exactly Scooter Braun owns the rights to six of Taylor Swift's records and why she is so mad about it. 

That's ok, we're here to unpack one or two music industry terms and then dive into all the drama once more with some of the most recent updates. 

Ok, the first thing you need to know is: What is a master recording? According to Refinery29: "A master recording refers to the actual original recording, be it a song or album. So, if you're streaming Swift's Fearless from Apple Music or buying it on vinyl at your local record store or hearing it in a movie or TV show, you can do that because Big Machine Music granted a license using their 'master' rights." 

What this means for Taylor:  Taylor left Big Machine at the end of her contract in late 2018 for Universal Music Group/Republic. At the end of that deal, Big Machine kept the masters, meaning that they kept all future profits from those records. 

Why would Taylor have signed away her rights to those recordings? The singer's decision to sign away her rights actually isn't that uncommon in the music industry. A lot of artists do it when they're young and hungry for success – Taylor was fifteen – in exchange for the promotion of their albums and an income. 

Why didn't Taylor fight to buy back the recordings? According to Pitchfork, "While the music industry has seen numerous artists repurchasing masters from their respective labels—from Frank Ocean and Rihanna to Prince and JAY-Z—the majority of artists never reach this point."

The reality is it can lead to years and years of costly legal struggles. It's a pretty ironclad deal in most cases. Was Taylor given the option to buy back her recordings? According to the founder of Big Machine, Scott Borchetta, the 29-year-old was given the opportunity (in a more extended new contract) to earn back the master recordings to each one of her albums one by one dependant on the number of hours she works. Taylor said she decided not to do this because she felt Borchetta would soon sell the company, "Thereby selling me and my future."

Scooter and the drama: Of course this all came to light because Big Machine Records executive Scott Borchetta did end up selling the label, which owns all of her masters, to Scooter Braun for $300 million. Taylor said she only found about the deal when it was announced in the news, but it's a claim that Scott disputes in an open letter on his blog. He claims he sent his former artist a courtesy text ahead of the announcement on June 29, which he pasted in his blog post. 

According to Daily Mail other than posting and then deleting an Insta-story post from his friend congratulating him on 'buying Taylor Swift' Scooter hasn't released a statement. His wife Yael has however in which she said: "'He's a manager, not God. He cannot control the actions of other humans, even ones he manages. 'Don't blame him because Kim caught you in a lie, 'it's embarrassing, I know—but adults own up to their mistakes. We learn and grow from them, we 'don't divert blame and blur the lines of reality to suit our needs."


Where Justin Bieber comes in and the latest clap backs from both sides: As we've already told you, Justin came out in support and of manager and longtime friend Scooter. Others who have supported Scooter include Demi Lovato (also his newly acquired client), Sia and Ex-Oprah Winfrey Network president and Big Machine Records board member Erik Logan. 

Famous faces on Taylor's side include Cara Delevingne, Halsey and Todrick Hall among others. 

Where this leaves Taylor: Taylor's upcoming album, titled Lover, will be the first she owns the masters of and can make money off. Her entire catalogue will now be a very lucrative cash cow for Scooter Braun Ithaca Holdings. 

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