Music Industry

This Taylor Swift-Big Machine-Scooter Braun thing continues to get distorted and weird.

If you’re unclear about the source of all the drama that’s got Taylor Swift and the Swifties all riled up, start by reading this breakdown of the sale of Big Machine (Taylor’s former label) to Ithaca Holdings, which is partly owned by Scooter Braun, manager of Justin Bieber. I’ll wait.

Done? Good. Here are a few other things to consider.

  1. Taylor Swift has NOT lost control of her music. She owns her own publishing, which is far, far, far more valuable than the master recordings. “Masters” are the final products of a recording session, the source from which all subsequent copies of that material is made. “Publishing” is ownership of the music itself.
  2. Big Machine and its assets (including a series of masters) have been sold to a company called Ithaca Holdings. Here’s what you need to know about Scooter Braun.
  3. Swift claims that she heard about the deal at the same time as the rest of the world. That’s a little hard to believe since (a) everyone knew that Big Machine was for sale and (b) her dad is a shareholder. Ever hear of a $300 million sale that was kept from shareholders?
  4. Swift jumped from Big Machine (which had a deal with Universal) to Republic (an imprint of Universal) last year. She no longer has any relationship with Big Machine.
  5. Ownership of the master recordings of six albums stayed with Big Machine because they owned them, not Taylor. This is a standard practice in the music industry, although a few artists have been fortunate enough to gain ownership of their masters.
  6. Sources say that Taylor (who has lots of dosh) was offered the opportunity to buy her masters but “decided to walk away.” She could have acquired ALL her assets from Big Machine had she resigned with them instead of someone else.
  7. Apparently, she had months to consider the purchase.
  8. However, Don Passman, Taylor’s lawyer, says that she never had a chance to “outright” buy back her masters.
  9. Taylor hates Scooter. She hates the idea that he now owns her masters. She maintains that he and some of his acts have been cyberbullying her for years. This sounds like a personal fight rather than a legal/business one.
  10. Scooter’s wife, Yael Cohen, is now in on the act, calling Tay-Tay’s reaction “a hissy fit.”
  11. Taylor is mad at Scott Borchetta, her former manager and the owner of Big Machine, for selling the company to Scooter. He had this to say about how Taylor has twisted the narrative.
  12. Tay-Tay is being accused of not engaging in dialogue and discussion but instead going to social media in a diva-esque fashion playing the victim while omitting facts pertinent to the story.
  13. However, some artists are coming to Taylor’s defense, including Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie, who co-wrote “Me” with her.
  14. Meanwhile, it’s in Scooter’s interest to be a good steward of these master recordings. And because Taylor owns the publishing, he cannot do anything with her music unless she gives permission.
  15. The drama has now shifted to the issue of young artists being signed to exploitive contracts. That’s definitely a problem in the music industry, but Taylor’s a big girl now with lots and lots of money and power.
  16. That being said, every artist wants to own their masters, so you can understand why Taylor’s upset. But is fostering this sort of drama the right way to handle the situation?
  17. Taylor is the one that’s perpetuating this drama. Cynics might say this is a ploy to drum up support for her new album, Lover, which is coming August 23.
  18. I think that’s it. For now.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37884 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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