Taylor Swift has been gunning for Big Machine after the label – and her back catalogue – was sold to Scooter Braun’s SB Projects.
Now label founder Scott Borchetta, who helped launch Swift’s career, has hit back (see below for the full statement). And Braun’s management client, Justin Bieber has joined in too.
In one of the most extraordinary industry bust-ups of recent times, the Big Machine founder has responded to Swift’s Tumblr post about the sale of the label with details of text messages and documents about the Big Machine renewal she turned down.
“Taylor had every chance in the world to own not just her master recordings, but every video, photograph, everything associated to her career,” said Borchetta in a statement on the Big Machine site. “She chose to leave.”
Swift has signed a new deal with Universal Music Group and Republic. Her new album, Lover, is out on August 23 – but her six previous albums remain with Big Machine.
To recap, Swift published a Tumblr post expressing surprise and dismay (“worst case scenario”) at the announcement of the sale of Big Machine to Scooter Braun on Sunday (June 30).
“I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world,” wrote Swift. “All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years.”
The bullying claim relates to the leak of a phone recording in which Swift apparently approved the use of a controversial lyric in Kanye West’s song Famous. In her post, Swift also described the video for Famous depicting her as “revenge porn” by West, a client of Braun’s.
Swift also identified Justin Bieber’s role in “online bullying” over the phone leak.
While apologising for that incident, Bieber has now expressed strong support for Braun in an Instagram post.
He said: “Scooter has had your back since the days you graciously let me open up for you.! As the years have passed we haven’t crossed paths and gotten to communicate our differences, hurts or frustrations. So for you to take it to social media and get people to hate on scooter isn’t fair. What were you trying to accomplish by posting that blog? seems to me like it was to get sympathy u also knew that in posting that your fans would go and bully scooter.”
Bieber offered to help “resolve any conflict” but pointed out that Swift’s original post about Braun was “crossing a line”.
We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world
In his lengthy statement (“it’s time for some truth”), Borchetta outlined the background to the row, including the Big Machine renewal deal offered and subsequently rejected by Swift.
“100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement,” wrote Borchetta. “We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to ‘albums’ but more of a length of time.
“We are an independent record company. We do not have tens of thousands of artists and recordings. My offer to Taylor, for the size of our company, was extraordinary. But it was also all I could offer as I am responsible for dozens of artists’ careers and over 120 executives and their families.
“Taylor and I remained on very good terms when she told me she wanted to speak with other record companies and see what was out there for her. I never got in her way and wished her well.”
He also reproduced the text he sent to Swift on June 29 – ahead of the official June 30 announcement – detailing the deal with Braun.
“I want you to know that I will continue to be the proud custodian of your previous works and will continue to keep you and your team abreast of all future plans for releases of you work,” he wrote in the text.
Borchetta also pointed out that Swift’s father was a shareholder in Big Machine and was made aware of the deal on June 25.
Following the Swift move to Universal, Borchetta has been shopping the label to potential industry partners. UMG, which distributes Big Machine, was also said to be in the frame. The row between Braun (who manages UMG artists Bieber and Ariana Grande), Borchetta and Swift puts the major in an uncomfortable position.
Borchetta also admitted there were “issues” between Swift and Bieber.
Click here to read Borchetta’s Music Week interview about life after Taylor Swift.
The full statement by Borchetta is below.
So, it’s time for some truth…
In regard to a post earlier today from Taylor, it’s time to set some things straight.
Taylor’s dad, Scott Swift, was a shareholder in Big Machine Records, LLC. We first alerted all of the shareholders on Thursday, June 20th for an official shareholder’s call scheduled for Tuesday, June 25th. On the 6/25 call the shareholders were made aware of the pending deal with Ithaca Holdings and had 3 days to go over all of the details of the proposed transaction. We then had a final call on Friday, June 28th in which the transaction passed with a majority vote and 3 of the 5 shareholders voting ‘yes’ with 92% of the shareholder’s vote.
Out of courtesy, I personally texted Taylor at 9:06pm, Saturday, June 29th to inform her prior to the story breaking on the morning of Sunday, June 30th so she could hear it directly from me.
I guess it might somehow be possible that her dad Scott, 13 Management lawyer Jay Schaudies (who represented Scott Swift on the shareholder calls) or 13 Management executive and Big Machine LLC shareholder Frank Bell (who was on the shareholder calls) didn’t say anything to Taylor over the prior 5 days. I guess it’s possible that she might not have seen my text. But, I truly doubt that she “woke up to the news when everyone else did”.
I am attaching a few very important deal points in what was part of our official last offer to Taylor Swift to remain at Big Machine Records. Her 13 Management team and attorney Don Passman went over this document in great detail and reported the terms to her in great detail.
Taylor and I then talked through the deal together.
As you will read, 100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement. We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to ‘albums’ but more of a length of time.
We are an independent record company. We do not have tens of thousands of artists and recordings. My offer to Taylor, for the size of our company, was extraordinary. But it was also all I could offer as I am responsible for dozens of artists’ careers and over 120 executives and their families.
Taylor and I remained on very good terms when she told me she wanted to speak with other record companies and see what was out there for her. I never got in her way and wished her well.
The morning that the new Taylor/UMG announcement was going to be made, she texted me shortly before letting me know that the announcement was coming in a few minutes.
As we both posted on our socials, we saluted each other and cheered each other on.
Taylor had every chance in the world to own not just her master recordings, but every video, photograph, everything associated to her career. She chose to leave.
As to her comments about ‘being in tears or close to it’ anytime my new partner Scooter Braun’s name was brought up, I certainly never experienced that. Was I aware of some prior issues between Taylor and Justin Bieber? Yes. But there were also times where Taylor knew that I was close to Scooter and that Scooter was a very good source of information for upcoming album releases, tours, etc, and I’d reach out to him for information on our behalf. Scooter was never anything but positive about Taylor. He called me directly about Manchester to see if Taylor would participate (she declined).
He called me directly to see if Taylor wanted to participate in the Parkland March (she declined). Scooter has always been and will continue to be a supporter and honest custodian for Taylor and her music.
This is the text Taylor sent to me on Monday, November 19th at 8:57am:
I hope this finds you well. Since communication ran dry on our negotiations, I’ve done what I told you I would do and gone out exploring other options. Owning my masters was very important to me, but I’ve since realized that there are things that mean even more to me in the bigger picture. I had a choice whether to bet on my past or to bet on the future and I think knowing me, you can guess which one I chose. I also saw a rare opportunity to effect positive change for a lot of other artists with the leverage I have right now. I know you believe in the same things I do and I’d like to think you would be proud of what I’ve negotiated for in my deal. I wanted to tell you first that I’ll be signing with Lucian. I honestly truly cherish everything you and I have built together and I plan on saying so in my announcement of the new deal. What we accomplished together will be a lasting legacy and a case study on excellent partnerships, and may it continue. I still view you as a partner and friend and I hope you feel the same. Sending you a hug and my most sincere gratitude.
And SO much love,
Here is the text I sent on the evening of June 29 at 9:05pm:
Hope all is well and congratulations on the success of your first two singles from “Lover”!
I can’t wait to hear the entire album…
I wanted to pass along to you the same courtesy that you passed along to me in regard to my future.
Tomorrow morning (Sunday, June 30th) at 10a central, the Wall Street Journal will announce that I am entering into a merger/acquisition with Scooter Braun and Ithaca Holdings. This move will give us more pop culture super-power than ever before and I’m so excited about the future.
I want you to know that I will continue to be the proud custodian of your previous works and will continue to keep you and your team abreast of all future plans for releases of you work.
Nothing but the best,
Screen shot of deal points:
And, that’s the truth…