Big Machine Label Group CEO Scott Borchetta (left) who told Taylor Swift (right) when she was making her new album Red the she had "artistic license" to head in any music direction she wanted. (Photo: Andrew Hampp)
Big Machine Label Group CEO Scott Borchetta brought radio and labels back together in a landmark royalty deal earlier this year with Clear Channel that compensated a record label for pay-for-play performance royalties in addition to the historical compensation awarded to songs' writers and publishers. Next, Borchetta would like to see some similar cooperation between streaming music services like Spotify, where Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Getting Back Together," his label's biggest hit, has yet to appear.
(L-R): John Sykes, President of Entertainment Enterprises, Clear Channel; Gavin DeGraw; Tom Poleman, President of National Programming Platforms, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment
"I personally struggle with that model - I don't think that it should be free," Borchetta told Billboard. "We've spoken with the services, and spoken with Spotify in particular - I'm meeting with them next week - and we've talked about a lot of different things. We just haven't hit on the right model that works for us. I don't have thousands and thousands of albums and hundreds and hundreds of artists, I have a finite artist roster and finite number of releases. If you're a big battleship like Sony or Universal and have tens of thousands of masters, that income stream makes sense at a big corporation. It doesn't make sense to a small record company."
Borchetta is also pleased with the progress with Big Machine and Clear Channel's royalty pact, which was the result of a conversation he had with CEO Bob Pittman and entertainment president John Sykes at this year's Grammys. "What it gets down to is, 'if you're not making a dollar in broadcasting, how can we ask for a dollar? But hey, where you are doing business, include us, and where you're not, we support you. We support the growth of radio -- we love radio."
As for Swift's "Red," out Oct. 22, Borchetta is excited about the singer's stylistic shift to more rock and pop-oriented music. The record features collaborations with Max Martin and Shellback on "Never Ever" as well as Jackknife Lee (U2, R.E.M.), Train's Pat Monahan, UK singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, producer Jeff Bhasker (fun.'s "We Are Young") and Semisonic's Dan Wilson (Adele's "Someone Like You"), as well as continued work with longtime producer Nathan Chapman and a first-time team-up with Nashville mainstay Dann Huff, who pitched in for a few songs and re-worked "Never Ever" for country radio.
Although the latter has helped Swift maintain airplay with her country base, "There was a really specific moment that she and Max Martin and Shellback created and it's very much a pop record. We've never hidden behind what it is," Borchetta says. To that end, there likely won't be a dual commercial release of the song's country version a la Shania Twain's "Up!", her 2002 record that famously featured dual versions of every song to please pop and country fans alike. "As of now we have no plans" to release the country mix of "Never Ever," Borchetta added.
(L-R): David Nathan, Vice President of Promotions, Universal Music Group; Scott Borchetta, CEO, Big Machine Records; Bob Pittman, CEO, Clear Channel; Taylor Swift; Tom Poleman, President of National Programming Platforms, Clear Channel; Joel Klaiman, Executive Vice President of Promotion and Artist Development, Universal Republic Records.
That similar lack of forcing genres translated to the rest of his input on the making of "Red." "We were in the studio pretty early on and the songs she was writing I would say, 'if it's country run toward it, if it's rock run toward it. You have the artistic license.' Our music needs to explore the edges like I feel it always has."
(L-R): Aerosmith's Joe Perry and Steven Tyler; Bob Pittman, CEO, Clear Channel; and Tom Poleman, President of National Programming Platforms at Clear Channel.