Taylor Swift's Attorney Says Singer Never Had a Chance to 'Outright' Buy Back Her Masters From Big Machine

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
Taylor Swift attends the Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 23, 2019 in New York. 

"Scott Borchetta never gave Taylor Swift an opportunity to purchase her masters, or the label, outright with a check in the way he is now apparently doing for others," says Don Passman.

Taylor Swift's attorney, Don Passman, has now stepped into the battle between the superstar singer, Big Machine Label Group's founder/CEO Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun, whose Ithaca Holdings agreed to purchase BMLG (including Swift's master recordings) June 30 for more than $300 million.   

In a statement on Tuesday (July 2), Passman said, "Scott Borchetta never gave Taylor Swift an opportunity to purchase her masters, or the label, outright with a check in the way he is now apparently doing for others."   

After the purchase was announced, Swift quickly took to Tumblr to call Braun's purchase her "worst case scenario," saying she has suffered "incessant, manipulative bullying...at his hands." She added, "For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and 'earn' one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in."   

 

A few hours later, Borchetta dismissed Swift's assertion in a post titled "So, It's Time For Some Truth." Borchetta claimed "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... 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." 

In a response to a proposal between Swift's management team and Passman named "TS Proposal" and dated Aug. 15, 2018, BMLG agreed that "Upon execution [of a new contract], "BMLG shall assign to TS all recordings (audio and/or visual), artwork, photographs and any other materials relating to TS which BMLG owns or controls."  Big Machine's offer included Swift signing a new 10-year contract with the label.

The two parties could never come to terms and in November, Swift left BMLG for a global deal with Universal Music Group. However, the masters for her first six albums remain with BMLG and will now be owned by Ithaca Holdings once the deal is finalized.

Today's move is a highly unusual one for Passman, who almost never comments on artists' deals and declined to comment beyond the statement to Billboard. Unclear is if Borchetta ever inferred that Swift could buy back her masters or the label without signing a new deal and if the "others" mentioned in the statement is Braun-- or other artists. 

Since the sale was announced, acts have lined up for Team Swift or Team Braun, creating the most public battle about an artists' masters in recent memory. 

Big Machine Label Group declined to comment. Swift's representative could not be immediately reached.   


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