News broke on November 17, 2020 that Shamrock Holdings purchased Taylor Swift’s six-album Big Machine Records catalog from Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.
Since the original June 2019 transaction, there’s been a lot of “he said, she said” on both sides, with Big Machine founder/CEO Scott Borchetta responding to former iconic BMLG star Swift’s post with his own letter, followed by several other artists chiming in with their opinions.
Here’s a timeline of everything that’s happened so far.
Braun acquires Borchetta’s Big Machine Records Label Group, including Swift’s catalog for over $300 million
It was announced on June 30 that Braun’s Ithaca Holdings agreed to acquire Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group in a blockbuster deal backed by the massive global investment firm the Carlyle Group. The deal topped $300 million and also included Big Machine Music, the music publishing operation.
“The idea of Scott and I working together is nothing new, we’ve been talking about it since the beginning of our friendship,” Braun said in a statement. “I reached out to him when I saw an opportunity and, after many conversations, realized our visions were aligned. He’s built a brilliant company full of iconic songs and artists. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? By joining together, we will create more opportunities for artists than ever before, by giving them the support and tools to go after whatever dreams they wish to pursue.”
The deal is being financed by the Carlyle Group’s Carlyle Partners VI Fund, alongside Braun and Ithaca Holdings. The company also announced that Carlyle will remain a minority shareholder in Ithaca and continue to support the combined company’s growth strategy with Carlyle Group global consumer, media and retail team head Jay Sammons remaining on Ithaca’s board. Borchetta will acquire a minority interest in Ithaca and join its board while remaining president and CEO of BMLG.
The company lost Swift to Universal Music Group’s Republic Records last year, but still retains her catalog. Other artists on their current roster include Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Brantley Gilbert, Lady Antebellum, Cheap Trick and Jennifer Nettles.
Swift responds to the announcement via a passionate Tumblr post
In her letter, posted shortly after the announcement, the megastar outlined why she was so upset with this new development. She said that she learned of the deal “as it was announced to the world,” but according to a Billboard source, her team knew about the acquisition since Tuesday (June 25), when Big Machine held a shareholders meeting to discuss the deal.
Her father, Scott Swift, also owns a small stake in Big Machine (about 4%). Braun is buying out his stake, as well as those of other minority shareholders.
Swift went on to share that the deal made her revisit all of the times she was bullied by Braun and his clients. “Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it,” she said. “Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.”
She also went on to question Borchetta’s loyalty, saying that he knew how Swift felt about Braun.
Borchetta responds to Swift with his own letter
The Big Machine label founder/CEO penned a letter titled, “So, It’s Time for Some Truth,” posted on Sunday night (June 30). He shared that he texted Swift the night before the deal went public: “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.’”
In a response to a proposal between Swift’s management team and her attorney Don 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.” Swift’s team was asking for a new seven-year contract, while BMLG wanted a 10-year deal.
He also responded to Swift’s comment about fighting back tears every time Braun’s name was brought up: “Was I aware of some prior issues between Taylor and [Braun client] Justin Bieber? Yes….Scooter was never anything but positive about Taylor.”
Fellow pop stars begin to pick sides, Justin Bieber calls Swift out
Demi Lovato took to her Instagram Story on Monday (July 1) to defend Braun (“I’m always gonna stay loyal to my team”), as did his most famous long-term client, Bieber. His started off as an apology: “First of all i would like to apologize for posting that hurtful instagram post, at the time i thought it was funny but looking back it was distasteful and insensitive,” Bieber wrote in the caption of a throwback photo. He took full responsibility and stressed that Braun “didn’t have anything to do with it and it wasn’t even a part of the conversation in all actuality he was the person who told me not to joke like that.”
But as the post went on, Bieber began to accuse Swift of the bullying. “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.”
Hey Taylor. First of all i would like to apologize for posting that hurtful instagram post, at the time i thought it was funny but looking back it was distasteful and insensitive.. I have to be honest though it was my caption and post that I screenshoted of scooter and Kanye that said “taylor swift what up” he didnt have anything to do with it and it wasnt even a part of the conversation in all actuality he was the person who told me not to joke like that.. 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. Anyway, One thing i know is both scooter and i love you. I feel like the only way to resolve conflict is through communication. So banter back and fourth online i dont believe solves anything. I’m sure Scooter and i would love to talk to you and resolve any conflict, pain or or any feelings that need to be addressed. Neither scooter or i have anything negative to say about you we truly want the best for you. I usually don’t rebuttal things like this but when you try and deface someone i loves character thats crossing a line..
Halsey, Todrick Hall and Joseph Kahn stand with Swift
Halsey posted with a heartfelt note, sharing her point of view: “Taylor Swift is a huge reason why I always insisted to write my own music. I believed if she did it (in a way that made my teeth ache like cold water and my heart swell and my eyes leak) than I should too. Cause that’s how to make someone feel. To drag it from the pits of your heart. To offer it on a platter and say ‘take some but take kindly.’ She deserves to own the painstaking labor of her heart.”
“It turns my guts that no matter how much power or success a woman has in this life, you are still susceptible to someone coming along and making you feel powerless out of spite,” she continued. “It speaks volumes to how far we have to come in the music industry.”
— h (@halsey) June 30, 2019
Hall also responded, accusing Braun of being “an evil person who’s only concern is his wealth and feeding his disgusting ego.” He went on to say, “I believe he is homophobic & I know from his own mouth that he is not a Swift fan.”
I truly hope justice is served and that my friend’s music will fall into the hands of a better human.
— Todrick Hall (@todrick) June 30, 2019
For those asking, I left Scooter Braun a long time ago…I am saddened by this news, but not shocked. He is an evil person who’s only concern is his wealth and feeding his disgusting ego. I believe he is homophobic & I know from his own mouth that he is not a Swift fan.
— Todrick Hall (@todrick) June 30, 2019
My feelings on scooter summed up in a song I wrote about my experience there. https://t.co/7NMHkquPzQ
— Todrick Hall (@todrick) July 1, 2019
Also……..Men sending women in (their wives) to carry out their patriarchal bullshit is the worst form of feminist and human betrayal of all time – looking at you Yael and Hailey
— Todrick Hall (@todrick) July 1, 2019
I would normally not say anything because I’m sure scooter will threaten me like he has before to keep me quiet, but guess what Scooter, nothing you can do to me would be worst than the 6 years of my life I can’t get back from when & I was ignored as your “artist”
— Todrick Hall (@todrick) July 1, 2019
Kahn, a frequent director of Swift’s music videos, also shared: “I feel terrible for Taylor. This is the record business at it’s most ruthless and shady. She is genuinely one of the nicest people ever and does not deserve this. She should own her work.”
I feel terrible for Taylor. This is the record business at it’s most ruthless and shady. She is genuinely one of the nicest people ever and does not deserve this. She should own her work. These people are soulless.https://t.co/RoHkFumLFA
— Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) June 30, 2019
Yael Cohen defends her husband, Braun
Cohen took to Instagram to defend her husband: “Your dad is a shareholder and was notified, and Borchetta personally told you this before it came out. So no, you didn’t find out with the world.” She went on to address Swift’s bullying comment, “Girl, who are you to talk about bullying? The world has watched you collect and drop friends like wilted flowers. My husband is anything but a bully, he’s spent his life standing up for people and causes he believes in.”
A spokesperson for Swift denied that her father Scott knew of the deal in advance, telling People, “Scott Swift is not on the board of directors and has never been. On June 25, there was a shareholder phone call that Scott Swift did not participate in due to a very strict NDA that bound all shareholders and prohibited any discussion at all without risk of severe penalty.”
Swift’s attorney speaks out
Swift’s attorney, Don Passman, stepped into the battle with a statement on July 2: “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.”
Passman almost never comments on artists’ deals, so it was an unusual move for him to speak out on the case at all. He declined to comment beyond the statement to Billboard.
Swift announces her plan to re-record her old albums
In an exclusive interview on Aug. 25 with CBS This Morning to promote Lover, Swift announced a plan to circumvent Braun’s purchase of her masters altogether by re-recording each of her first six albums. During the sit-down, she also shades Borchetta’s choice to sell her masters to Braun, saying, “I knew he would sell my music, I knew he would do that. I couldn’t believe who he sold it to. Because we’ve had endless conversations about Scooter Braun, and he has 300 million reasons to conveniently forget those conversations.”
Swift alleges Braun and Borchetta are “exercising tyrannical control” over her music in American Music Awards statement
After months of simmering tension, Swift’s dispute with Braun and Borchetta reached a new level on Thursday (Nov. 15). In a viral post across her social media platforms, the superstar accused Braun and her former label boss of refusing to allow her to use any songs from her back catalog in her performance at the upcoming American Music Awards, where she was set to be honored as artist of the decade. Additionally, Swift claimed the two men were denying use of her older hits in a previously-unannounced Netflix documentary about her life and claimed “any other recorded events I am planning to play until November of 2020 are a question mark.”
Don’t know what else to do pic.twitter.com/1uBrXwviTS
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 14, 2019
Big Machine Label Group responds, denying the allegations
In an unsigned press release posted to their website, Swift’s former label refuted her claims. The label denied keeping her from performing at the AMAs or blocking the Netlfix special — without directly addressing the use of her past hits in either — and fired back an allegation that Swift “has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company.”
#IStandWithTaylor: Celebs take Swift’s side once again
Halsey, Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid and more pals and peers of Swift took to social media to stand by her. “My heart is so heavy write now,” Gomez wrote. “It makes me sick and extremely angry. (I [don’t] mind if there may be retaliation) this is my opinion. It’s greed, manipulation and power.”
Swift’s rep hits back, claims Big Machine owns singer $7.9 million in unpaid royalties
Swift’s publicist, Tree Paine, promptly issued a statement confirming Borchetta “flatly denied the request for both American Music Awards and Netflix” before adding, “Please notice in Big Machine’s statement, they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post.” Furthermore, the statement accused Swift’s former label of “trying to deflect and make this about money” and retaliated by maintaining that “a professional auditor has determined that Big Machine owes Taylor $7.9 million dollars of unpaid royalties over several years,”
Statement regarding Big Machine pic.twitter.com/9ZhjE1ntHe
— Tree Paine (@treepaine) November 15, 2019
Swift gets gets green light from Big Machine to perform old songs at AMAs
Though Swift was not mentioned by name, a representative for Big Machine said in a statement to Billboard that the company has “agreed to grant all licenses of their artists’ performances to stream post show and for re-broadcast on mutually approved platforms.”
“It should be noted that recording artists do not need label approval for live performances on television or any other live media,” the statement continues. “Record label approval is only needed for contracted artists’ audio and visual recordings and in determining how those works are distributed.”
Swift addresses the dispute while accepting her Woman of the Decade award at Billboard’s 2019 Women in Music event
“Lately there’s been a new shift that has affected me personally and that I feel is a potentially harmful force in our industry, and as your resident loud person, I feel the need to bring it up,” she said at the ceremony. “And that is the unregulated world of private equity coming in and buying up our music as if it is real estate. As if it’s an app or a shoe line. This just happened to me without my approval, consultation, or consent.
After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalog was sold to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in a deal that I’m told was funded by the Soros Family, 23 Capital, and the Carlyle Group. Yet to this day none of these investors have ever bothered to contact me or my team directly. To perform their due diligence on their investment. On their investment in me. To ask how I might feel about the new owner of my art. The music I wrote. The videos I created. Photos of me, my handwriting, my album designs. And of course, Scooter never contacted me or my team to discuss it prior to the sale or even when it was announced.
I’m fairly certain he knew exactly how I would feel about it though. And let me just say that the definition of the toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying, ‘But he’s always been nice to me,’ when I’m raising valid concerns about artists and their rights to own their music. And of course he’s nice to you. If you’re in this room, you have something he needs.
The fact is that private equity is what enabled this man to think, according to his own social media post, that he could buy me. But I’m obviously not going willingly. Yet the most amazing thing was to discover that it would be the women in our industry who would have my back and show me the most vocal support at one of the most difficult times, and I will never, ever forget it. Like, ever.”
Swift discusses re-recording her songs with Billboard
During her Woman of the Decade interview with Billboard, Swift said, “Every week, we get a dozen synch requests to use ‘Shake It Off’ in some advertisement or ‘Blank Space’ in some movie trailer, and we say no to every single one of them. And the reason I’m rerecording my music next year is because I do want my music to live on. I do want it to be in movies, I do want it to be in commercials. But I only want that if I own it.”
“It’s going to be fun, because it’ll feel like regaining a freedom and taking back what’s mine,” she said of the re-recording process. “When I created [these songs], I didn’t know what they would grow up to be. Going back in and knowing that it meant something to people is actually a really beautiful way to celebrate what the fans have done for my music.”
Billboard estimates that the price of her first six albums has roughly doubled since Braun acquired them
See Billboard‘s breakdown here.
Big Machine Records plans Live From Clear Channel Stripped 2008 album, Swift disapproves
In April, Swift informed her fans via Instagram stories that her “former label is putting out an ‘album’ of live performances of mine tonight.”
“I’m always honest with you guys about this stuff so I just wanted to tell you that this release is not approved by me,” Swift continued. “It looks to me like Scooter Braun and his financial backers, 23 Capital, Alex Soros and the Soros family and The Carlyle Group have seen the latest balance sheets and realized that paying $330 MILLION for my music wasn’t exactly a wise choice and they need money.”
In my opinion…Just another case of shameless greed in the time of Coronavirus,” the star concluded. “So tasteless, but very transparent.”
— tayswift8991 (@tayswift8991) April 23, 2020
Kanye West steps in
Back in September, the rapper went on a tweeting spree proclaiming that “all artists must be free” and referring to the music industry as “modern day slavery.”
“I’M GOING TO PERSONALLY SEE TO IT THAT TAYLOR SWIFT GETS HER MASTERS BACK. SCOOTER IS A CLOSE FAMILY FRIEND,” West tweeted on September 18.
I’M GOING TO PERSONALLY SEE TO IT THAT TAYLOR SWIFT GETS HER MASTERS BACK. SCOOTER IS A CLOSE FAMILY FRIEND
— ye (@kanyewest) September 18, 2020
Swift is officially “free” to re-record her first five albums
“Yeah, that’s true and it’s something that I’m very excited about doing because my contract says that starting November 2020, so next year, I can record albums one through five all over again,” Swift told Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts in August. “I’m very excited about it. I just think that artists deserve to own their own work. I just feel very passionately about that.”
In November, Swifties took to social media to celebrate the arrival of November 2020 with the hashtag #TaylorIsFree.
NOVEMBER IS HERE! This is the month I’ve been most looking forward to since like July/August last year and I’m so excited!!! Taylor can re-record 🥺 #TaylorIsFree TAYLOR IS FREE pic.twitter.com/Hb6RLyPPto
— izzie (taylor’s version)🧣 (@ownedbyswift13) November 1, 2020
Swift’s masters are sold again
According to a note Swift posted to Twitter on Nov. 16, and confirmed to Billboard by a source, Shamrock Holdings has purchased Swift’s Big Machine Label Group catalog from Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings, marking the second time in 17 months ownership over her first six albums has changed hands.
Swift posted to Twitter that that Braun’s “team” asked her to sign a non-disclosure agreement before she could even “bid on [her] own work,” once Braun decided to sell her masters. “My legal team said that this is absolutely not normal, and they’re never seen an NDA like this presented unless it was to silence an assault accuser by paying them off,” she said. “He would never even quote my team a price. These master recordings were not for sale to me.”
Been getting a lot of questions about the recent sale of my old masters. I hope this clears things up. pic.twitter.com/sscKXp2ibD
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 16, 2020