Here’s Why Taylor Swift Is ‘Grossed Out’ by Scooter Braun Holding Rights to Her Old Music
Taylor Swift has bad blood with the famed music executive who just acquired the rights to most of her music, and understanding why requires a little context on both the pop star’s record deals and her personal feuds across more than a decade in the music industry.
After news broke Sunday that music manager Scooter Braun had bought record label Big Machine for $300 million, Swift said she was “sad and grossed out,” taking aim at both Braun, whom she accused of "incessant, manipulative bullying," and her former label in a lengthy Tumblr post.
“Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy,” Swift wrote in the post, saying she was blindsided to learn of the deal on Sunday. “Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.”
To understand Swift’s anger, it’s important to note the terms of her Big Machine contract, which the artist signed at age 15. Swift left Big Machine last year after that 10-year contract expired, leaving behind masters of all six of her albums, from her 2006 self-titled debut to 2017’s Reputation.
What that essentially means is that Big Machine—and now Braun, as its owner—will profit from use and sales of Swift’s old music, in perpetuity. Swift at one point sought to own the music herself and alleges that Big Machine offered her one path to securing the rights to it: namely, another deal with them, which would have seen Swift “earn back” the rights to one album for each new one she released.
Swift declined, sensing that Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta would use her continued alliance with the label as a major selling point. Instead, she signed a new deal with Republic Records under Universal Music Group that would allow her greater ownership of any new music she makes going forward.
“I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past,” she wrote. “Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.”
Borchetta wrote in a scathing post on the Big Machine website that he doubts Swift “woke up to the news when everyone else did,” though her Tumblr post does not state that she did. Swift’s post does state that she learned of the deal “as it was announced to the world.”
Borchetta disputed Swift’s account, saying that her father was a shareholder in Big Machine and brought in on the deal five days prior, as well as that he personally texted the musician the night before to give her a heads up about Braun’s purchasing of the label. A rep for the musician told People that Swift's father declined to participate in shareholder calls where the deal was announced and discussed because of a strict NDA that would have precluded him from informing Swift about Big Machine's sale to Braun; that spokesperson also reaffirmed that Swift found out about the deal from news stories before seeing Borchetta's text.
But Swift’s frustrations aren’t purely professional. Her distaste for Braun, whose clients include Kanye West and Justin Bieber, is tied into a prolonged feud between West and Swift that dates back nearly a decade. In 2009, West infamously took the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards while Swift was receiving an award for Best Female Video, interrupting her acceptance speech to say Beyoncé should have won. West would go on to apologize, half-apologize, and in some instances un-apologize for that rant over the next few years, until the 2016 release of his song “Famous” kickstarted the feud again with the lyrics: "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous."
Swift claimed to have been taken off-guard by the track, though West was insistent that she’d given him her blessing. Soon after, a Snapchat video of a phone call between West and Swift—shared by his wife Kim Kardashian West—seemed to back up his side of the story. Around this time, West also released a music video for “Famous” that incorporated a naked wax figure of Swift in bed with the Wests and other famous individuals like Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner, and Rihanna.
In her post, Swift specifically noted an Instagram posted by Justin Bieber, also represented by Braun at the time, who made light of the situation by screenshotting a FaceTime chat with him, West, and Braun and captioning it "Taylor swift what up."
"All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I've received at his hands for years,” Swift wrote of her feelings around learning Braun was acquiring her masters.
“When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them,” she added. “Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to.”
In Borchetta's post, he said he’d never experienced Swift’s issues with Braun firsthand, though he had been aware of issues between Swift and Bieber. “Scooter was never anything but positive about Taylor,” he wrote.
Bieber personally responded to Swift’s Tumblr post with another Instagram, posting a photo of himself and Swift together. Bieber added a lengthy caption in which he apologized for the “hurtful” joke but defended Braun against Swift, saying he “has had your back” throughout the years.
“One thing I know is both Scooter and I love you,” Bieber wrote. “I feel like the only way to resolve conflict is through communication. So banter back and fourth [sic] online I don’t believe solves anything. I’m sure Scooter and I would love to talk to you and resolve any conflict, pain or any feelings that need to be addressed.
“Neither Scooter or I have anything negative to say about you,” he added. “We truly want the best for you.”
Bieber’s response was the most in-depth of any from celebrities caught up in the feud, but singer Demi Lovato also posted an Instagram story in which she defended Braun’s character. “I have dealt with bad people in the industry and Scooter is not one of them,” she wrote. “He’s a good man.”
Model/actress Cara Delevingne—who appeared in Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video in 2015—fired back specifically at Bieber. “I wish you spent less time sticking up for men and more time trying to understand women and respecting their valid reactions,” Delevingne commented on his Instagram. “Take a step back and try to learn from this. We should all be on the same team.”
Halsey, via Twitter, said that Swift “deserves to own the painstaking labor of her heart” while critiquing Big Machine’s deal with Braun. “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 wrote. “I’m standing with her.”
Braun has yet to comment on the controversy.
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