Taylor Swift has criticised music industry mogul Scooter Braun over his sale of her master recordings to a US private equity firm, including the accusation that he attempted to use a non-disclosure agreement to “silence me forever” regarding terms of a potential sale.
The saga dates back to the start of Swift’s career, when she signed a six-album deal with label Big Machine, who held the master recordings as part of the deal terms. After Swift left for a new deal with Republic, Big Machine was sold to Braun in June 2019, giving him control over her Big Machine masters. Swift complained at the time: “My musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it,” accusing artist manager Braun of “incessant, manipulative bullying” over the years. Braun did not respond to the bullying allegation, but Big Machine owner Scott Borchetta stated at the time: “Scooter was never anything but positive about Taylor.”
As the disagreement continued, Braun pleaded for resolution, saying in November 2019: “I’m open to ALL possibilities … It almost feels as if you have no interest in ever resolving the conflict.”
Braun has now sold on the master recordings to private equity firm Shamrock Capital in a deal reported by Variety to be worth more than $300m. Swift has put out a statement on Twitter about the sale, saying: “This was the second time my music had been sold without my knowledge.” As well as the satisfaction of owning the music she made outright, if she owned her master recordings she would earn greater royalty and sales revenue and have greater control over how her recordings are used.
She also claims that, prior to the sale, she had entered into discussions with Braun to negotiate control of her masters. “Scooter’s team wanted me to sign an ironclad NDA stating I would never say another word about Scooter Braun unless it was positive,” she said in her statement. “I would have to sign a document that would silence me forever before I could even have a chance to bid on my own work … He would never even quote my team a price. These master recordings were not for sale to me.”
She shared a letter sent to Shamrock Capital in October, saying she had hoped to work with the company following the sale, but “I simply cannot in good conscience bring myself to be involved in benefiting Scooter Braun’s interests directly or indirectly”.
Shamrock Capital have commented on the sale, saying: “Taylor Swift is a transcendent artist with a timeless catalogue. We made this investment because we believe in the immense value and opportunity that comes with her work. We fully respect and support her decision and, while we hoped to formally partner, we also knew this was a possible outcome that we considered. We appreciate Taylor’s open communication and professionalism with us these last few weeks. We hope to partner with her in new ways moving forward and remain committed to investing with artists in their work.”
Braun has not commented on the sale; the Guardian has contacted him for a response.
Swift has long said she intends to re-record her Big Machine albums under her new Republic deal, as a way of partly regaining control over the song catalogue. In her Shamrock letter, she said: “This is my only way of regaining the sense of pride I once had when hearing songs from my first six albums.”