She said, he said: What's next with Taylor Swift's catalogue?
This combination photo shows Taylor Swift at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 1, 2019, left, and Scooter Braun at the 2019 MOCA benefit in Los Angeles on May 18, 2019. (Photos by Richard Shotwell, left, and Mark Von Holden/Invision/AP)
Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, July 3, 2019 10:12AM EDT
NEW YORK - Taylor Swift's feuds can captivate the public almost as much as her music, and her latest emotional salvo against one of music's top managers not only made headlines but got key players in the industry riled up, with the likes of Justin Bieber, Halsey and Demi Lovato publicly choosing sides as accusations and insults were posted furiously on social media.
But days after the storm, experts say Swift and Scooter Braun, who manages Bieber and Ariana Grande and now owns Swift's masters, will have to find a way to work together - both to preserve Swift's rich musical legacy but also make money and do good business.
“Whether anyone likes it or not, Scooter Braun just became one of Taylor Swift's most important business partners (and) these are people that need to work with each other now,” said Bill Werde, former editorial director of Billboard and director of the Bandier program for recorded and entertainment industries at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
“(Scooter) wants her to continue to be the biggest star in the world for as long as possible because that's how he's going to get the best return on his investment,” Werde continued. “I think that in the not too distant future you're going to see ... things get better. You know, you're going to see some olive branches.”
On Sunday, Braun's Ithaca Holdings announced that it acquired Big Machine Label Group, the label led by Scott Borchetta and home to Swift's first six albums, including the Grammy winners for album of the year, 2008's “Fearless” and 2014's “1989.” Swift said in November she signed with Universal Music Group instead of staying at Big Machine because she knew that re-signing with the label would only result in her not owning her future work.
Once the news broke, Swift penned a scathing Tumblr note, saying she was sad and grossed out that her music catalogue now belongs to Braun.
“When I left my masters in Scott's hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter,” she said her post. “Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words 'Scooter Braun' escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn't want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.”
“When Taylor decided to make a deal for future records someplace else, she ... certainly knew that Big Machine would be sold probably sooner than later,” said Larry Miller, the director of the music business program at New York University's Steinhardt school. “It's unfortunate that she feels the way that she does about the place that her catalogue is now going to live.”
But what seemed to first be about music ownership and artists' rights turned into dramatic theatre, as Swift also wrote about her clashes with Kim Kardashian and West, and claimed she didn't know about the sale of her catalogue until the news was announced Sunday. The social media showdown played out throughout the day, with Borchetta providing details of the text he says he sent to Swift about the deal the night before it was announced. He even shared screenshots of a contract between the two of them discussing a possible new deal that would also allow her to own all her masters.
Braun's wife and his clients including Lovato and Bieber showed him support, while Halsey, Todrick Hall, model-actress Cara Delevingne and music video director Joseph Khan were #TeamTaylor. Even country singer Kacey Musgraves jumped in the ring by liking the Instagram post by Braun's wife.
It marked another saga in the drama of Swift, who has had a number of public feuds, from former boyfriend Calvin Harris to Katy Perry (who made up with Swift and recently appeared in her latest video, “You Need to Calm Down”).
“I think Taylor, who has led many discussions about what is good for artists in the music business, had an opportunity to lead another one here about control and ownership of your own songs as an artist. But I think she kind of muddled matters by combining this with what felt like a personal vendetta,” Werde said. “Now we're all talking about which pop star took whose side.”
Swift will release a new album called “Lover” on Aug. 23. Miller said he expects things to work out in the future regarding her catalogue.
“About four years ago maybe there was a big Taylor Swift dust up around the launch of Apple Music, right? ... and I'm pretty sure they found a way to work together,” Miller said, referencing Swift's 2015 public letter explaining why she was pulling her songs over Apple Music over payments to artists; Apple agreed with Swift's stance and they've worked together ever since.
“Big Machine under its new ownership with Ithaca Holdings, and Taylor and her team ... will find to do what's right for her and for her catalogue.”