An artist who owns their own masters has full freedom. So many times when a record deal falls apart, any songs that were written and recorded belong to that record label. Many artists, especially ones who have not made a name for themselves, never get their masters back.
Taylor Swift recently left her record deal with Big Machine, whom she has been with since she was fifteen. She writes about leaving behind her past; “I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. 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.”
Swift’s father owned 4% of Big Machine as he helped finance it when it started. His shares were sold in the deal. Since he didn’t own very many shares he did not have to be consulted for his shares to be sold.
She shared a heartbreaking post where she learned former Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta sold the label to Scooter Braun. Braun is manager to names like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato (who have been struggling with mental health issues) and Kanye West (who publicly humiliated Swift on multiple occasions).
Before Swift shared her heartbreaking account of finding out Braun is now the owner of her masters and her past, I have been thinking about some of his clients. While Bieber, Lovato and Grande were all young when fame found them, so was Swift. The first three, however, have experienced extreme turmoil, but still seem grateful to Braun. While I have no first hand knowledge of the two, they seem to be working too much. Grande has been very open about not being able to perform as much and has stated when she performs it is mentally draining for her. It just seems there is this pressure on them to keep going. Sure, Bieber has taken a break from music a bit to focus on his mental health, but the way they have been living, doesn’t seem like they have a true support system in the industry.
To understand why Braun is the worst person to own Swift’s masters, read her post in full:
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. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. 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.
Some fun facts about today’s news: I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years. 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. (See photo)
(“This is Scooter Braun, bullying me on social media when I was at my lowest point,” Swift wrote on her screenshot. “He’s about to own all the music I’ve ever made.”)
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.
This is my worst case scenario. This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it. 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. 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. Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future. And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make.
I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23.
Sad and grossed out,
It is truly disheartening that Swift was never allowed to own her masters, without being manipulated into putting out more albums in order to do so. It is disheartening to know that Borchetta, someone we all looked up to with thanks for signing Swift, has now turned his back on her for a dollar sign. Why, if he was leaving the label did he not allow the artist who made Big Machine a machine in the first place, the chance to own her own masters? Why would he sell her past, knowing how badly she wanted them? It sounds like the worst divorce, in which the man is trying to manipulate the woman into staying and he will give her a little of what she wants, slowly over time.
If Borchetta wanted one more album in exchange for all of her masters, that would have been a little more reasonable. Swift was the only artist to last with Big Machine and turned them into a household name, a label that artists dreamed of being signed to. While Braun manages some of the other big names in the industry, looking at their track records, I am truly worried about the artists’ future who call Big Machine home.
Apparently Borchetta will stay on as President of Big Machine and a board member of Braun’s company.
Swift is not alone in this. Other artists have been sharing their support for Swift and how they feel about this whole ordeal. Halsey posted her thoughts about the situation on Twitter.
Alessia Cara shared a post on her Instagram Story sharing her thoughts on the deal.
Swift’s longtime best friend, Abigail Anderson, posted this on her Instagram Stories showing her support for Taylor. Swifties love that this friendship is still going strong after all these years.
Eleanor Bate, a writer at Buzzfeed shared a couple of photos on Twitter of images from Swift’s reputation Stadium Tour, where she paid homage to Loie Fuller, a dancer who fought for artists to own their work, every night.
Dear Scott Borchetta
Everything has changed and now we got bad blood. At fifteen, that fearless girl came to you from the outside with just teardrops and a guitar, trying to find her place in this world. Now with her hands tied you had to ruin that delicate girl’s spirit. You should’ve said no when Scooter Braun offered to buy Big Machine. You knew all too well what this would do to her innocent soul. Call it what you want but this is the end game. I hope you’re… ready for it, we’ve never known anyone cold as you.
To Taylor Swift
I love you unconditionally and am in absolute anguish over your pain and anger right now. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have a right to publically say how you’ve been manipulated and bullied. #WeStandWithTaylor