×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Taylor Swift Couldn’t Buy Masters Without Signing New Big Machine Deal

In the wake of Sunday’s blockbuster announcement that Scooter Braun has acquired Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group — and with it the rights to Taylor Swift’s first six albums — most reports have noted that Swift could have purchased the rights to her music and/or the label itself. While that is true, the playing field was not quite as level as it might seem.

Parsing the statements from both Swift and her attorney Donald Passman, it is clear that she was not offered the opportunity to acquire the rights to her music without signing a new deal with Big Machine, under terms she herself said were not acceptable. Her Tumblr post from Sunday begins: “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.” It is worth noting that nowhere in her statement does she say she was not offered any opportunity to buy her masters, as many have reported.

Passman’s statement on Tuesday reads: “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.” While Passman declined Variety’s request for further comment, a source close to the situation confirmed that Swift was not offered the opportunity to buy either her masters or the label without signing a deal that would bind her to Big Machine, apparently for another 10 years, and whomever Borchetta chose to sell the label to.

“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,” she wrote.

In his blog post titled “So, It’s Time for Some Truth,” Borchetta writes, “As you will read, 100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement.  We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to ‘albums’ but more of a length of time.” Those terms, judging by the excerpt of the deal memo he posted, were proposed as seven years by Swift’s team and 10 years by Big Machine — the contract was never signed, so presumably that is one of the terms on which the two sides did not agree. (Reps for Swift and Big Machine either declined or did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.)

Informed observers might say: “Duh! Of course he wouldn’t let her just buy her masters!” Although Big Machine still has strong artists on its roster, obviously Swift’s catalog represents an overwhelming percentage of its reported $300 million value — and apparently Borchetta made the calculation that he’d get a better deal selling the label with Swift’s masters than selling the two assets separately.

And despite the seeming disingenuousness of some of the other comments from Swift and her camp — Braun and Borchetta had been conspicuously bro-ing down for weeks and insiders, particularly the industry trade Hits magazine, had speculated loudly that something big was afoot, so the claim that her camp did not know the sale was imminent is almost on the level of climate-change denial — in the context of her stated feelings about Braun and her history with him, her comment that she “walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future” is at the core of the situation.

That is the unique disadvantage at which artists can find themselves when trying to acquire the rights to their past work — which amounts to, “You can buy it if you agree to give me more” — and the reason why this particular playing field is not as level as some might maintain.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Exclusive Preview: The Rolling Stones' 50th

    Exclusive Preview: The Rolling Stones' 50th Anniversary Edition of ‘Let It Bleed’

    A debate over which Rolling Stones album is the best can have felonious results, but this near-lifelong fan will make the case for 1969’s “Let It Bleed” — the second in the group’s grand-slam of consecutive classics that began in 1968 with “Beggars Banquet” and concluded four years later with “Exile on Main Street.” Unlike [...]

  • Halsey, Ashley Nicolette Frangipane. Singer Halsey

    Emmys: Halsey to Sing In Memoriam Tribute at Sunday's Ceremony

    Pop star Halsey has been tapped to perform during the Emmy Awards on Sunday, while comedians Adam Devine and Thomas Lennon will also contribute to the telecast. With no Emmy host this year, producers Don Mischer Prods. and Done+Dusted are relying more on presenters and other contributors to keep the show moving, Halsey, whose hits [...]

  • Bebe Rexha

    Bebe Rexha Unveils New Single from 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil'

    Elton John did it. Christina Aguilera did it. Beyoncé did it. And now Bebe Rexha did it, becoming the latest pop singer to join a Disney soundtrack. Rexha dropped the track “You Can’t Stop The Girl,” which will be featured in the upcoming Disney sequel “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” The song, which she co-wrote, follows [...]

  • Leonard Cohen Dead

    Leonard Cohen Gets One Last Album In: Posthumously Completed Set Due This Fall

    When Leonard Cohen died shortly after releasing “You Want It Darker.” there was no indication that that was not his final album. But now his son, Adam Cohen, has put together a collection that’s being described as the late singer/songwriter’s real swan song, based on “musical sketches” from his final days that were fleshed out [...]

  • This photo provided by the California

    Josh Turner Tour Bus Crash Kills Sound Engineer, Leaves 7 from Crew Hospitalized

    A bus carrying crew members for country singer Josh Turner’s tour went off an embankment after leaving a show in Paso Robles, California, killing sound engineer David Turner and leaving seven others hospitalized. Turner and his band were on a separate bus following the crew bus and reportedly stopped to assist after the deadly accident [...]

  • WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 18:

    Billie Eilish Tells Crowd She Plans to Tour Behind... Her 2017 EP

    Okay, so it may just have been a way to get some crowd members who were dead-set on calling out requests off her back. But she seemed to mean it. At a show for SiriusXM and Pandora at L.A.’s Troubadour club Wednesday, Billie Eilish made an interesting vow to the crowd: She plans to tour [...]

  • UTA lobby in Nashville

    UTA's Nashville Office Sets 2020 for Move to Historic Downtown Library Building

    UTA has announced a forthcoming move to much bigger digs in Nashville, with plans to leave its current home at the Cummins Station complex in the first quarter of 2020 to make good on a signed lease on a major library building in the heart of downtown that’s being renovated for office use. Once construction [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content