This is a good lesson in contracts, ownership, and private property rights.
Taylor Swift has described herself as “sad and grossed out” by Scooter Braun’s acquisition of Big Machine Records, which holds the rights to her entire catalog up through 2017’s “Reputation,” calling the deal “my worst case scenario.” Swift said she was shocked to first learn of the transfer of her work through news accounts Sunday morning. Braun declined Variety‘s requests for comment.
Swift posted her impassioned reaction in a Tumblr post, which reads:
“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.
“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.
While Swift has the right to object to the sale, the fact is that she doesn’t own it. It’s not hers. She sold her music. And it’s not like she didn’t get any value for the sale. She received money, access to the industry, and help in her rise to fame and fortune. Could she have reached her current level of stardom without Big Machine Records? Maybe. But we know for sure the result of her relationship with BMR. And since BMR owns the music, they have every right to sell it or monetize it in any way they see fit.
Think of it this way… when an artist paints a painting or creates a sculpture and sells it, does the artist retain the right to control the art after it is sold? Of course not. Does the fact that it is art that the artist created on their bedroom floor when they were 15 change anything? Nope.
Swift may be upset, but it’s not like she didn’t get anything out of the deal.