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wtf is going on with taylor swift and scooter braun?

No stranger to drama, Taylor Swift has found herself at the centre of another pop storm.

by Alim Kheraj
|
01 July 2019, 3:49pm

Still via Taylor Swift's You Need To Calm Down.

Taylor Swift has, once again, found herself at the centre of a tornado of drama, receipts and celebs sharing their side of the story via the Notes app. Here’s what went down.

On Sunday (June 30), it was announced to the world that Big Machine, the record label that Taylor Swift had been signed to up until late last year, had been sold to music mogul Scooter Braun. Scooter, you might not know, manages the careers of a plethora of huge musicians, including Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber and Kanye West.

In a post on Tumblr, Taylor expressed how she was “sad and grossed out” by the development. The reason she’s so upset is because now Scooter Braun owns the masters to her last six records and for the last few years Taylor alleges that Scooter has been behind incessant, manipulative bullying against her.

In her Tumblr post, she first lays out how, before signing her new record deal with Universal Music in November 2018, she had been in talks with Scott Borchetta, the CEO of Big Machine Records, about resigning with them. When Taylor originally signed with Big Machine aged 15, the label was small and focused almost exclusively on country music. Taylor’s success changed that; the label sold to Braun for over $300 million.

As part of her original deal with the label, however, Taylor hadn’t retained ownership of her masters -- the original recordings of her music and its rights -- meaning that all the music she had created belonged to Big Machine. This was at the crux of her discussions with Big Machine about resigning.

“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,” she wrote on Tumblr. “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.”

In Taylor’s eyes, selling the label to Scooter Braun was a betrayal. She claims that after Kim Kardashian “orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked” that allegedly exposed that Taylor had approved Kanye calling her a “bitch” in his song Famous, Scooter had his clients team up to bully her. She cites a since-deleted Instagram post shared by Justin Bieber in which he is FaceTiming Kanye and Braun. She also said that Scooter sanctioned Kanye’s “revenge porn” music video for Famous. “Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy,” she continued. “Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.”

Finally, Taylor accused Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun of conspiring to control “a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity”. To say she’s pissed off is an understatement.

Soon, like a magnet to drama, Taylor found herself swept up in a tidal wave of responses, rebuttals and accusations. The first came from Justin Bieber, who uploaded a picture of himself with Taylor to Instagram with a lengthy caption in which he refuted her accusations that Scooter had any involvement with his original “distasteful and insensitive” post. He then called her out for taking the issue to social media instead of approaching Scooter directly. “What were you trying to accomplish by posting that blog?” he wrote. “seems to me like it was to get sympathy u also knew that in posting that your fans would go and bully scooter.” Unaware of the irony of that comment, JB ended things by hoping that Scooter and Taylor could figure it all out. Keeping up?

Well, here’s where it gets messy. Scooter Braun’s wife, Yael, then posted a screenshot from the Notes app accusing Taylor of having a “temper tantrum” and of bullying as “the world has watched you collect and drop friends like wilted flowers”. It’s quite poetic, really. Yael also alleged that Taylor did have the option to get back her masters and that she was aware of the sale before the public was owing to the fact that her father owns a share of Big Machine. She ended with a request: that Taylor tell her fans to stop harassing her family. “Tumblr can’t fix this,” she wrote, “but a phone call can.” According to People, a rep for the singer has denied that her father had any prior knowledge of the sale.

So far, the back and forth had been relegated to social media posts. That was until Scott Borchetta uploaded a blog to Big Machine’s website denying everything that Taylor had said. He shared texts that he alleged were between the two of them, before sharing a screenshot of what he claimed was a proposed record contract put to Taylor in 2018 before she left the label. That document apparently showed that if Taylor signed to Big Machine for the next 10 years, she would win back her masters.

At some point throughout all this, Todrick Hall, one of Taylor’s BFFs, tweeted about how Scooter Braun was an “evil person” who was “homophobic”. Todrick said that he had been signed with Scooter before he decided to fire him. These claims were denied by a manager at Scooter’s company, who claimed that Todrick had stolen from fans (?!) and that he was, in fact, dropped. In response, Todrick shared the email in which he fired Scooter.

Somewhere along the line, Demi Lovato got involved, too, rejecting any notion that Scooter was homophobic, while Selena Gomez’s mum (yes, really) responded to Scooter Braun’s wife. Halsey came to Taylor’s defence, as did Cara Delevingne, while Erik Logan, a board member at Big Machine Records, called Taylor a liar and accused her of “twisting the truth”.

Exhausted? Well, it’s no wonder. Like a lightning rod, Taylor, who is about to launch her seventh album Lover, has once again found herself in a tornado of celebrity comments, Twitter storms, screenshots and blog posts. However, if you strip back the celebrity rubbernecking and obfuscation, at the centre of this narrative is a story about an artist and who gets to own their art.

While some of the finer points are blurry in all the back and forth, the fact remains that Taylor, the artist, wanted the option to get back her masters, something it seems that Big Machine were unwilling to allow without her signing a new contract. Either way, the masters were dangled like bait. Both Taylor and Scott Borchetta acknowledged that Big Machine would have been sold at some point, something that can often leave artists in precarious situations. That someone that Taylor clearly has unresolved issues with and animosity towards, Scooter Braun, should end up with the one thing she was desperate to reclaim creates a fraught and understandably frustrating situation.

Perhaps Taylor should have taken her own advice and taken a moment to calm down before splurging her feelings on Tumblr. Nevertheless, the situation does raise some interesting and timely questions about what artists give up when they sign record deals, as well as the power that men in music still wield over women. In this case, it was enough for Taylor to once again whisper, “Look what you made me do.” Clearly we haven’t heard the end of this.