Taylor Swift vs. Scooter Braun Controversy, Explained

Sunday, June 30, the Big Machine Label Group announced that it had been acquired by music manager Scooter Braun and his company Ithaca Holdings. Braun currently works with iconic pop-superstars Justine Bieber and Ariana Grande, among numerous other entertainers.

“This is my worst case scenario,” Swift wrote in Tumblr post published that same day, in addition to also stating that Braun, was an “incessant, manipulative bully.” Swift has been trying to buy her original master recordings for years, but Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta has insistently refused.

Anthony Corder, Entertainment Business Program Chair at SAE Institute Nashville, had the chance to jump in on this controversial topic; here is what he had to say:

How can someone other than Taylor Swift own her songs?

It is Copyright. When you hear a song there are two copyrights in effect. One copyright is based on the creation of the song itself (songwriter/publishing) and another completely independent copyright on the sound recording itself. This is the Master Recording of the song. In Taylor’s contract, the ownership of the Master (sound recording) was controlled by Big Machine. Taylor would still control her songwriting copyrights but the ownership of those sound recordings are now in someone else’s hands.

Why couldn’t Swift buy back the rights to her songs? Even being a pop superstar.

It is based on what verbiage is in her contract. There could be options to pursue this issue but unlikely. I believe she is helping new artists realize that they should work with an attorney understand completely what is in a contract, the fine print and what that language means long term for their future.

When situations like this happen in the industry – is it strictly business or does it tend to be personal?

This situation is personal and business. Personal from an artist standpoint of being the creator of the songs and having a champion like Scott at Big Machine that believed in you, took the risk and was rewarded. They worked closely and built a big machine pun intended. The business side of this acquisition offers Scott and the company a wider grasp of resources and new opportunities.

Has a high-profile music rights case become bad-tempered in public before?

One immediately that pops to mind is Prince. He was in a battle with his label Warner Brothers for years, eventually regaining control.

What’s next for Taylor Swift? What are her options?

Taylor is a powerhouse, has an incredible team and champion for emerging artists. She is releasing a new Universal Republic project. As for masters from Big Machine, she may have to wait for 35 years to regain control of masters through the Copyright Act as Prince did.

Learn more about the legal aspects of the entertainment industry, including contracts, copyright, and intellectual property by checking out our Entertainment Business Program.