No, Scooter Braun Does Not Own Taylor Swift's Early Masters
Now that Taylor Swift’s Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is out, some people are asking why she re-recorded the songs from her 2008 sophomore album – and they’re not always getting accurate answers.
No, Scott “Scooter” Braun does not own the master rights to Swift’s early recordings. Since November 2020, they have been owned by Shamrock Holdings, an investment fund controlled by the estate of Roy E. Disney (son of Disney co-founder Roy O. Disney).
Terms of the deal – reported to be worth $300 million U.S. – were not disclosed but Swift hinted that Braun was in a position to be able to “continue to profit off my old musical catalog for many years.”
The singer said: “I was hopeful and open to the possibility of a partnership with Shamrock, but Scooter’s participation is a non-starter for me.”
Swift added: “It pains my very deeply to remain separated from the music I spent over a decade creating, but this is a sacrifice I will have to make to keep Scooter Braun out of my life.”
Braun scooped up the rights to Swift’s early songs, videos and album artwork in 2019 when his Ithaca Holdings paid a reported $300 million U.S. for Big Machine Label Group (BMLG). Swift left the label in 2018 and signed with Universal Music Group.
(Braun recently sold Ithaca Holdings to HYBE, the South Korean company formerly known as Big Hit Entertainment. Its roster includes BTS.)
“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 in a Tumblr post at the time. "I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future.”
It was clear there was bad blood between Swift and Braun, whom she accused of years of “incessant, manipulative bullying."
Last November, Swift claimed she tried to strike a deal with Braun to regain ownership of her masters but he allegedly demanded that she agree to only say positive things about him in public. “I would have to sign a document that would silence me forever before I could even have a chance to bid on my own work,” Swift said.
She vowed to re-record her early albums to reduce Braun’s ability to profit from her work. “My contract says that starting November 2020 … I can record albums one through five all over again,” she told GMA in August 2019. “I’m very excited about it. Artists deserve to own their work. I just feel very passionately about that.”
Def Leppard, ELO and Squeeze are among a handful of acts who have re-recorded their songs so they can have ownership of them.
Swift announced the release of Fearless (Taylor's Version) in February. “It has 26 songs including 6 never before released songs from the vault," she explained at the time, adding that the previously unreleased songs were written when she was between the ages of 16 and 18. “These were the ones it killed me to leave behind."
Swift called the process of updating her early songs "more fulfilling and emotional than I could’ve imagined." She told fans: “I hope you’ll like this first outing as much as I liked traveling back in time to recreate it.”
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) will be followed by new recordings of Speak Now, Red, 1989 and Reputation.
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