As has been well documented, the 2018, Scooter Braun-led acquisition of Big Machine Music Group — and the rights to Taylor Swift’s first six albums — caused some controversy. Swift — who had attempted, unsuccessfully, to acquire the rights herself — was outraged, saying she had been blindsided by the deal, and launching not only a global dialog about artists owning the rights to their work, but sticking it to the new owners by beginning a campaign to re-record all of those albums and encouraging her fans to stream the new “Taylor’s Versions” instead of the earlier ones; two such albums have been released to great success. She had few kind words for Braun in the process.
Braun bore the substantial wrath of the Swifties for a year and a half before selling off the catalog (for a tidy profit) and said he had attempted to speak with the singer about the issue multiple times after the sale was finally revealed, to little avail. He has since sold his own company to the South Korean entertainment powerhouse HYBE (for an even more tidy profit), and continues to run it and manage the careers of Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and others.
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But in a new interview with NPR’S Jay Williams, he says he wishes things could have been done differently — pointing a subtle finger in the direction of former Big Machine owner Scott Borchetta for the non-disclosure agreement he says he was forced to work under — and says, “The regret I have there is that I made the assumption that everyone, once the deal was done, was going to have a conversation with me, see my intent, see my character and say, great, let’s be in business together.”
For her part, Swift said in a November 2020 social-media post, “My team attempted to enter into negotiations with Scooter Braun. Scooter’s team wanted me to sign an ironclad NDA stating I would never say another word about Scooter Braun unless it was positive, before we could even look at the financial records of BMLG (which is always the first step in a purchase of this nature). So, 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.” She said negotiations never got underway, because of the strict NDA demands. “He would never even quote my team a price. These master recordings were not for sale to me,” she concluded.
Braun’s comments on the issue follow below; head here for more from the interview. Contacted by Variety, a rep for Swift did not immediately have a comment.
“I learned an important lesson from [the Big Machine acquisition],” he begins. “When I did that deal, I was under a very strict NDA with the gentleman who owned it, and I couldn’t tell any artist. I wasn’t allowed to. I wasn’t legally allowed to. What I told him was, hey, if any of the artists want to come back and buy into this, you have to let me know. And he shared a letter with me that’s out there publicly that – you know, the artist you’re referring to said, ‘I don’t want to participate in my masters. I’ve decided to, you know, not make this deal,’ blah, blah, blah. So that was the idea I was under.
“I was excited to work with every artist on the label. So when we finalized the deal, I started making phone calls to say, hey, I’m a part of this. And before I could even do that – I made four phone calls; I started to do those phone calls – all hell broke loose. So I think a lot of things got lost in translation. I think that when you have a conflict with someone, it’s very hard to resolve it if you’re not willing to have a conversation. So the regret I have there is that I made the assumption that everyone, once the deal was done, was going to have a conversation with me, see my intent, see my character and say, great, let’s be in business together. And I made that assumption with people that I didn’t know.
“And I learned an important lesson from that, that I can never make that assumption again. I can’t put myself in a place of, you know, arrogance to think that someone would just be willing to have a conversation and be excited to work with me. I don’t know these people. So when I did the deal with HYBE, I took 50 million of my own stock that I received, and I gave it to my employees and my artists. And it – I didn’t think it was going to become public, but it was a publicly traded company, so I can talk about it now ’cause it was very much out there. And I made sure that everyone participated significantly. And even employees that were no longer employees – you know Kenny.
“I called up Kenny, and he is a shareholder. I called up Tommy Brown, who had produced stuff with me with Ariana, and he’s a shareholder. I called up Poo Bear, who had made stuff with Justin and I, and, you know, he’s a shareholder. Justin and Ariana and Demi and J. Balvin and all these people, and they all became shareholders alongside all our, you know, major, long-term employees and former employees. And everyone felt good, you know, and they could sell the stock if they want to. It’s worth real money. But I wanted them to feel good about it ’cause I learned that lesson. And I think in any conflict, you can say, I didn’t do anything. It’s their fault. And you could be right. You could be justified. And you could say, this is unfair, I’m being treated unfairly, or you can say, OK, I’m being treated unfairly. I don’t like how this is feeling. I can’t fix this, so how am I going to look at it and learn from it? And I didn’t appreciate how that all went down. I thought it was unfair. But I also understand, from the other side, they probably felt it was unfair, too.
“So I choose to look at it as a learning lesson, a growing lesson, and I wish everyone involved well. And I’m rooting for everyone to win because I don’t believe in rooting for people to lose.”
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