If you think that Taylor Swift owns her own music, think again.
The 29-year-old singer dropped a bombshell on Sunday evening, accusing music manager Scooter Braun — whose current clients include Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande — of bullying her for years. The accusation came shortly after Braun, 38, acquired the masters to Swift’s first six albums in a $300 million (Dh1.1 billion) deal, according to Billboard.
Fellow artists Halsey and Iggy Azalea empathetically stood behind Taylor, while Bieber spoke out in support of his longtime manager and friend, Braun.
Here’s a complete breakdown of what has happened so far.
Taylor Swift leaves her record label after 12 years
In 2006, 15-year-old Swift singed with Nashville-based independent label Big Machine Records and recorded her first six albums there. She left in 2018 to join Republic Records, but her master recordings stayed under CEO Scott Borchetta. At the time, Swift wrote an amicable post, saying: “I want to express by heartfelt thanks to Scott Borchetta for believing in me.” Borchetta responded: “I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you! Best wishes for what’s next! Xoxo”
Swift “sad and grossed out” after Borchetta sells masters to Scoot Braun
On Sunday, Swift’s entire catalogue — from her 2006 self-titled debut to 2017’s ‘Reputation’ — was sold to Braun’s company Ithaca Holdings in a $300 million deal, according to Billboard. Swift was “sad and grossed out” and called the deal her “worst case scenario”.
Swift pens an open letter on Tumblr
In a long and detailed post online, Swift claimed she was blocked for years from buying the rights to her own work. She also claimed that Braun and his clients — including Justin Bieber and Kanye West — had bullied her.
“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,” wrote Swift.
“I learnt about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years. Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it. Or when his client, Kanye West, organised a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked,” wrote Swift, referring to West’s video ‘Famous’, which features a nude Swift lookalike.
The 2016 track, which includes a lewd lyric about Swift, resulted in a public fallout between her and West, as well as his wife Kardashian West, after Swift claimed that the lyric had surprised her.
A leaked phone call between West and Swift suggested that the lyric was partially pre-discussed.
Justin Bieber aligned himself with West on Instagram, posting a screenshot of a FaceTime conversation with Scooter and a smiling West, with the caption: “Taylor Swift what up”
Halsey, Iggy stand behind Swift
The hashtag #WeStandWithTaylor went viral on Twitter and several of Swift’s peers spoke out.
Halsey wrote: “Taylor Swift is a huge reason why I always insisted to write my own music … She has surpassed all expectations of what any artists is even capable of … And it turns my guts that no matter how much power or success a woman has in this life, you are still susceptible to someone coming along and making you feel powerless out of spite … I am standing with her.”
Iggy Azalea tweeted: “Telling someone about a deal days before it’s public means the deal was already done & she never had the opportunity to even make a bid to own her own work. These deals take months to negotiate in long form.”
The rapper also tweeted: “I can totally understand where she’s coming from.”
Scott Borchetta and Justin Bieber fire back
Justin Bieber, 25, wrote a long post on Instagram in defence of Braun and accused Swift of “crossing a line”.
“Hey Taylor. First of all I would like to apologise for posting that hurtful Instagram post, at the time I thought it was funny but looking back it was distasteful and insensitive,” wrote Bieber, claiming that Scooter had nothing to do with the Kanye West FaceTime post. “In all actuality he was the person who told me not to joke like that. Scooter has had your back since the days you graciously let me open up for you.!” [sic]
Bieber accused Swift of prompting her fans to “go and bully” Scooter and wrote that “one thing I know is both Scooter and I love you.”
Wife Hailey Bieber commented calling her husband a “gentleman”, while model Cara Delevingne fired off against the couple, writing: “I wish you spent less time sticking up for men and more time trying to understand women and respecting their valid reactions.” Her comment seemed to be deleted soon after.
Meanwhile, Borchetta also responded to Swift, claiming he personally messaged her about the deal. “I guess it’s possible that she might not have seen my text. But, I truly doubt that she ‘woke up to the news when everyone else did,’” wrote Borchetta.
The 58-year-old also countered Swift’s claims that she was expected to ‘earn’ each one of her albums back if she had signed a new contract with him. “100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement … Taylor had every chance in the world to own not just her master recordings, but every video, photograph, everything associated to her career. She chose to leave.”
THE KEY PLAYERS: WHO ARE THEY?
SCOOTER BRAUN is a talent manager and entertainment executive, who discovered a 12-year-old Justin Bieber on YouTube. His clients have also included Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Hilary Duff and Demi Lovato. He was named one of Time 100’s most influential people in the world in 2013 and was nominated for a Grammy Award for his role in Justin Bieber’s album Purpose in 2016.
TAYLOR SWIFT is a singer-songwriter and one of the best-selling artists of all time. Swift writes her own music and was the sole writer of her 2010 album ‘Speak Now’, which featured the two-time Grammy-winning track ‘Mean’. She has won a total of 10 Grammy Awards, and was the first woman — and only fifth artist overall — to win Album of the Year twice in her career, first for ‘Fearless’, and second for ‘1989’.
BRAUN ACCUSED OF MEDDLING WITH GRANDE, BIEBER LOVE LIVES
This isn’t the first time Scooter Braun is at the centre of pop star controversies. Last year, fans accused him of orchestrating Ariana Grande’s engagement to Pete Davidson and Justin Bieber’s engagement to Hailey Baldwin — but Grande was quick to shut down the rumours as she took to Twitter to defend her manager, writing: “be nice to that man. he’s wonderful. and very human. always puts his artists’ health and happiness first.”