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Scooter Braun comments on Taylor Swift beef, insists disputes should be settled behind closed doors

By | Published on Friday 22 November 2019

Scooter Braun

Scooter Braun has finally officially commented on the war of words between Taylor Swift and her former label Big Machine that began when his Ithaca Holdings business bought the record company earlier this year. Speaking at a conference in Hollywood, Braun didn’t get into the specifics of the ongoing dispute, or respond to any of Swift’s allegations, but said repeatedly that he felt social media was the wrong forum in which to feud.

Swift’s big Big Machine bust up has been big news again in the last week, of course, after the pop star returned to social media to seek fan support in the latest phase of the dispute.

According to Swift, the label is trying to persuade her to not re-record any of her earlier albums as soon as she is allowed to do so under the terms of her old Big Machine contract. In a bid to pressure her to comply, Swift said, Big Machine was threatening to screw up her performance at the American Music Awards and an in-development Netflix documentary by refusing to grant the permissions both projects needed from the label.

Big Machine denied Swift’s claims, although her people then said that the label’s denial was carefully worded, so it could deny her general claims without actually denying her specific claims. Either way, this weekend’s AMA performance seemingly now has the all clear.

As all that was unfolding, gossipers were busy telling reporters that Braun was increasingly frustrated that his name was “being dragged in the mud”, Swift having begun her public beef with Big Machine earlier this year by accusing the artist manager and new owner of her master recordings of having bullied her in the past.

It was all the more frustrating, those close to Braun said, because – while Big Machine is now part of his corporate group – he has no hands-on role in the running of the label and is not involved in the ongoing negotiations with Swift. Meanwhile, he doesn’t feel it is appropriate to start having conversations with the pop star through a series of public statements.

Braun was in conversation with Variety’s Shirley Halperin at the Entertainment Industry Conference in Hollywood yesterday. Knowing that the Swift v Big Machine saga was going to come up during the conversation, the manager pre-empted the inevitable question while discussing the various charity projects that the artists he manages have been involved in.

“My grandpa used to say, when your glass keeps getting poured full, you better pour it in other glasses or it makes a mess”, he said of the rationale for those charity ventures. “It’s hard, when you’ve tried to live your life that way, when other people are trying to say that you don’t live your life that way, because you can’t make everyone like you. You can’t get all the facts straight. But I think the only thing you can do is hope for communication”.

Addressing Halperin directly, he then said: “I know where you’re going to go. I’m kind of getting ahead to it. Ask the question!”

The Variety journalist formally introduced the timely topic by asking Braun how it feels to be cast as the villain of the story by many of Swift’s supporters. “I haven’t talked about this in six months. Not once. I haven’t made a statement about it”, he responded. “When there’s a lot of things being said and a lot of different opinions, yet the principals haven’t had a chance to speak to each other, there’s a lot of confusion”.

Confirming that he wasn’t going to go into the specifics of the Swift dispute, he instead explained why he thought dealing with things like this in the public domain was counterproductive. “I just think we live in a time of toxic division, and of people thinking that social media is the appropriate place to air out on each other and not have conversations”, he mused. “I don’t like politicians doing it. I don’t like anybody doing it”.

Hence why, unlike Swift and Big Machine, he hasn’t issued any public statements since this all kicked off in June. “If that means that I’ve got to be the bad guy longer”, he went on, “I’ll be the bad guy longer, but I’m not going to participate”.

Adding that he suspected at least some of the Swift v Big Machine beef was down to miscommunication, he continued: “I think that these problems that are being discussed can be discussed behind closed doors and figured out pretty easily, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for six months”.

Swift’s supporters might argue that plenty of discussions have happened behind closed doors, and that the musician only went public when she decided Big Machine were being totally unreasonable and were refusing to budge. They had the contractual leverage, so she used PR leverage. Sometimes in an industry that often skews in favour of the corporates, that’s the only option artists have left.

However, Braun basically said in his interview, superstars like Swift should think very carefully before urging her fanbase to join the battle.

“I can handle it pretty easily”, he told Halperin of all the public dissing, but the wider Big Machine team shouldn’t also have to suffer. “When it gets to a place where there’s death threats and there’s offices being called and people being threatened it’s gotten out of hand. And I think people need to come together and have a conversation, because that’s not what we got in[to] this industry for”.

You can read more from Halperin’s interview with Braun on the Variety website here.