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Scooter Braun says he regrets fall out with Taylor Swift

By | Published on Monday 3 October 2022

Taylor Swift

Scooter Braun has said that he regrets how things turned out with Taylor Swift when he acquired her former label Big Machine back in 2018.

Although – like Swift – he somewhat blames the label’s former owner Scott Borchetta for the massive fallout that followed the announcement of that deal. Nonetheless, he admits to a certain level of “arrogance” to think that “someone would just be willing to have a conversation and be excited to work with me”.

“I learned an important lesson from [the Big Machine acquisition]”, he tells NPR in a new interview. “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”.

Swift, of course, subsequently revealed that she’d been very keen indeed to buy the recording rights in the albums she had released with Big Machine – which were owned by the label – but that she had not been given the opportunity.

Instead, the label had tried to use the possibility of her acquiring the rights in those early albums in the future as a tactic to get her to re-sign with the company. Something she ultimately declined to do, allying instead with Universal Music on her new releases.

“For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work”, she said in a blog post after Braun’s Big Machine deal was announced. “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. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past”.

Braun now says that – while negotiating his Big Machine acquisition – he was shown a letter from Swift confirming that she was walking away from that proposed deal, ie to re-sign and ultimately get control of her old records. Based on that letter, he assumed she was happy with the arrangement that had been agreed, so that she was working with Universal on her new music, while Big Machine still managed her old releases.

What he didn’t know was that, by that point, there was significant bad blood between Swift and Borchetta – who had originally launched Big Machine in order to release her music.

Nor did Braun know that she would see him specifically buying the label as being, as she put it at the time, her “worst case scenario”, due to “the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years” – that relating to an earlier incident while Braun was managing Kanye West.

Braun was seemingly unaware that he had upset Swift so badly, but – Swift said at the time – Borchetta was well are of it, and she therefore assumed that he had sold his label to Braun’s company specifically to spite her.

Recalling the whole debacle now, Braun says: “I was excited to work with every artist on the label. So when we finalised 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”, he adds. “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”, he goes on, “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”.

“I learned an important lesson from that, that I can never make that assumption again”, he then admits. “I can’t put myself in a place of 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”.

This, he says, led him to rethink how he does business, and when he sold his entire company to K-pop powerhouse HYBE last year, he took a different approach.

“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”, he reveals. “I didn’t think it was going to become public, but it was a publicly traded company, so I can talk about it now because it was very much out there. And I made sure that everyone participated significantly. And even employees that were no longer employees”.

“They all became shareholders alongside all our major, long-term employees and former employees”, he goes on. “And everyone felt good, and they could sell the stock if they want to. It’s worth real money”.

“But I wanted them to feel good about it because I learned that lesson”, he concludes. “And I think in any conflict, you can say, I didn’t do anything. It’s their fault. And you could be right … [But] 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”.

Of course, that version of events skips out the bit of the story where he sold on the master rights to Swift’s six Big Machine albums to a private equity firm in 2020, which again drew her wrath – and spurred Swift on to start recording new versions of those old albums in which she would own the master rights. I’m sure he learned loads from that too though.