Taylor Swift was deeply disturbed when Justin Bieber‘s manager Scooter Braun acquired the masters to her first six albums by buying Scott Borchetta‘s Big Machine Records for $300 million. In a heartbreaking Tumblr post, which Taylor shared on June 30, the singer accused Scooter of “bullying” her for years and said “never in her worst nightmares” did she think this would happen. But it did happen, and in order to understand exactly how Taylor lost out on the rights to her first six albums, we spoke to entertainment lawyer Ben Mclane who told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY that it all comes down to money.
“When an artist signs with a record label, especially if they are brand new like Taylor was when she started, the label generally owns the copyrights to the original sound recordings — they call them masters. And that is pretty typical because the label is paying to record them, they’re putting the artist in the studio and paying to promote them. Sometimes later in the artist’s career, when they become famous, they might try to buy them back. Which is probably what Taylor tried to do but because she is so famous now and those masters are worth so much, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars or more, so whatever they were asking her to pay was probably just way too much, or more than she wanted to spend, that is my guess because otherwise I’m sure she’d want to own those…We don’t really know what happened but I wouldn’t be surprised if she made an overture to buy the rights back to her masters and maybe the price tag was just too big,” Ben told us.
Although there isn’t an exact price tag on Taylor’s masters according to Ben they are worth hundreds of millions — if not more. “Masters, or copyright exist for the life of the artists +70 years in the United States so that is so far out in the future it’s hard to imagine exactly what it could be worth, just think of all of the sales and streams and licensing that is going to occur over the lifetime of those copyrights, that is what the value is, when someone is buying a master they are buying the future value of all of that. And Taylor Swift is such a big-name those things could be worth billions of dollars over their lifetime, she had six albums worth of songs so that is at least 60 masters that we are talking about, if you say that every album has 10 songs. It’s really hard to say exactly what they would be worth, but hundreds of millions at the very least is probably what somebody would be estimating the value at.”
Since Taylor’s accused Scooter of bullying and manipulating her we asked Ben if he could use his powerful new position to damage her. “In reality Scooter’s going to want to make money off of them too and she will always get her royalties so I don’t think it’s going to harm her economically in anyway. But apparently she just doesn’t like the fact that he now controls what happens to them,” Ben explained.
As upsetting as this sale is for Taylor, according to Ben there is nothing she can legally do about it. “Whoever owns the masters now controls what happens to them because it’s just property. If somebody pays for a house they can sell it to whoever they want if they own it, so I don’t really think that she has any legal standing to do anything about this.”
The only way Taylor can get back the rights to her masters is if she can make a deal with Scooter. “They could sell them to her now but God only knows what they will ask for the masters,” Ben told us. So far Scooter has not responded to Taylor’s accusations but the music mogul has reportedly tried to reach out to talk with her. HollywoodLife will keep you updated on this developing story.