Taylor Swift is no stranger to feuds. From her long-standing (and thankfully ended) rivalry with Katy Perry to her brief clash with Nicki Minaj to her on-again/off-again battles with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Taylor has clashed with some of the biggest names in music. However, her feud with Scooter Braun is much more personal. While these other dramas were over things like VMA nominations and (allegedly) backup dancers, Taylor’s battle with Braun concerns something more important: her music.
The clash between Taylor and Scooter came to a head in June 2019. Scooter’s Ithaca Holdings LLC acquired Big Machine Label Group and all of its recording assets, including the rights to Taylor’s first six albums, for the reported price of $300 million. Taylor denounced the sale at the time, and a bitter back-and-forth followed. In late 2020, Taylor’s music was sold again, this time to Shamrock Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment firm founded by Roy E. Disney, a nephew of Walt Disney, according to The New York Times. The sale didn’t end her feud with Scooter – quite the opposite, actually – so here’s how this all started.
August 2016: Feuding Over “Famous”
At the heart of the Taylor vs. Scooter feud is the sale of her masters, but she claims things went south long before that. “This is Scooter Braun, bullying me on social media when I was at my lowers point,” she wrote in a 2019 Tumblr post while including Justin Bieber’s now-infamous “Hey Taylor What’s Up” Instagram photo. “He’s about to own all the music I’ve ever made.” In the post, Taylor accused Scooter of “incessant, manipulative bullying,” specifically citing the 2016 phone call between her and Kanye over his song, “Famous.”
As Taylor fans known, she claimed that Kayne (who was managed by Scooter at the time) didn’t share the song’s lyrics during the call. Specifically, she claimed he never said he would rap, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b*tch famous.”
Kim famously posted a snippet of Taylor and Kanye’s convo on Snapchat, which seemed to dispute Taylor’s claims that Kanye didn’t tell her about the song ahead of time. However, the alleged full conversation was leaked in 2020, in which Kanye supposedly told her that he would say, “Taylor Swift might owe me sex.” In this alleged call, he also doesn’t tell Taylor that he’s going to call her a “b-tch.” After the alleged call was leaked, Taylor seemingly felt vindicated, saying the leak proved she “was telling the truth the whole time.”
June 2019: Scooter Buys Taylor’s Music
Fast forward three years after the “Famous” call. After leaning into the “snake” motif with her album Reputation, Taylor was about to start a new chapter of her life with Lover, her first album with Universal Music/Republic Records. Then, the news broke that Scooter had bought all her masters. She calls this her “worst nightmare.”
“For years, I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work,” Taylor wrote in her Tumblr post. “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.”
“When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually, he would sell them,” she continued. “Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.”
July 2019: Scooter Responds – Sorta
Understandably, Taylor’s fans were furious that a man she accused of “bullying” her now owned her body of work. Scooter wouldn’t address Taylor’s comments – or the fan backlash — directly until later that year. However, in July 2019, he seemingly joked about the “toll” that the “last couple of weeks” had taken on him by posting a FaceApp photo, one that showed him looking elderly and tired. That month, he also replied to a fan’s encouragement (“scooter just ignore the trolls, just a daily reminder u are loved!”) by saying, “I’m good. Thanks.”
November 2019: Taylor And Scooter Clash Over AMAs
Things remained quiet between Taylor and Scooter for a few months, until the 2019 American Music Awards. Taylor posted on Nov. 14, 2019, that she was “planning to perform a medley of my hits” at the AMAs, who were going to honor her with Artist of the Decade. However, Taylor claimed that Scooter had said she was “not allowed to perform my old songs on television because that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year.” She also accused Scooter of blocking Netflix from using her old music in a documentary (which would be 2020’s Miss Americana).
Don’t know what else to do pic.twitter.com/1uBrXwviTS
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 14, 2019
Big Machine records responded by saying that “At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special.” The label also said they “continued to honor all of her requests to license her catalog to third parties as she promotes her current record.” Taylor’s team responded by sharing a statement about how BMLG would not “agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waiver of its re-recording restrictions in connection with these two projects: The Netflix documentary and The Alibaba ‘Double Eleven’ event.’ … Please notice in Big Machine’s statement, they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post.”
Ahead of the AMAs, BLMG announced they “came to terms” with an agreement to allow Taylor to perform her old music. At the AMAs, Taylor began things by wearing an oversized white shirt with her first six albums’ names across it. She performed “The Man,” as well as her old hits, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “Blank Space,” and “Lover.”
November 2019: Scooter Actually Responds
Scooter finally addressed the feud with Taylor Swift at the 2019 Entertainment Industry Conference at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 21, 2019. “I haven’t talked about this in six months, not once,” he said. “I haven’t made a statement about it, and that’s hard. It’s hard because a lot of things being said and a lot of different opinions [being expressed], yet the principle [actors] haven’t been given a chance to speak to each other.” Scooter said that his team had been getting “death threats, and there are offices being called, and people being threatened.” He also stressed that he wasn’t going to address Taylor’s claims or the feud publicly, adding that it was a conversation that needed to happen “behind closed doors.”
April 2020: Taylor Calls Big Machine ‘Shameless’
The feud died down after the AMAs, but kicked back up again in the spring of 2020. “I want to thank my fans for making me aware that my former record label is putting out an ‘album’ of live performances of mine tonight,” she posted to her IG Story on April 23. “This recording is from a 2008 radio show performance I did when I was 18. … It looks to me like Scooter Braun and his financial backers, 23 Capital, Alex Soros, and the Soros family and The Carlyle Group have seen the latest balance sheets and realized that paying $330 MILLION for my music wasn’t exactly a wise choice and they need money. In my opinion…Just another case of shameless greed in the time of Coronavirus. So tasteless, but very transparent.”
November 2020: Scooter Sells Taylor’s Music
Been getting a lot of questions about the recent sale of my old masters. I hope this clears things up. pic.twitter.com/sscKXp2ibD
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 16, 2020
Seventeen months after buying the rights to Taylor’s music, Scooter sold them to Shamrock Capital. Taylor issued a statement about the sale, claiming 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 she could even look at BMLG’s financial records.
This, according to Taylor, was “not normal,” and she took it as that her masters were for sale to anyone “but me.” She also claimed that Shamrock Holdings contacted Taylor and “wanted to reach out before the sale to let me know, but that Scooter Braun had required they make no contact with me or my team, or the deal would be off.” She also claimed that Scooter would continue to profit off her old work as part of the deal. So, she’s “recently begun to re-record” her old music to reclaim ownership of her music and her life.
Needless to say, even after this sale, the feud between Scooter Braun and Taylor Swift is far from over.