There has been a LOT of buzz around Taylor Swift here at the tail-end of 2019. Swift just recently went no. 1 on the BillBoard charts with her new album, ‘Lover’ as she sold the equivalent of 867,000 copies in her first week. #Lover#Lover is Taylor’s 6th number 1 album.
Aside from dominating the Pop world, Taylor has also created headlines due to her now infamous feud with music manager Scooter Braun over the ownership of her music catalogue, and what are know as ‘masters.’
A master license gives the license holder the right to use a recorded piece of music in a media project such a film, TV show, commercial, or another visual creation or audio project. A master license is obtained from the person who owns the recording, which is the party that financed the recording.
In the wake of this summer’s blockbuster announcement that Scooter Braun had acquired Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group — and with it the rights to Taylor Swift’s first six albums, most reports claimed that Swift had the opportunity to purchase the rights to her music and/or the entire label itself, but according to Swift and her attorney Donald Passman, it is clear that she was not offered the opportunity to acquire the rights to her music without signing a new deal with Big Machine, under terms she herself said were not acceptable.
Taylor wrote, “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.”
We want to point out that nowhere in her statement does she say she was not offered any opportunity to buy her masters, as many have reported.
““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,” Swift wrote.
Variety states, ‘In his blog post titled “So, It’s Time for Some Truth,” Borchetta writes, “As you will read, 100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement. We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to ‘albums’ but more of a length of time.” Those terms, judging by the excerpt of the deal memo he posted, were proposed as seven years by Swift’s team and 10 years by Big Machine — the contract was never signed, so presumably that is one of the terms on which the two sides did not agree. (Reps for Swift and Big Machine either declined or did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.)’
Big Machine still has strong artists on its roster, but obviously Swift’s catalog represents an overwhelming percentage of its reported $300 million value — apparently Borchetta made the calculation that he’d get a better deal selling the label with Swift’s masters than selling the two assets separately.
Our Attorney, James Landry, explains why Taylor will never regain control of these masters.
However, the music involved in this dispute may not be entirely dead-in-the-water in regards to what Swift is looking to accomplish. On Sunday, Kelly Clarkson shed some light on this issue during her appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show:
This is some great affirmation of what we have been saying here for months now! @kellyclarkson knows that all artists should own THEIR own masters.
Owning your masters should be important to you, and with the correct guidance and insight you won’t have to be in a situation like Taylor is in now. The music industry has drastically changed since Taylor started recording music, and no doubt she would structure her deal differently if she could. All we can do now is learn from other’s mistakes and ensure we don’t let it happen to other up & coming musicians.
Swift may still have a way to regain some control over her catalogue currently owned by @scooterbraun – Artists have re-recorded their own music to work around contract disputes before – it will be interesting to see what she decides to do going forward.