Forgot About Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun’s Drama? Allow Me to Refresh Your Memory

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Forgot About Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun’s Drama? Allow Me to Refresh Your Memory


Remember when Taylor Swift called out celebrity manager Scooter Braun in a lengthy Tumblr post for purchasing her masters and bullying her? Well, Taylor went back for round two (and three… and even four)…and honestly, it’s a lot.

Here’s the lowdown on why Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun dislike each other, why trouble with Big Machine Records keeps trending on Twitter, and why fans are staying tuned as Scooter’s clients seem to be leaving his production company.

taylor swift and scooter braun in side by side photos

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It all started with a fight over Taylor’s music masters in 2019.

In a nutshell, Taylor left Big Machine Records (where she recorded her first six albums), then Scooter Braun acquired them, which means he’s now in control of most of her work. Taylor was NOT happy about that, especially since she had been trying to buy back her own masters herself.

Neither of them seem to agree on the series of events, though, and you can read all about that background here.

After Taylor fired shots at Scooter and Scott Borchetta in her initial July 2019 Tumblr post, America’s Sweetheart Kelly Clarkson weighed in on the drama, giving the Grammy winner a piece of advice on Twitter:

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In August 2019, Taylor seemed to take Kelly’s advice as she announced that she would officially be re-recording her albums during an appearance on Good Morning America. When asked if she was *really* going to put in all that work, Taylor said:

“Yeah, that’s true. It’s something that I’m very excited about doing because my current contract says that starting November 2020—so next year—I can record albums one through five all over again. I’m very excited about it because I think that artists deserve to own their work. I just feel very passionately about that.”

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Then things kicked into high gear with another Tumblr post.

In a November 14, 2019 Tumblr post (where else?) titled “Don’t know what else to do,” Taylor slammed Scooter and Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta for allegedly preventing her from performing her old songs during a medley at the 2019 AMAs, where Taylor received the Artist of the Decade award.

“Guys—it’s been announced recently that the American Music Awards will be honoring me with the Artist of the Decade Award at this year’s ceremony,” she wrote. “I’ve been planning to perform a medley of my hits throughout the decade on the show. Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun have now said that I’m not allowed to perform my old songs on television because they claim that would be rerecording my music before I’m allowed to next year.”

She added that Netflix created a documentary about her and that Scott and Scooter declined the use of her older music and performance footage for the project. And apparently, the only way they would’ve let her have access was if she didn’t record “copycat versions” of her old songs and if she stopped talking about them altogether.

“I feel very strongly that sharing what is happening to me could change the awareness level for other artists and potentially help them avoid a similar fate,” Taylor said. “The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished. This is WRONG. Neither of these men had a hand in the writing of those songs. They did nothing to create the relationship I have with my fans. So this is where I’m asking for your help.”

Taylor also asked fans to “let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this,” adding that they could lean on the other artists Scooter manages (ahem, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande).

“I’m hoping that maybe they can talk some sense into the men who are exercising tyrannical control over someone who just wants to play the music she wrote,” Taylor said, later adding, “I just want to be able to perform MY OWN music. That’s it. I’ve tried to work this out privately through my team but have not been able to resolve anything. Right now, my performance at the AMAs, the Netflix documentary, and any other recorded events I am planning to play until November of 2020 are a question mark.”

Big Machine Records fired back in a lengthy statement of its own.

The feud only got nastier after that, you guys. The day after Taylor’s Tumblr post went live, Big Machine Records (Taylor’s former label) issued a very lengthy statement on its website and straight-up said, “Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist,” which, eep!

The statement read:

“As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her Tumblr statements yesterday based on false information. At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere. Since Taylor’s decision to leave Big Machine last fall, we have continued to honor all of her requests to license her catalog to third parties as she promotes her current record [Lover], in which we do not financially participate.”

Oh, and if this whole situation wasn’t already messy enough, Big Machine also accused Taylor of “contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company, which is responsible for 120 hardworking employees who helped build her career.”

The statement continued and requested a private conversation with Taylor to sort the matter out:

“We have worked diligently to have a conversation about these matters with Taylor and her team to productively move forward. We started to see progress over the past two weeks and were optimistic as recently as yesterday that this may get resolved. However, despite our persistent efforts to find a private and mutually satisfactory solution, Taylor made a unilateral decision last night to enlist her fan base in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families.

“Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist. All we ask is to have a direct and honest conversation. When that happens, you will see there is nothing but respect, kindness, and support waiting for you on the other side. To date, not one of the invitations to speak with us and work through this has been accepted. Rumors fester in the absence of communication. Let’s not have that continue here. We share the collective goal of giving your fans the entertainment they both want and deserve.”

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Season 5

NBC//Getty Images

Team Taylor vehemently disagreed.

The same day Big Machine Records dropped their statement, Tree Paine—Taylor’s representative—issued her own statement claiming that Big Machine indeed denied Taylor the opportunity to use her old music in her AMAs performance.

Oh! And that other part when Big Machine claimed Taylor owed them a million dollars? Yeahhh, Tree said that was a lie too and Big Machine actually owes Taylor $7.9 million in unpaid royalties.

In a now-deleted post, Tree posted this in an official statement to her Twitter page that had all the tea and BOY—it was hella dramatic. She wrote:

“The truth is, on October 28, 2019, at 5:17 p.m., the vice president, Rights Management and Business Affairs from Big Machine Label Group sent Taylor Swift’s team the following:

“‘Please be advised that BMLG will not agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its rerecording restrictions in connection with these two projects: the Netflix documentary and the Alibaba Double Eleven event.’

“To avoid an argument over right, Taylor performed three songs off her new album Lover at the Double Eleven event as it was clear that Big Machine Label Group felt any televised performance of catalog songs violated her agreement. In addition, yesterday, Scott Borchetta, CEO and founder of Big Machine Label Group, flatly denied the request for both American Music Awards and Netflix. Please notice in Big Machine’s statement, they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post.

“Lastly, Big Machine is trying to deflect and make this about money by saying she owes them, but an independent, professional auditor has determined that Big Machine owes Taylor $7.9 million dollars of unpaid royalties over several years.”

But then Taylor got the green light to play her music at the AMAs!

Justice was served! Nine days before the AMAs, a Big Machine executive told TMZ that “Taylor Swift can 100% perform all of her catalog, past and present, on the AMAs,” which sounded great but, like…huh?

Apparently, the true holdup on Big Machine’s end was that they weren’t certain of what happens to a live AMAs broadcast after airing on television. So Big Machine, along with Dick Clark Productions, clarified that Taylor can perform any of her songs at the show—including re-broadcasts.

The companies reached out to TMZ to issue a joint statement and said:

“The Big Machine Label Group and Dick Clark Productions announce that they have come to terms on a licensing agreement that approves their artists’ performances to stream post show and for re-broadcast on mutually approved platforms.

“This includes the upcoming American Music Awards performances. It should be noted that recording artists do not need label approval for live performances on television or any other live media.”

Scooter said Taylor’s fans were threatening his kids and asked her to intervene publicly. She did not.

In a since-deleted Instagram post, Scooter spoke publicly on the issue two days before the AMAs—after six months of silence—and called the entire thing a “miscommunication” at heart.

He added that he received some pretty nasty blowback for being involved. He also said some Swifties have gone as far as threatening the lives of his children.

Taylor performed her music at the 2019 AMAs with a hefty side of shade.

Once AMAs day finally arrived, Taylor performed some of her biggest hits from her catalog and, of course, there was some shade thrown in for some good measure…but it was so quick that honestly, you might have missed it.

As Taylor performed, the background lit up and literally looked just like the Big Machine Records logo. A coincidence? I think not!

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She also performed wearing an oversize men’s T-shirt with all the names of her albums on it (including the albums that Scooter’s in control of) while singing “The Man” (what else?) with a young girl.

2019 American Music Awards - Roaming Show And Backstage

John Shearer/AMA2019//Getty Images

Aaaaand the feud reignited in April 2020.

Five months after the AMAs, Taylor brought it to everyone’s attention that Big Machine allegedly had plans to release an old performance of hers that was more than 10 years old as a live album…and on top of that, she claimed it was a shady attempt on Scooter and co.’s behalf to make back the money they lost from purchasing her masters.

She wrote:

“Hey guys—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. This recording is from a 2008 radio show performance I did when I was 18. Big Machine has listed the date as a 2017 release but they’re actually releasing it tonight at midnight.

“I’m always honest with you guys about this stuff so I just wanted to tell you that this release is not approved by me. It looks 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.”

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Instagram

Swifties found evidence of something shady.

Twitter account @TaylorSwiftNZ did some digging and found out the original old copies of Taylor’s albums only show up in the app’s search function and are nowhere to be found on her Spotify page. Instead, the only albums that come up on Taylor’s Spotify are Big Machine’s.

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To combat this, other Swifties started making and sharing Spotify playlists with the original album versions to give Taylor revenue instead of Scooter and Big Machine.

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Scooter Braun then sold Taylor’s masters for $300 million.

On November 16, 2020, Scooter sold the master rights to Taylor’s first six albums in a deal worth $300 million, according to Variety. The buyer was an investment fund, but they aren’t affiliated with Taylor.

After the news came out, “WE LOVE YOU, TAYLOR” started trending worldwide on Twitter, with Swifties making their feelings known.

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Fans wondered if Taylor was connected to the investment fund, but she released a statement clarifying she wasn’t part of this deal at all and still does not own the masters. Later on, she told fans she’s going to rerecord all her old music, which was obviously BIG NEWS.

taylor swift's letter

Taylor Swift//Twitter

a letter from taylor swift saying she will not work with or benefit scooter braun

Taylor Swift//Twitter

Taylor surprise-dropped Folklore in 2020, and some of the songs seemed to call out Scooter and Scott.

Ah, yes, the good ‘ol surprise album drop. Folklore marked Taylor’s return to music since 2019’s Lover, and it was one of the first albums she fully owned before her re-records. Some of the tracks on the alternative album, like “Mad Woman,” “My Tears Ricochet,” and “The Lakes,” seemed to reference her ongoing feud with Scooter and Scott.

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On “Mad Woman,” she sings:

“I’m takin’ my time / Takin’ my time / ‘Cause you took everything from me / Watchin’ you climb / Watchin’ you climb / Over people like me”

This could reference the sale of her masters, while the following lyrics seem to call out Scooter’s ex-wife, Yael, who threw herself in the ring in defense of her husband at the time:

“And women like hunting witches, too / Doing your dirtiest work for you / It’s obvious that wanting me dead / Has really brought you two together.”

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On “My Tears Ricochet,” which could be seen as a heart-wrenching song about the end of a romantic relationship, fans noticed that she could be referencing the feud in the following lyrics:

“You know I didn’t want to have to haunt you / But what a ghostly scene / You wear the same jewels that I gave you / As you bury me”

During the bridge, she calls out “stolen lullabies.” (Her masters, perhaps?)

“And when you can’t sleep at night (you hear my stolen lullabies)”

And, lastly, on “The Lakes,” a love song about her relationship with Joe Alwyn, Taylor makes a more obvious dig at Scooter and Scott, re: her masters:

“I’ve come too far to watch some namedropping sleaze / Tell me what are my words worth.”

Taylor had a little fun in Ryan Reynolds’ Match commercial by trolling Scooter.

This whole masters experience seems taxing, but Taylor let herself laugh a little. The moment in question went down in Ryan Reynolds’ Match ad, which was soundtracked by a rerecorded version of Taylor’s song “Love Story.” The ad featured Satan falling in love with the personified version of 2020 and showed them having several romantic moments in that dumpster-fire year—including a scene in front of a literal dumpster fire—which had a fallen scooter next to it along with the number 6 written on the wall. Hear that? A fallen *scooter*.

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Obviously, it took approximately two seconds for Taylor’s fans to pick up on that Easter egg.

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Taylor re-released Fearless and Red to massive success and made a point to remind people why she’s re-recording her albums in the first place.

Not only did Taylor drop Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version) in 2021, but she also released previously unreleased songs “from the vault” so fans would run to listen to the new versions she owned.

Within its first year of being released, Billboard reported that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) sold 1 million equivalent album units while Fearless earned 242,000 equivalent album units in the span of a year when it was originally released in 2008. As for Red (Taylor’s Version), the numbers also speak for themselves— Red (Taylor’s Version) sold 1.94 million units in its first year versus the 220,000 units the original recording sold in the same period of time.

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While promoting Red (Taylor’s Version) on Late Night With Seth Meyers, Taylor reminded fans why she was putting in all this work in the first place. She pretty much broke down everything that went down with the masters’ sale in simple terms and ended her spiel with:

“So, when something says ‘(Taylor’s Version)’ next to it, that means I own it, which is exciting!”

You thought it was over after those re-recordings? Think again…

If you know anything about T. Swift, you know she’s a mastermind hard at work. She seemed to jab at Scooter and Scott in tracks from her tenth (!!!) studio album, Midnights, which was released on October 21, 2022. Most notably, “Vigilante Shit” is all about seeking revenge while “Karma” notes that it’ll come to those who deserve it.

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Fans theorized that the entirety of “Vigilante Shit” basically calls Scooter out, but here are some ~juicy~ lyrics that raised brows in relation to his divorce with Yael Cohen:

“She needed cold hard proof so I gave her some / She had the envelope, where you think she got it from? / Now she gets the house, gets the kids, gets the pride / Picture me thick as thieves with your ex-wife”

And his $200 million legal dispute over his private equity fund, Ithaca Holdings:

“While he was doing lines / And crossing all of mine / Someone told his white-collar crimes to the FBI / And I don’t dress for villains / Or for innocents / I’m on my vigilante shit again”

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As for “Karma,” Taylor muses about someone who “burned” a ton of people (and, likely, bridges) to climb to the top. Of course, she says karma comes back around and playfully sings that she has good karma in the form of her boyfriend, her cats, and continuous success.

Some notable lyrics, though? In the second verse, where “Spider Boy” has the same initials as both Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta. Her “pennies” from her original recordings are going into their pockets while she rakes in the big bucks with Taylor’s Version. 👀

“Spider-boy, king of thieves / Weave your little webs of opacity / My pennies made your crown / Trick me once, trick me twice / Don’t you know that cash ain’t the only price? / It’s coming back around.”

Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) arrived, and so did a music video that *directly* referenced Taylor reclaiming her work.

Fast forward to 2023: Taylor was on her record-breaking Eras Tour, where she celebrated the re-release of Speak Now, aka the first album she wrote entirely on her own. She also dropped a spy-inspired music video for a new vault track, “I Can See You,” that starred her ex-boyfriend Taylor Lautner and “Mean” actors Joey King and Presley Cash.

Of course, the video is loaded with Easter eggs (more on those here), but it also shows Taylor Lautner, Joey, and Presley as they embark on a secret mission to save Tay from a vault.

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Upon its premiere, Taylor Swift revealed the video represents her reclaiming her art through her re-recordings. On social media, she wrote:

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And now, Scooter is seemingly (and suddenly) losing some of his high-profile clients.

After all of this mess, reports surfaced that Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato are parting ways with Scooter as their manager. Per Billboard, Ariana and Demi have left his company, SB Projects. Details about their decision to stop working with Scooter have not yet been revealed. The new wave of reports come after J Balvin ended his contract with Scooter in May 2023.

Rumors are currently swirling that Justin Bieber—one of Scooter’s first clients—is also seeking new management, but reps have debunked them and claimed that the pair is still working together via Page Six.

Maybe, just maybe, Taylor Swift is watching from afar and cackling at this mess. 👀

Keep your eyes peeled here for further updates—something tells me this won’t be the last we’ll hear about this Taylor Swift–Scooter Braun–Big Machine Records beef.

Headshot of Mehera  Bonner

Contributor

Mehera Bonner is a celebrity and entertainment news writer who enjoys Bravo and Antiques Roadshow with equal enthusiasm, She was previously entertainment editor at Marie Claire and has covered pop culture for over a decade. 

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Assistant News Editor

Starr Bowenbank is the assistant news editor who writes about all things pertaining to news, pop culture, and entertainment—you can follow her here. Writing aside, she loves singing literally everywhere, dancing in the street, hanging out in the East Village every chance she gets, and making her dreams come true.





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