When musicians signal with file labels, they normally sign away possession of the song they create. That’s genuine for Taylor Swift. She signed her first film contract with Big Machine Label Group when she was 15. She stayed with Big Machine for more than a decade, developing six platinum albums and prevailing 10 Grammys.
Now she’s with Universal Music Group. And her vintage label just was given offered to a brand new proprietor, which means her master recordings now have a new proprietor, too. In a blog post earlier this week, she called the sale her, quote, “worst-case state of affairs.”
Here to unpack this track news is Jem Aswad, senior music editor for Variety. Welcome to the program.
JEM ASWAD: Thank you.
CORNISH: So we’re going to get to the commercial enterprise side of this in a second, however first, permit’s communicate about the person who sold her antique label, Scooter Braun, because they have a few records, right?
ASWAD: They do. It’s quite a non-public tale, virtually. Scooter Braun manages, maximum prominently, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Kanye West. Now, he kind of insinuated himself into this without a doubt kind of unsightly public feud among Kanye and Kim Kardashian on one side and Taylor on the alternative. And she takes such things as that in my opinion. So the fact that Scooter, who has insinuated himself into a couple of, you realize, Instagram photographs with Kanye and all that and very simply is in his camp – the truth that he now controls her recorded legacy is abhorrent to her.
CORNISH: So basically, her grasp recordings now belong to a person she would not accept as true with, possibly might not like. What does this imply in practice? – because she still receives royalties from the use of those songs, right?
ASWAD: What it means in practice might be now not very a whole lot unless a person were to get very spiteful about it. That seems extremely unlikely beneath these instances because you understand, neither of them wants to hurt their personal earning or their personal reputations. But you recognize, it’s quite nasty proper now.
CORNISH: The previous proprietor of Big Machine Label Group says that he gave Taylor Swift the choice of buying returned her master recordings. Is that real, and does she have any legal recourse right here?
ASWAD: To solution the second one question first, she has zero recourse. She’s out of the agreement. She had the opportunity to do a new agreement with Big Machine that she apparently located unacceptable. She could get the rights to 1 past album each time she turned in a new album after signing a new cope with Big Machine.
Scott Borchetta, the owner of Big Machine – or excuse me, former owner of Big Machine, published very selective excerpts from a deal memo that stated she would get the rights to all of her material once she signed the deal. Now, can we realize what else changed in that deal? No, we don’t. So I don’t suppose either facet is always mendacity, but or is telling the whole story, simply, and they’ll be talking about different factors of the negotiating method.
CORNISH: People pay very close interest to what Taylor Swift does inside the song enterprise at the commercial enterprise aspect due to the fact she’s recognized for taking public stands. Can you speak approximately what is significant approximately this second?
ASWAD: What’s interesting here is what she’s capturing for, what her remaining intention is, and I presume it’s to return to a negotiation that gives her extra control over that returned catalog than she already has. The difficulty here is, artists should personal their work, OK? And it truly is in which you notice Halsey and Sky Ferreira coming in and chiming in and tons of fans saying, sure, yes, it really is the way it needs to be.
She has used her clout on as a minimum two events to make large movements for artists at huge, proper? In 2015, whilst Apple Music turned into new, they were now not paying royalties on the trial subscription for the streaming service. She publicly shamed them on Father’s Day, and with the aid of the give up of the day, Apple had agreed to do it. So it’s one example.
Another example – and that is a bit greater complex – the main labels all owned equity in Spotify. A massive problem there’s when Spotify went public and the labels got dozens, if now not hundreds of tens of millions of greenbacks in profit from it, did they share that with their artists? And she made a deal point in her deal with Universal that they might proportion the ones proceeds with all artists. She should no longer try this.
So it really is a type of all-for-one circulate that she has made in the past. Maybe that is what she’s ginning up now.