Taylor Swift Loses Six Albums of Master Recordings to Scooter Braun

Taylor Swift is no small name in the entertainment industry having millions of fans across the globe, selling over 30 million albums, and being named the highest paid celebrity in 2019 according to Forbes. Although the artist is known to make headlines, the most recent news comes from the purchase of her former record label Big Machine Label Group by her longtime adversary Scooter Braun. Since Swift’s first six albums contractually belong to Big Machine, Braun gains ownership of her master recordings along with the label. This estimated $300 million deal and Swift’s loss of ownership of a lifetime of work shines a spotlight on the importance of contract negotiation.

Swift commented on the situation via Tumblr stating that for years she had attempted to gain control of her work, but her only option was to re-sign with Big Machine and earn one album back by recording a new album for the label. This album for album trade felt like the perpetuation of Big Machine’s control over Swift’s recordings and ultimately led her to move to Republic Records last year. Although the loss of five albums of master recordings was a tough call to make, Swift’s new contract gives her the rights to her latest album to be released next month and all future music she creates.

While Swift was aware that her master recordings could be sold to the next owner of Big Machine, the acquisition by Scooter Braun felt like salt in a deep wound. In her Tumblr post, she mentions being bullied and manipulated over the years by Braun and his associates, who include Justin Bieber and Kanye West. Although the situation is her “worst case scenario,” Swift has seemingly maintained a positive outlook on the future of her music with the support of Republic Records.

In many cases in the entertainment industry, the first contract a performer signs may give industry professionals the upper hand. Swift was fifteen when she got her big break with Big Machine, and it is evident that she would have made contractual changes if she had the power or the knowledge at the time. A buy-back clause could have given her the option to purchase her masters, or a “non-assignment” clause may have allowed her to have some deciding power on if the recordings belonged to a new owner of the record label. At the least Swift can hope that young entertainers can learn from her experiences and be more prepared when their big shot comes.

Whether a recording deal contract or an M&A transaction, every negotiation is unique and needs to be approached with the proper strategy and insight. Talley LLP is uniquely equipped to provide the technical and managerial expertise to help you plan, negotiate, structure and execute on your buy-side or sell-side strategy.

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