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Taylor Swift blasts new sale of her catalogue for benefiting Scooter Braun: ‘It’s a shame’

Taylor Swift arrives at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 5. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

When Taylor Swift found out that the catalogue to her first six albums had been sold for a second time without her knowledge, she said she hoped it meant she was free from the record executive who had owned 11 years of master recordings against the pop star’s wishes.

Swift publicly lashed out last year at Scooter Braun after he purchased her former recording label, Big Machine, claiming that he was guilty of “incessant, manipulative bullying” and that she hadn’t been consulted on his purchase of her music rights.

Now, she said on Monday, Braun was selling her chart-topping catalogue to a private equity firm. But rather than celebrating, Swift was fuming about the deal again.

Taylor Swift voiced disappointment in the sale of her old music label to Scooter Braun on June 30. Here's an explanation of the saga surrounding it. (Video: The Washington Post)

After learning that Braun would still profit off her work under the terms of the deal, Swift announced Monday that she had already begun rerecording her first six albums in an attempt to regain independence from the executive whose name alone regularly left her in tears.

As first reported by Variety, the new deal by Shamrock Holdings for Swift’s master recordings is believed to be for more than $300 million. The value from those first six albums could eventually reach as high as $450 million, according to the outlet.

In a post on Twitter, Swift published a copy of a letter she sent to Shamrock Holdings last month informing the California-based firm, which was founded by Walt Disney’s nephew, of her decision to rerecord dozens of songs, including a collection of top-10 hits, so that they would no longer profit Braun.

“It’s a shame to know that I will now be unable to help grow the future of these past works and it pains me very deeply to be separated from the music I spent over a decade creating,” wrote Swift on Oct. 28, “but this is a sacrifice I will have to make to keep Scooter Braun out of my life.”

Swift, one of the best-selling artists of all time, said that she had hoped to bid on the master recordings herself, but that she was told she would have to sign a nondisclosure agreement, which the 30-year-old artist declined.

While she praised Shamrock for reaching out to try to broker a partnership, Swift maintained that any relationship the firm had with Braun, 39, was a non-starter.

“I know this will diminish the value of my old masters, but I hope you will understand that this is my only way of regaining the sense of pride I once had when hearing songs from my first six albums and also allowing my fans to listen to those albums without feelings of guilt for benefiting Scooter,” she wrote.

Monday’s emotional message from Swift was the latest episode in a long-running battle between the record-breaking artist and the influential executive stemming from an online feud that preceded Braun’s ownership of her work.

The feud between the two can be traced back to one of Braun’s chart-topping clients: Kanye West. At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Braun was West’s manager when the rapper jumped onstage and interrupted Swift as she was accepting the award for female video of the year in an infamous moment.

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In West’s 2016 track “Famous,” he then called Swift a “b----” and made a music video that depicted her naked, which the pop star slammed as “a revenge porn music video.” Then, Kim Kardashian, West’s wife, leaked a phone call of the two artists talking about the song, branding her a “snake” for publicly playing the victim. (Swift’s publicist contended that there was no discussion about using the vulgar term in the song.)

Justin Bieber, another of Braun’s high-profile clients, got in the mix when he posted a taunting screenshot of him, West and the manager seemingly laughing at the backlash Swift faced following the release of the recording. He later apologized.

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Tensions increased in June 2019 when Braun’s Ithaca Holdings purchased Big Machine, the Nashville-based independent record label, for about $300 million. The rights to Swift’s catalogue alone, believed to be worth around $140 million, were a significant selling point in the deal for a label featuring acts such as Sheryl Crow, Florida Georgia Line and Lady A, the group formerly known as Lady Antebellum.

Swift said that Braun buying her catalogue was a “worst-case scenario."

“Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter,” she wrote on Tumblr, describing Braun as “the definition of toxic male privilege in our industry.”

After she accused Braun and her former label of blocking her music from being included at an awards show and in a Netflix special, the executive said last November that he and his family received anonymous death threats, and pleaded with Swift to end their social media back-and-forth. Speaking to Variety last year, Braun suggested he was willing to speak with Swift, saying, “I don’t know where we got messed up along the way that we decided being politically correct is more important than having conflict resolution.”

As she was trying to enter into negotiations with him over the master recordings, Swift released in February the music video for “The Man,” which included direct references about her disdain for Braun and his ownership of her music. In the music video, Swift’s chauvinistic male alter ego, Tyler, who is used to skewer toxic masculinity and double standards, is shown urinating on a subway station wall covered in graffiti referencing the titles of the five No. 1 albums that were under Braun’s ownership. The Washington Post’s Katie Shepherd and Allyson Chiu pointed out that there was also a sign of a scooter with a red circle and line cutting through it, meaning, “No Scooters allowed.”

Representatives for Swift and Braun did not immediately respond to requests for comment to The Post. In a statement to NBC News, Shamrock Holdings applauded Swift’s transparency and professionalism.

“Taylor Swift is a transcendent artist with a timeless catalogue,” the firm said to NBC. “We made this investment because we believe in the immense value and opportunity that comes with her work. We fully respect and support her decision and, while we hoped to formally partner, we also knew this was a possible outcome that we considered.”

Even while lamenting the sale of the master recordings, Swift called going back to rerecord her older music “exciting and creatively fulfilling,” promising to “have plenty of surprises in store” for fans.

“I can’t wait for you to hear what I’ve been dreaming up,” she said. “I love you guys and I’m just gonna keep cruising, as they say.”

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Following the release of “Folklore” in July 2020, queer Taylor Swift fans were convinced that the singer is part of the LGBTQ community. (Video: Monica Rodman/The Washington Post, Photo: The Washington Post/The Washington Post)