Beth Garrabrant

Taylor Swift’s Masters Sold Again: Why She Refused to Negotiate With Scooter Braun

Taylor Swift’s early masters have a new owner, again, and the superstar is none too pleased. According to a missive Swift posted to Twitter on Monday (Nov. 16), and confirmed to Billboard by a source, Shamrock Holdings has purchased Swift’s Big Machine Label Group catalog from Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings, marking the second time in 17 months ownership over her first six albums has changed hands.

In June 2019, Ithaca purchased Big Machine Label Group, which owned the master recordings to Swift’s first six albums, for an estimated $300 million. Swift’s catalog was worth at least half of that amount, according to estimates. Since then, Swift has very publicly declared her displeasure with the deal and her intent to re-record her first six albums as soon as she was legally able — which turned out to be earlier this month.

She was also, understandably, interested in getting back her original masters.

Following a report Monday by Variety with details on Ithaca’s sale, but without information on the buyer, Swift posted to Twitter that that Braun’s “team” asked her to sign a non-disclosure agreement before she could even “bid on [her] own work,” once Braun decided to sell her masters. “My legal team said that this is absolutely not normal, and they’re never seen an NDA like this presented unless it was to silence an assault accuser by paying them off,” she said. “He would never even quote my team a price. These master recordings were not for sale to me.”

A few weeks later, Swift’s team received a letter from Shamrock, informing them they had bought 100% of Swift’s music. “This was the second time my music had been sold without my knowledge,” Swift said. “The letter told me they wanted to reach out before the sale to let me know, but that Scooter Braun had required that they make no contact with me or my team, or the deal would be off.”

Swift wrote that she also learned Braun will continue to profit off her catalog for many years, though she does not specify how. “I was hopeful and open to the possibility of a partnership with Shamrock, but Scooter’s participation is a non-starter for me,” she said.
Swift, who began trending on Twitter, as soon as news of the sale appeared, confirmed that she has as promised, begun re-recording her older music and “it has already proven to be both exciting and creatively fulfilling.”

The singer-songwriter also included in her tweet her Oct. 28 letter to principals at Shamrock noting that she could not do business with them if they continued to be involved with 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 remain separated from the music I spent over a decade creating, but this is a sacrifice I will have to make to keep Scooter Braun out of my life,” Swift said in the letter.

In a statement to Billboard, Shamrock praised Swift’s artistry and said it hopes to find ways to partner with her in the future.

“Taylor Swift is a transcendent artist with a timeless catalog,” reads a Shamrock company statement. “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. We appreciate Taylor’s open communication and professionalism with us these last few weeks. We hope to partner with her in new ways moving forward and remain committed to investing with artists in their work.”

A source tells Billboard that Ithaca was shopping the Swift catalog for around $300 million. And though the company may not have received that amount, if it did, as multiples for publishing and recording catalog sales have drastically increased over the past two years, Ithaca would have covered the cost of the entire Big Machine Label Group acquisition with this sale, while retaining rights to recordings by Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Rascal Flatts, Lady A and Sheryl Crow, among others. Braun’s representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

Additional reporting by Ed Christman.