Taylor Swift's catalog has been sold, again. And she is not happy about it. Again
LOS ANGELES — A year-and-a-half after a very public art-versus-commerce fight between multiplatinum artist Taylor Swift and music mogul Scooter Braun made headlines, Braun's Ithaca Holdings has sold the master rights to Swift's first six studio albums.
The new owner is Shamrock Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment fund focused on entertainment properties. It paid more than $300 million for the rights to Swift's master recordings stretching back to 2006, including all the songs from "Taylor Swift," "Fearless," "Speak Now," "Red," "1989" and "Reputation." News of the sale was first reported by Variety.
In a statement posted to social media, Swift, 30, slammed the transaction and Braun, writing that she and her team had been attempting behind the scenes to buy back her music. The deal-breaker, says Swift, was that "Scooter's team wanted me to sign an ironclad NDA saying that I would never say another word about Scooter Braun."
Last year, Swift described Braun, a music manager who first earned success with Justin Bieber, as "the definition of toxic male privilege in our industry," adding that when she heard that he owned her music, "(a)ll I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I've received at his hands for years."
She also expressed frustration in her inability to even make a counteroffer on her own music, wondering to Billboard, "(H)ow are we really helping artists if we're not giving them the first right of refusal to purchase their work if they want to?"
That animus derailed any potential partnership between Swift and Shamrock, she wrote in a separate letter to three of the new owner's partners, Patrick Russo, Jason Sklar and Laura Held. Explaining that she "was thrilled" when she first heard of Shamrock's acquisition, Swift said she felt different after learning that Braun and Ithaca would continue to earn income even after the sale.
Wrote Swift: "I simply cannot in good conscience be involved in benefiting Scooter Braun's interests either directly or indirectly." As a result, she will proceed with her plans to re-record the albums as a way to circumvent the rights issues. "I know this will diminish the value of my old masters, but I hope you will understand that this is the only way of regaining the sense of pride I once had from hearing songs from my first six albums ..."
Re-recording her albums will achieve a goal she has set for her work, she told Billboard in 2019. "I do want my music to live on. I do want it to be in movies. I do want it to be in commercials. But I only want that if I own it."
Shamrock is well-known in the entertainment business. Over the last five years, it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the rights to movies, music and TV shows and other entertainment.
"We have the ability to take an artist's intellectual property and make it grow over time by making it relevant to a new generation," Shamrock partner Russo told the Los Angeles Times in 2016, shortly after the company teamed with Jampol Artist Management, the industry leader in managing the estates of legacy artists including Jim Morrison, Ramones and Kurt Cobain.
In a statement, Shamrock described Swift as "a transcendent artist with a timeless catalog," adding that the company "made this investment because we believe in the immense value and opportunity that comes with her work." The statement concluded with the hope "to partner with her in new ways moving forward and remain committed to investing with artists in their work."
For Braun and Ithaca, the sale means a big payday. The $300 million purchase price for Swift's six albums is nearly equal to the price Braun paid for the entirety of the Big Machine Label Group last year, including Swift's records. Founded by Scott Borchetta, BMLG has issued — and owns the master rights for — records by the Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, Florida Georgia Line, Sugarland, Midland, Rascal Flatts and Sheryl Crow, among others.
Swift's latest release, "Folklore," was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart for eight weeks, and it became the first album to sell a million copies in the U.S. in 2020. Critically acclaimed, it is favored to receive multiple Grammy nominations, which will be announced Nov. 24.