What does the resale of Taylor Swift’s old masters mean for the musician and her music?

It's all a bit complicated, so let's try and clear some things up

Last night Taylor Swift revealed that her old masters had been sold once again. Sharing a statement on social media, the artist explained that she’s been unsuccessfully trying to regain ownership of her master recordings – but her music had been sold off without her knowledge.

 

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A brief recap. Last year, talent manager Scooter Braun (who reps artists such as Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande), made a $300 million acquisition of Swift’s former label Big Machine Label Group. This sale included the recorded masters and ownership of Swift’s first six albums (everything from her 2006 self-titled record up to ‘Reputation’). At the time, Swift penned a piece on Tumblr, addressing both Braun and the founder of the label, Scott Borchetta.

“For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work,” she wrote of her experiences with Big Machine. “Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.”

Now, Swift has shared another statement in which she says that private equity company Shamrock Holdings has bought “100%” of her music, and that she wasn’t given the chance herself to regain ownership of her master recordings. Here’s what we know about the sale, and what it means for Swift’s music.

She wasn’t offered the chance to buy back her masters

In her statement, Swift says that her team “attempted to enter into negotiations with Scooter Braun”, and that these conversations weren’t fruitful. Swift wrote, “Scooter’s team wanted me to sign an ironclad NDA stating I would never say another word about Scooter Braun unless it was positive, before we could even look at the financial record of BMLG [Big Machine Label Group] (which is always the first step in a purchase of this nature.)”

READ MORE: New bands: own your masters; it’s more important than you think

Swift added that she would have had to sign a non-disclosure agreement [NDA] before she would have had a chance to bid or purchase the masters, saying: “My legal team said that this is absolutely NOT normal, and they’ve never seen an NDA like this presented unless it was to silence an assault accuser by paying them off.”

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She also states that she wasn’t ever quoted a price for the master recordings, believing that “these master recordings were not for sale to me.”

Swift’s music has been sold to Shamrock Holdings

Shamrock Holdings is a private equity company created by the late Roy Disney in 1978. The firm recently raised $400 million for its “Shamrock Capital Content Fund II”; and they’re the ones that have bought Swift’s master recordings.

Swift received a letter from the company to let her know about the sale. In her statement she says that Shamrock had “wanted to reach out before the sale and 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.”

Scooter Braun will continue to profit off Swift’s music

Swift shared a return letter she sent to Shamrock Holdings; she said that their reaching out brought her “a great deal of hope for my musical legacy and our possible future together.”

In her response to Shamrock, Swift outlines that under the terms of Shamrock’s acquisition of her masters, Scooter Braun and Ithaca holdings (his company, who purchased her former label in 2019), would receive “many years of future financial reward”. While initially Swift was “hopeful and open” about a partnership with Shamrock Holdings, she now says unable to support them, saying: “I simply cannot in good conscience bring myself to be involved in benefitting Scooter Braun’s interests directly or indirectly.”

Swift explained: “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.”

Taylor Swift at the NME Awards in 2020. Credit: Dean Chalkley / NME

She’d reconsider partnering with Shamrock Holdings if Scooter Braun wasn’t involved

In her letter to Shamrock Holdings Swift does say that they should get back in touch if their company comes to be no longer involved with Scooter Braun. Swift writes, “I wish this could have had a better outcome and please do let me know if your firm is ever completely independent from Scooter Braun and his associates.”

This indicates that Swift would work with Shamrock to “grow the future of these past works” if Braun as no longer involved.

We can expect new versions of old songs, and some surprises

In the statement Swift shared, she also revealed that she’s begun the process of re-recording her older music. Given that Swift’s first six albums are tied up in this messy deal, she’s planning on re-recording her own tunes so she can own the masters of them.

Swift teased that she’s been working on these recordings, and that fans can expect some surprises, saying: “I have recently begun re-recording my older music and it has already proven to be both exciting and creatively fulfilling. I have plenty of surprises in store.”

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