Pharrell Williams has shared his thoughts on the recent dispute between Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun, after the latter notoriously purchased the singer’s former record label and the master rights to her first six albums.
Braun’s Ithaca Holdings LLC acquired the Big Machine Label Group back in June 2019, giving the company the rights to six of Swift’s albums from her 2006 self-titled debut through to 2017’s ‘Reputation’. The singer signed with Republic Records, who are owned by Universal Music Group, in 2018.
Speaking in a new interview, Pharrell called the fall out between the pair “unfortunate” and said that the industry isn’t always fair to its artists.
“It’s really unfortunate, you know,” he told Variety. “There was room for him to make his acquisition because that’s just the way the business is, and I felt for her and not being able to be in control of it.”
He continued: “There’s a system in place that’s just all wrong. He’s a businessman and he also represents artists, so from his point of view he’s just making an acquisition of something that he felt would be a good investment. But the artist should have the opportunity [to retain ownership], and I don’t know whether she did or she didn’t.
“I just know that the system is wired in ways that is oftentimes not always fair to the creator. I think it should be the norm that the creators retain their rights.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Pharrell talked about how he was able to negotiate a deal with Columbia Records to take ownership of his own masters.
“It was a huge milestone, but it shouldn’t be, and we shouldn’t be celebrating that because I shouldn’t be one of let’s call it dozens of people who own their original recordings,” he said.
“A master recording is the original, and every other copy is the slave. We got them to take that out of their language in all the contracts for the Sony companies. It’s all over the place – you know, master bedroom – so there’s a lot of language that we need to change.”
Following Ithaca’s acquisition of Big Machine in June 2019, Swift accused Braun in an open letter of “incessant manipulative bullying” and said that she was “sad and grossed out” when it emerged that Braun controlled her master records. Braun later claimed that he had “no malicious intent” and “did everything aboard”.
In a bid to reclaim control of her music, Swift stated in August 2019 that she planned to re-record the songs from her first six records.