Breaking Down Taylor Swift's Battle With Scooter Braun Over Her Master Recordings

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Taylor Swift shook up the internet over the weekend after she called out Scooter Braun for purchasing her former record label, Scott Borchetta's Big Machine Records.

The reported $300 million deal, which was announced on Sunday, gives Braun's Ithaca Holdings ownership of a majority of Swift's masters. Swift seems to be particularly upset about the purchase landing in the hands of Braun, because she claims the talent manager (who reps stars like Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber) has been "bullying" her for years. 

To break it all down, ET spoke with Variety features editor Chris Willman on Monday, who detailed the "common struggle" artists face with their labels over catalog ownership.

"Scooter's company has basically acquired Big Machine, and no one likes the thought of being owned... themselves or their work," Willman explained. "When someone gets to a certain point in their career, they want ownership of what they've done. The deal she [originally] signed with Big Machine was very typical. She was in it for 13, 14 years, which is pretty typical for someone who signs a contract and then is that successful."

"There's nothing really unusual about it at all. Most people don't own their masters," he continued. "That's kind of a superstar perk most of the time. The people you find owning their masters tend to be at a superstar level who've negotiated that, like Garth Brooks or Paul McCartney, who you'll see kind of shifting their catalog from label to label over time."

Although Swift has reached that superstar status, Willman says there are plenty of reasons why she was potentially unable to obtain the rights to her masters.

"As we see from the $300 million-plus price tag, Taylor's catalog is a huge part of what makes Big Machine valuable, so they were not going to let that go without a huge fight or payout," explained Willman. "Very few record companies are eager to let a catalog go on one of the biggest superstars in the world. That's going to be valuable forever." 

"They say they were in negotiations for Taylor to buy back her masters. She says she never was seriously," he continued. "People [ask], 'Could she have just bought the record company?' and that's a big question mark. Not everybody wants to be a huge label owner."

Willman added that it's unclear whether Swift wanted to outbid Braun, but noted that she was "considering putting in a bid to buy the label."

"We don't know why that didn't happen," he added. "I suspect that it's because Scott Borchetta had part of a deal to sell Big Machine to whoever it was but he would always still run the company, and maybe Taylor wasn't down to being tied to that for another 15 years."

"You can't blame them for wanting to keep the masters, and you can't blame her for wanting them," he continued. "Both sides want to have a claim on ownership on that, and you can't say either one is in the wrong for that."

Legally, however, Big Machine has had the rights to Swift's masters ever since she signed a contract with the label. "They're the ones in power in the situation and she's not, as powerful as she is," Willman explained. "Taylor's invested in her future, as she says, and Big Machine has a huge investment in the past that they don't want to let go of. With Taylor, the question is, is she just upset about not getting her masters in general, or is she upset particularly that it landed in the hands of Scooter Braun, who she considers a nemesis?"

"Taylor and Scooter are both such powerful and, in their own ways, respected people in the industry," he added. "If she still wants to renegotiate to get her masters back, and Scooter has [previously] said that he would negotiate with her, at least privately, then maybe it was a mistake to go so [public]  ... it affects your entire artistic output."

Of course, Swift wasn't the only big name signed to Big Machine -- the label also houses artists and bands like Brett Young, Florida Georgia Line, Reba McEntire and Lady Antebellum. So, could Braun's purchase affect the rest of the country-heavy label in any way?

"I'm guessing the other artists on the label are probably pretty happy about it, but maybe tempered by, 'Oh, is Scooter Braun bringing in more pop artists and turning us into a pop label?' and, 'Will the country side get downplayed a little bit?'" Willman said, adding that Braun will likely bring his own artists in. "Big Machine has been 95% a country label to date. Scooter is not buying this because he wants to run a country label; he wants to put all his stars through his label as soon as he can. So, it's going to become more of a pop-country hybrid."

As ET previously reported, Swift accused Braun of bullying her with his recent purchase of Borchetta's Big Machine in a lengthy, impassioned message posted to Tumblr on Sunday. 

"For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. 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," wrote Swift. "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."

The "You Need to Calm Down" singer continued on, claiming that she learned of the deal as it was "announced to the world" on Sunday.

"All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I've received at his hands for years," she wrote of Braun. "Now Scooter has stripped me of my life's work, that I wasn't given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it."

Additionally, a spokesperson for Swift told ET that Swift found out about Braun's purchase from the news articles when she woke up, despite claims that Borchetta sent her a text in advance.

Borchetta responded to Swift's Tumblr post on Sunday, alleging that Swift misrepresented the truth. "In regard to a post earlier today from Taylor, it’s time to set some things straight," his message, which you can read in full here, began.

Ever since Swift posted about Braun, plenty of celebrities, including Lovato, Bieber, Halsey, Todrick Hall and Cara Delevingne, have publicly spoken out to weigh in on the situation via social media. Watch the video below to learn whose side they are on and why.

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