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EntertainmentBad blood puts Taylor Swift music deal in trouble

12:00  02 july  2019
12:00  02 july  2019 Source:   ft.com

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Taylor Swift on the sale by Scott Borchetta of his label Big Machine Records: 'This is my worst case scenario. A war of words launched by megastar singer Taylor Swift has thrown a 0m music industry deal into question and opened a vicious new fight in the decades-old struggle by artists to

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Bad blood puts Taylor Swift music deal in trouble © Getty Getty A war of words launched by megastar singer Taylor Swift has thrown a $300m music industry deal into question and opened a vicious new fight in the decades-old struggle by artists to control more of their work.

Ms Swift erupted at the news that Big Machine Records, the Nashville label that signed her as an unknown 15-year-old, has been sold to Ithaca Holdings, a music investment company run by Scooter Braun, a man best known for discovering Justin Bieber and with whom Ms Swift has feuded for years.

Big Machine earned about $40m in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation last year, according to people briefed on the figures, and Ms Swift’s catalogue is the company’s prized asset. The 29-year-old has sold more than 30m albums through her career, and made an estimated $266m during her tour in the US last year.

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Taylor ’s original song “ Bad Blood ” is widely recognized as a public note about her falling out with Katy Perry. In this context, Kendrick’s verses could be a In another tweet, she enlightened her fans on the character that Kendrick would be playing in the “ Bad Blood ” music video. On the same day, Kendrick

Along with the sale comes ownership of all six of Ms Swift’s albums to date. Scott Borchetta, Big Machine chief executive, extolled the deal as the start of a “fantastic partnership”. Ms Swift, however, felt differently, describing the news as her “worst-case scenario” which “stripped me of my life’s work”. She accused Mr Borchetta and Mr Braun of “controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them”, and “incessant, manipulative bullying”.

Bad blood puts Taylor Swift music deal in trouble © Getty Taylor Swift poses upon arriving for the Time 100 Gala celebrating Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in New York, U.S., April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly The fiery exchange captured the attention of the music business and internet at large — Mr Bieber came to Mr Braun’s defence; Mr Borchetta accused Ms Swift of lying; fans tweeting #WeStandWithTaylor threatened to stop listening to Ms Swift’s previous albums to prevent Mr Braun making money from them — and legal experts said that Ms Swift’s clout could disrupt the deal.

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Meanwhile, Ms Swift wants up-and-coming artists to learn lessons from her experience, adding new risks to a music label business model that has been squeezed since the dawn of digital music.

While Ms Swift does not own her recordings, she does control the publishing rights to her music because she writes all of her songs, meaning she could complicate Mr Braun’s ability to use her songs in television commercials, films or elsewhere, music executives warned.

“If you’re the acquirer and spend top dollar for these assets, and then find out you have handcuffs, it’s going to be a mess,” said a top executive at one of the big three major labels. “So if you’re Scooter, you’re freaking out right now.”

Ms Swift could take legal action, according to entertainment lawyers. “She might have some rights that have to do with defamation and injury to personality,” said Michael Sukin, a longtime music lawyer who has worked with the estate of Elvis Presley. “She’s a very rich woman. She could make life difficult for them. She might not win, but who wants to risk all this money over that?”

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The two camps disagree on what exactly transpired. Ms Swift and Mr Borchetta had been discussing ownership of the masters to her six albums as far back as 2015, according to people close to the situation. Ms Swift said that she had spent years trying to buy the masters to the six albums she made with Big Machine Records, but was only offered an option to gain control of one at a time, in exchange for each new album she made.

Bad blood puts Taylor Swift music deal in trouble © Getty LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 15: CEO of Big Machine Records Scott Borchetta attends the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 15, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic) One person close to Mr Borchetta admits he did offer her that deal, but that it was years ago. Mr Borchetta contended he gave in to all of her demands when trying to persuade her to stay with Big Machine as her six-album contract was expiring last year.

Negotiations broke down last autumn, however, and Ms Swift signed with Universal Music’s Republic Records, which offered her ownership of all her future work. Mr Borchetta put Big Machine up for sale in October, according to people familiar with the situation, and the industry expected the label to end up with Universal.

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But despite attracting bids from Universal, and interest from Warner Music, both companies backed out when the price got too expensive, according to three people familiar with the negotiations. Mr Borchetta opted to sell to Mr Braun, who manages, among other artists, Kanye West, another star with whom Ms Swift has tussled.

The tug of war over artists’ rights is hardly new. Acts including The Beatles, Prince, Def Leppard and Elton John are among the many to have fought against managers and record labels.

Ms Swift has previously used the power of her fame to negotiate for more freedom and better terms from digital music pioneers Spotify and Apple. At one point she pulled all her music from the Spotify streaming service.

Bad blood puts Taylor Swift music deal in trouble © Getty Taylor Swift arrives at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on Thursday, March 14, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP) Now, she is making a rallying cry for younger artists to be more cautious in signing on with record labels. “Hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this,” she wrote at the weekend, “and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation”.

Wall Street took notice. Analysts at Citi wrote that the current saga exposes “some of the negative implications for record labels in general — the idea that young artists may follow Ms Swift’s advice . . . We are cautious on Universal Music and, in turn, Vivendi [its parent company] because we think the market is . . . underplaying the risk of disintermediation.”

Scott Borchetta Denies Taylor Swift’s Accusations, Defends Scooter Braun After Big Machine Sale

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Some in the industry argue that streaming has already tilted the power balance towards artists, as musicians like Chance the Rapper and Lil Nas X have been able to find large followings online without a record label.

“This is about the transition to a new way of artists doing deals with record labels,” said Mark Mulligan, analyst with Midia Research. “Taylor Swift almost feels like she’s a slave or an asset to help sell a company to someone she didn’t want it to be sold to. More artists will see what Taylor is going through and do what they can to not have that happen to them.”

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Gallery: Taylor Swift's biggest career moments [Wonderwall]

Bad blood puts Taylor Swift music deal in trouble

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