How did Taylor Swift lose the rights to her six best-selling albums (2023)

Taylor Swift has refused to stay silent about the sale of her entire back catalog of music saying she was 'sad and grossed out' by news of the deal that she called her 'worst case scenario'.

It emerged on Sunday thatScooter Braun'sIthaca Holdings had purchased Big Machine Label Group from Scott Borchetta, which released all of Swift's studio albums and owns her masters, in a $300 million deal.

The sale prevents Swift from owning the first six albums in her catalog.

When Swift left Big Machine and signed with Universal Music Group back in November, the 29-year-old singer said she made peace with that fact her masters would eventually be sold.

But she said she never imagined thatBraun would be the one to purchase them and described it as her worst nightmare. Swift has accused Braun of subjecting her to years of manipulative bullying, referencing clashes with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

So how did Swift lose the rights to her last six albums?

Taylor Swift has refused to stay silent about the sale of her entire back catalog of music saying she was 'sad and grossed out' by news of the deal that she called her 'worst case scenario'

Swift signed her deal with Big Machine back in 2005 when she was 15 years old.Under the terms of her deal, which is standard for most artists, the record label owns the rights to her music.

The music she produced under that deal includes everything from her 2006 self-titled debut album to her 2017 Reputation album.

It is standard practice in the music industry for an artist to sign away the master rights to their recordings but Swift says she tried to gain ownership of her recordings for several years.

When she announced she had signed with Universal Music group in November, Swift said it was exciting to know that she would own her future master recordings.

Following the news on Sunday thatBig Machine had been acquired byBraun's Ithaca Holdings, Swift posted a scathing Tumblr post claiming that the label didn't offer her the chance to buy her catalog and didn't inform her of the sale.

She claims that when she was in negotiations with Big Machine prior to her signing with Universal, they only offered her the chance to earn one album back for each new one she produced.

'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,' she said.

'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.

It emerged on Sunday that Scooter Braun's (right) Ithaca Holdings had purchased Big Machine Label Group from Scott Borchetta (left), which released all of Swift's studio albums and owns her masters, in a $300 million deal

(Video) Taylor Swift Explains Why She's Re-Recording Her Albums

What owning Taylor Swift's master recordings means:

Owning an artists master recordings has become more profitable with the rise of streaming services because it means less is spent on marketing, with users able to stream a back catalog at the touch of a button.

Swift's streaming numbers represented a 21.2% share of Big Machine Records' total in 2016 - a year without an album release - and a 56.6% share in 2015 - after the fall 2014 release of her '1989' record.

And in 2017, she accounted for 41.2% of their streaming share and 34.1% so far this year, Billboard reported.

It's standard practice in the music industry for an artist to sign away the master rights to their recordings.

In exchange, the contract will award the musician an advance and sales royalties.

Artists including Metallica, AC/DC, Pink Floyd and Chicago have bought back rights to their music, but this is rare as it undermines how the industry makes its money.

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She said she knew that re-signing with the group that had managed her since she was 15 would only result in her not owning her future work.

Swift said learning thatBorchetta - who had years earlier pledged loyalty to her - had sold the label to Braun was her 'worst case scenario'.She accusedBraun of bullying her at her 'lowest point'.

'This is my worst case scenario. This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term 'loyalty' is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says 'Music has value', he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it,' Swift wrote of the deal.

'When I left my masters in Scott's hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words 'Scooter Braun' escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn't want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.'

Borchetta, however, claims that Swift has been misleading about the deal and claims she was offered the chance to purchase her work during ongoing negotiations.

Sources told Variety that Swift was offered at least two offers to buy back her masters but she turned them both down.

Swift's team has denied these two offers existed and that she was only given the trade-off deal she spoke of in her social media post.

(Video) Taylor Swift - Anti-Hero (Official Music Video)

In a scathing Tumblr post, Taylor Swift said she only learned of the sale Sunday when she woke up and it 'was announced to the world'

Borchetta outlined the terms of what he called an 'extraordinary' offer to Swift which would have kept her at Big Machine Records and given her ownership of her material, posting documents of the offer he made

In his own lengthy statement,Borchettaoutlined the terms of what he called an 'extraordinary' offer to Swift, which would have kept her at Big Machine Records and given her ownership of her material.

It fell through when she inked a pact withUniversal Music Group.

'Taylor had every chance in the world to own not just her master recordings but every video, photograph, everything associated to her career. She chose to leave,' he wrote.

He went over their interactions during the critical time period in which she switched labels.


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Borchetta said Swift's management went over the deal points and relayed them to her before he also talked through the deal with her.

'100 percent of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement. We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to 'albums' but more of a length of time,' he said.

(Video) All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault) (Lyric Video)

Borchetta said he and Swift 'remained on very good terms' throughout the negotiation process, and upon her pact with Universal.

In her social media post on Sunday, Swift said she was thankful she would now own anything she creates.

'Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott's hands and not my future. And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make,' she said.

Scott Borchetta's open letter on Taylor Swift-Scooter Braun controversy

So, it's time for some truth…

In regard to a post earlier today from Taylor, it's time to set some things straight.

Taylor's dad, Scott Swift, was a shareholder in Big Machine Records, LLC. We first alerted all of the shareholders on Thursday, June 20th for an official shareholder's call scheduled for Tuesday, June 25th. On the 6/25 call the shareholders were made aware of the pending deal with Ithaca Holdings and had 3 days to go over all of the details of the proposed transaction. We then had a final call on Friday, June 28th in which the transaction passed with a majority vote and 3 of the 5 shareholders voting 'yes' with 92% of the shareholder's vote.

Out of courtesy, I personally texted Taylor at 9:06pm, Saturday, June 29th to inform her prior to the story breaking on the morning of Sunday, June 30th so she could hear it directly from me.

I guess it might somehow be possible that her dad Scott, 13 Management lawyer Jay Schaudies (who represented Scott Swift on the shareholder calls) or 13 Management executive and Big Machine LLC shareholder Frank Bell (who was on the shareholder calls) didn't say anything to Taylor over the prior 5 days. I guess it's possible that she might not have seen my text. But, I truly doubt that she 'woke up to the news when everyone else did'.

I am attaching a few very important deal points in what was part of our official last offer to Taylor Swift to remain at Big Machine Records. Her 13 Management team and attorney Don Passman went over this document in great detail and reported the terms to her in great detail.

Taylor and I then talked through the deal together.

As you will read, 100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement. We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to 'albums' but more of a length of time.

We are an independent record company. We do not have tens of thousands of artists and recordings. My offer to Taylor, for the size of our company, was extraordinary. But it was also all I could offer as I am responsible for dozens of artists' careers and over 120 executives and their families.

Taylor and I remained on very good terms when she told me she wanted to speak with other record companies and see what was out there for her. I never got in her way and wished her well.

The morning that the new Taylor/UMG announcement was going to be made, she texted me shortly before letting me know that the announcement was coming in a few minutes.

As we both posted on our socials, we saluted each other and cheered each other on.

Taylor had every chance in the world to own not just her master recordings, but every video, photograph, everything associated to her career. She chose to leave.

As to her comments about 'being in tears or close to it' anytime my new partner Scooter Braun's name was brought up, I certainly never experienced that. Was I aware of some prior issues between Taylor and Justin Bieber? Yes. But there were also times where Taylor knew that I was close to Scooter and that Scooter was a very good source of information for upcoming album releases, tours, etc, and I'd reach out to him for information on our behalf. Scooter was never anything but positive about Taylor. He called me directly about Manchester to see if Taylor would participate (she declined).

He called me directly to see if Taylor wanted to participate in the Parkland March (she declined). Scooter has always been and will continue to be a supporter and honest custodian for Taylor and her music.

(Video) Taylor Swift - Call It What You Want (Lyric Video)

This is the text Taylor sent to me on Monday, November 19th at 8:57am:


I hope this finds you well. Since communication ran dry on our negotiations, I've done what I told you I would do and gone out exploring other options. Owning my masters was very important to me, but I've since realized that there are things that mean even more to me in the bigger picture. I had a choice whether to bet on my past or to bet on the future and I think knowing me, you can guess which one I chose. I also saw a rare opportunity to effect positive change for a lot of other artists with the leverage I have right now. I know you believe in the same things I do and I'd like to think you would be proud of what I've negotiated for in my deal. I wanted to tell you first that I'll be signing with Lucian. I honestly truly cherish everything you and I have built together and I plan on saying so in my announcement of the new deal. What we accomplished together will be a lasting legacy and a case study on excellent partnerships, and may it continue. I still view you as a partner and friend and I hope you feel the same. Sending you a hug and my most sincere gratitude.

And SO much love,


Here is the text I sent on the evening of June 29 at 9:05pm:

Dear Taylor,

Hope all is well and congratulations on the success of your first two singles from 'Lover'!

I can't wait to hear the entire album…

I wanted to pass along to you the same courtesy that you passed along to me in regard to my future.

Tomorrow morning (Sunday, June 30th) at 10a central, the Wall Street Journal will announce that I am entering into a merger/acquisition with Scooter Braun and Ithaca Holdings. This move will give us more pop culture super-power than ever before and I'm so excited about the future.

I want you to know that I will continue to be the proud custodian of your previous works and will continue to keep you and your team abreast of all future plans for releases of you work.

Nothing but the best,


And, that's the truth…

Scott Borchetta

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(Video) Taylor Swift - Out Of The Woods


How did Taylor Swift lose her music Catalogue? ›

Taylor Swift has confirmed that the rights to her first six albums have been sold to a private equity firm without her knowledge, in the latest dispute over the pop megastar's lucrative back catalog.

When did Taylor lose the rights to her music? ›

For the last three years, Scooter Braun and Taylor Swift have been embroiled in a long-standing feud over the record executive's decision to purchase Swift's music catalog back in 2019. Now, after selling Swift's masters in 2020, Braun has revealed his one regret about the deal.

Why does Taylor Swift not own her albums? ›

Prior to this, the majority of Swift's work was released under a deal she signed with Big Machine Records when she was 15, which gave the company ownership of her first six albums. In 2018, Taylor moved to Universal's Republic Records in a new deal that would allow her to own her masters going forward.

What happened with Taylor Swift and her music rights? ›

The Taylor Swift masters controversy refers to the dispute of American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift with her former record label, Big Machine Records, its founder Scott Borchetta, and new owner Scooter Braun, over the ownership of the master recordings of her first six studio albums.

Does Taylor own all her music now? ›

In Swift's case, she owns at least part of the composition of most of the songs she wrote, but she does not own the masters. She tried to get them, but businessman Scooter Braun purchased the label she was with when she recorded the songs.

Why did Taylor Swift have to re-record her albums? ›

Taylor is re-recording her albums after her former record label sold her back catalogue in a reported $300 million deal. She's now re-recording her first six albums so her music “can live on.”

Why did Taylor Swift get an honorary doctorate? ›

The university said it awarded Swift the degree because she is “one of the most prolific and celebrated artists of her generation.” Past recipients of honorary doctorates from NYU include the likes of Aretha Franklin, former president Bill Clinton, and civil rights leader John Lewis.

How much does Taylor Swift make in royalties? ›

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Swift is worth $400 million and makes $150 million per year from her music and various brand deals.

Why did Taylor Swift get rid of Spotify? ›

In 2014, she removed her catalog due to her belief music should not be free. She wrote an op-ed about it for The Wall Street Journal. “It's my opinion that music should not be free and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will some day decide what an album's price point is,” she wrote.

Who owns all of Taylor Swift's songs? ›

Scooter acquired Taylor's masters in 2019 and sold it for $300 million to a private equity company in 2020. The masters were acquired when Scooter bought Taylor's former label, Big Machine records.

What albums does Taylor Swift not own? ›

How many albums does Swift not own the masters for? Swift's Big Machine deal covers her first six albums released from 2006 through 2017: Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation. She owns the masters for her three albums released since the Republic Records deal: Lover, Folklore, and Evermore.

Why did Taylor not own her songs? ›

Why doesn't Swift own her masters? The majority of Swift's work was released under a deal she signed with Big Machine Records when she was 15, which gave the record label ownership of her masters.

How is it legal for Taylor Swift to rerecord? ›

This is a far bigger legal implication than one would think: it means that Swift legally was not the owner of the original audio recordings from which all the other copies were made. The record label's ownership of this copyright granted the label free reign on Swift's Masters, videos, and album art.

Did Taylor Swift's dad buy her albums? ›

The short answer is, no. But you wouldn't believe that from listening to Taylor Swift detractors or reading the comment threads on Swift articles. Quick to discount the young songstress, this is the first accusation you will see of why Taylor Swift's success is a sham.

How many houses does Taylor Swift currently own? ›

Her real estate portfolio is almost as impressive as her music career. Taylor Swift may be best known for her impressive music career, though with eight homes across four states she may be adding “real estate mogul” to her repertoire pretty soon.

Does Taylor get any money from her old songs? ›

However, because Swift is a songwriter on all her songs, she therefore still profits from the publishing rights on her master recordings.

What did Taylor Swift's dad do to her? ›

Why did Taylor release red again? ›

Red is the second album Taylor Swift has re-recorded, and it is all because of a row over ownership and rights to her music.

Who owns reputation album? ›

Reputation (album)
LabelBig Machine
ProducerTaylor Swift Max Martin Shellback Jack Antonoff Ali Payami Oscar Görres Oscar Holter
Taylor Swift chronology
10 more rows

What did Kanye West say about Taylor Swift? ›

Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift as she tried to accept her award for Best Video by a Female Artist and said, " I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time, one of the best videos of all time! "

Does an honorary doctorate mean anything? ›

The tradition and purpose of honorary doctorates

Honorary degrees (usually, though not always, doctorates) are awarded by universities to recognise outstanding achievement in a particular field, or service to the broader community.

Can someone with an honorary doctorate call themselves doctor? ›

Recipients of an honorary doctorate do not normally adopt the title of “doctor.” In many countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, it is not usual for an honorary doctor to use the formal title of “doctor,” regardless of the background circumstances for the award.

Can an honorary degree be revoked? ›

An honorary degree shall be revoked if a majority of the College's Board of Trustees determines in its discretion that circumstances warranting revocation are established, and that the failure to revoke would have a material and deleterious effect on the well-being of the College community or core College values.

Does Taylor Swift still make money off her old albums? ›

Then again, her fanbase is fiercely loyal; there's a chance her re-recordings wind up dwarfing the old versions. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter: Because she's still entitled to royalty payments on her old recordings, Swift makes money either way.

Who owns Taylor Swift's rights? ›

And I made that assumption with people that I didn't know.” In 2019, music executive Scooter Braun purchased the master rights to Taylor Swift's early albums after he acquired her former label, Big Machine Label Group. The move, which Swift called her “worst case scenario,” has led the pop star to re-record her music.

What is Taylor Swift's highest grossing song? ›


Why did Taylor Swift turn down the Super Bowl? ›

And, supposedly, Taylor Swift could have done it. The American singer-songwriter was allegedly, according to TMZ, offered the chance to feature at the Super Bowl 2023 halftime show but turned the offer down… because she's too busy to perform.

Why are musicians boycotting Spotify? ›

Lofgren said he stood with health care professionals, scientists and others in calling out Spotify for promoting vaccine misinformation. "When these heroic women and men, who've spent their lives healing and saving ours, cry out for help you don't turn your back on them for money and power.

Who currently owns Spotify? ›

The multi-billion music streaming company Spotify is primarily owned by its founders, Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. As of 2023, Daniel Ek has 16.5% ownership of ordinary shares and 31.7% of the voting power. Martin Lorentzon has 10.9% of ordinary shares and 42.6% of the voting power.

What artists don't own their masters? ›

Over the past year, several musicians have made noise by either selling off or intentionally devaluing their master recordings. Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks and Neil Young are some of the biggest artists who made headlines for selling off their musical catalogs.

How many albums does Taylor Swift own now? ›

One of the best-selling music artists, she has sold an estimated 114 million album units worldwide. As of 2019, her US albums sales stood at 37.3 million and her UK albums sales 3.34 million.
Taylor Swift albums discography
Live albums4
3 more rows

Who owns Taylor's old albums? ›

Who owns Taylor Swift's masters now? Right now, Swift owns the masters to Lover, folklore, evermore and Fearless (Taylor's Version). Swift will release Red (Taylor's Version) on November 19, 2021, and will also own the masters to those recordings.

How much was Taylor Swift's catalog sold for? ›

Taylor Swift To Re-Record Songs After Music Catalogue Is Sold To Private Equity Fund For $300 Million. I cover breaking news.

Who has the highest sold music catalog? ›

Music icon Bruce Springsteen tops the chart, selling his catalogue of 300 songs for a hefty estimated $500 million, including classics like Born in the USA and Born to Run.

How much is Taylor Swift's Catalogue worth? ›

As first reported by Variety, the new deal by Shamrock Holdings for Swift's master recordings is believed to be for more than $300 million. The value from those first six albums could eventually reach as high as $450 million, according to the outlet.


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