In November 2018, Taylor Swift announced that she’d left her record label, Big Machine Records, after more than a decade with it. She subsequently signed a new deal with Republic Records, which is an imprint of Universal Music Group.
In an Instagram post, Taylor said that it was “incredibly exciting to know” that she’ll own all of her master recordings going forward, while her old label retained the rights to the masters for her first six albums.
At the time, Taylor had cordially parted ways with Big Machine and even shouted out its founder, Scott Borchetta, in her statement.
“I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Scott Borchetta for believing in me as a 14-year-old and guiding me through over a decade of work that I will always be so proud of,” she wrote.
But their relationship soured in June 2019, when Scott sold Big Machine to Scooter Braun’s company, Ithaca Holdings, for $300 million. This meant that Scooter would profit from the sales and use of the first six albums in Taylor’s discography going forward.
In a lengthy Tumblr post, Taylor revealed that she knew Scott was planning to sell the label, which is why she didn’t sign a new contract with them — despite being offered the opportunity to “earn” the rights to one old album for every new one she released if she renewed her contract.
But Taylor didn’t ever anticipate that Scott would sell the company to Scooter, which she called her “worst-case scenario.” In case you didn’t know, Scooter was Ye’s manager during the infamous 2016 feud that resulted in Taylor retreating from the public eye after being branded a “snake.”
The star referenced the “incessant, manipulative bullying” that she’d received at Scooter’s hands over the years and said that Scooter had “stripped” her of her life’s work that she “wasn’t given the opportunity to buy.”
“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,” Taylor wrote.
“Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to,” she went on. “He knew what he was doing; they both did.”
“@taylorswift13 just a thought, U should go in & re-record all the songs that U don’t own the masters on exactly how U did them but put brand new art & some kind of incentive so fans will no longer buy the old versions,” Kelly wrote. “I’d buy all of the new versions just to prove a point.”
Kelly said that the idea was actually inspired by her country music star ex-mother-in-law, Reba McEntire. “She recut all her music and did the same musicians, same everything. That’s where I got the idea,” she toldJimmy Fallon.
“She’s been writing since she was a little girl, right?” Kelly added of Taylor. “So it’s kind of her diary.”
Taylor did not publicly acknowledge Kelly’s tweet, but one month later she announced that this was exactly what she planned to do. She was true to her word, and in 2021 Taylor released the first two of her album rerecordings, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version).
As for the “incentive” for fans to buy that Kelly mentioned in her tweet, each rerelease came with new artwork, never-heard-before songs "from the vault,” and even a short film. All in all, the new versions of Taylor’s work ended up outperforming the originals.
And Kelly has now said that Scooter wasn’t happy with the advice she offered to Taylor in 2019, and even phoned her manager over it.
Speaking to Andy Cohen for a SiriusXM Town Hall special on Wednesday, Kelly claimed: “I think Scooter took offense to it. We ran into each other, and I think he reached out at the time to my manager.”
She went on, “It wasn’t anything against him. When she came out and said that and I heard about it, I was like, 'Whatever, rerecord them, your fans will support you.’”
Referencing Scooter, Kelly added, “He didn’t say anything to me. I think he called my manager at the time ... I don’t know what happened or what was said, but I think he thought that I was attacking him.”
“And I was like … I honest to god didn’t even know all the information,” the star insisted. “All I heard was, ‘Man, I really want to own…,’ and I was like...She writes everything, it’s so important to her, she’s a businesswoman … it felt wrong that she didn’t have the opportunity, right?”
Kelly told Andy, “If you have the opportunity and you choose to not pay that much money, that’s one thing. But to not have the opportunity to own something that is really important to you…”
Kelly then admitted that she’s “not a businesswoman at all” and personally doesn’t “care” what music she owns, but said of Taylor, “But I knew it was important to her, so I thought, Why don't you just rerecord them? Your fans will support you.”
Kelly continued, “Literally, she's a genius. Not only did she rerecord it, she planned this Eras Tour, like, this woman is brilliant."
However, a source that is familiar with the conversation between Scooter and Kelly’s manager have told BuzzFeed that this is not the case — and that he was actually getting in touch to be put into contact with Taylor. They said: “Scooter was very publicly trying to get in touch with Taylor at the time to sell back her masters but she and her team were refusing a meeting.”
“After seeing Kelly’s comments in the media, Scooter reached out to her manager with hopes that Kelly could assist in reaching out to Taylor as a friend, to help him get in touch with her to discuss selling back her masters,” they went on. “Scooter was told at the time that Kelly didn’t have a direct relationship, so the conversation was dropped. Kelly was likely never made aware that this was why Scooter was actually reaching out.”
“Kelly and Scooter currently have a great relationship, between having numerous clients on her shows and seeing each other multiple times since,” the source added. “After Kelly’s interview, Scooter has reached out to Kelly just to make sure that she knows that he never took offense to what she had said back then and they have cleared the air.”
Andy also asked Kelly if Taylor had thanked her for the rerecording idea. While Kelly confirmed that she hadn’t, she went on to say that she didn’t expect her to.
“No, she’s brilliant, she would have come up with that on her own, and she maybe already had before I’d even tweeted it,” Kelly reasoned.
Back in September, Scooter revealed the one thing he regretted about his Big Machine Records acquisition, and said that he found the whole situation “unfair.”
During an appearance on NPR’s The Limit podcast, he said, “The regret I have there is that I made the assumption that everyone, once the deal was done, was going to have a conversation with me, see my intent, see my character, and say, 'Great, let's be in business together.' I made that assumption with people that I didn't know."
Scooter added, "I didn't appreciate how that all went down. I thought it was unfair. But I also understand, from the other side, they probably felt it was unfair too."
In late 2020 — just over a year after buying Big Machine — Scooter sold the masters of Taylor's catalog, including all associated videos and artwork, to Shamrock Holdings for more than $300 million.
After this news broke, Taylor issued another statement in which she revealed that Scooter’s and her respective teams had been in negotiations for her to regain ownership of the masters, but she refused due to their conditions.
“Scooter’s team wanted me to sign an ironclad NDA stating I would never say another word about Scooter Braun unless it was positive,” she claimed.
However, earlier this week Music Business World published an investigation into this whole saga and reported that this didn’t seem to be the case after they obtained a signed five-page NDA in full that had “no mention of reputational protections for Scooter Braun.”
Taylor went on to say in 2020 that Shamrock Holdings contacted her team after buying her masters from Scooter’s company, and that she was “hopeful and open to the possibility of a partnership” with them.
But she was dismayed to learn that the terms of Scooter’s sale meant that his company would continue to profit from her work.
“As soon as we started communication with Shamrock, I learned that under their terms Scooter Braun will continue to profit off my old musical catalog for many years,” Taylor wrote. “I was hopeful and open to the possibility of a partnership with Shamrock, but Scooter’s participation is a non-starter for me.”
Taylor’s third rerecorded album, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), is due for release next month.