A Comprehensive Timeline of What's Going on Between Taylor Swift, Scott Borchetta, Scooter Braun and Big Machine
November 2018: Swift Is Ready to 'Begin Again'
Just one month after becoming a free agent, the pop star made a decision regarding her “label family,” choosing to sign a new worldwide record deal with Universal Music Group.
Swift announced the move in November 2018 on Instagram, writing, “I’m ecstatic to announce that my musical home will be Republic Records and Universal Music Group. Over the years, Sir Lucian Grainge and Monte Lipman have been such incredible partners. It’s so thrilling to me that they, and the UMG team, will be my label family moving forward. It’s also incredibly exciting to know that I’ll own all of my master recordings that I make from now on.”
November 2018: Is She 'Out of the Woods' Yet?
Swift, who signed with Big Machine in 2006 when she was still a teenager, expressed her thanks to former CEO Scott Borchetta “for believing in me as a 14-year-old and for guiding me through over a decade of work that I will always be proud of.”
Big Machine continued to own her back catalog, which includes all of her albums, save for her most recent 2019 release, Lover.
June 30, 2019: Now They've Got 'Bad Blood'
Things quickly took a turn for the worse when it was announced in July 2019 that former CEO Borchetta sold Big Machine (and with it, Swift’s entire catalog of music) to music manager Scooter Braun for $300 million.
June 30, 2019: Swift's Turn to 'Speak Now'
On Tumblr, Swift penned a lengthy post in which she made it clear that she did not support Borchetta’s decision.
She wrote, “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. 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 singer continued on to say, “I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years.”
Braun is a music manager to many big-name stars like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato and, for a time, Kanye West. Swift cited her “illegally recorded snippet of a phone call” with West, Scooter getting “his two clients together to bully [her] online” about it and West’s “revenge porn music video [“Famous”] which strips [her] body naked,” as examples of his “incessant, manipulative bullying.”
June 2019: Why You Gotta Be So 'Mean?'
And Swift had receipts, reminding everyone of the time Justin Bieber posted a screenshot of a FaceTime that included both Braun and West.
As the fallout continued, Bieber took to social media to both apologize and defend himself. He wrote that, though he was sorry for posting the photo, Braun had little to do with it. He explained that her feud with West “wasnt even a part of the conversation in all actuality [Braun] was the person who told me not to joke like that. Scooter has had your back since the days you graciously let me open up for you!”
He went on to say that he felt Swift’s decision to write a blog was to gain sympathy and to effectively galvanize her fans to “bully” Braun.
He finished off his statement by saying, “I’m sure Scooter and I would love to talk to you and resolve any conflict, pain or or any feelings that need to be addressed. Neither Scooter or I have anything negative to say about you we truly want the best for you.”
June 30, 2019: 'Don't Blame Me'
For his part, Borchetta released both text messages to Swift before the news was announced and an outline of their agreement.
He denied her claims that she found out about Braun “as it was announced to the world” by saying that Swift’s father is a board member with Big Machine.
Swift’s rep told PEOPLE, “Scott Swift is not on the board of directors and has never been. On June 25, there was a shareholder phone call that Scott Swift did not participate in due to a very strict NDA that bound all shareholders and prohibited any discussion at all without risk of severe penalty.”
The spokesperson added, “Her dad did not join that call because he did not want to be required to withhold any information from his own daughter. Taylor found out from the news articles when she woke up before seeing any text from Scott Borchetta and he did not call her in advance.”
He also alleged that Swift’s comments about “being in tears or close to it” anytime she discussed Braun with Borchetta were false.
“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 … Scooter has always been and will continue to be a supporter and honest custodian for Taylor and her music.”
Borchetta included alongside the blog post a copy of their final agreement, which proved that Swift would have been required to sign another 10-year contract with the label to be given control of her masters.
You can read his whole statement here.
July 2019: The Decision Leaves Swift 'Breathless'
As Braun celebrated his purchase, Swift called it her “worst case scenario,” saying, “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.”
August 2019: Swift Has a Plan That's 'Better Than Revenge'
Swift announced on CBS Sunday Morning that she would be re-recording her own albums. She said, “I knew he would sell my music. I knew he would do that. I couldn’t believe who he sold it to because we have had endless conversations about Scooter Braun, and he has 300 million reasons to forget those conversations.”
When Tracy Smith asked Swift if she could re-record, Swift responded with an empathic, “Oh yeah.” Smith then asked, “That’s a plan?” To which Swift responded: “Absolutely.”
Swift is not allowed to re-record, however, until November 2020.
When Swift’s album, Lover, was released on Aug. 23, 2019, Borchetta posted to Instagram that he was proud of Swift, while Braun tweeted, “Regardless of what has been said the truth is you don’t make big bets unless you are a believer and always have been. Brilliant album with #Lover. Congrats @taylorswift13. Supporting was always the healthier option #brilliantalbum #brilliantcampaign congrats.”
Nov. 14, 2019: Look What You Made Her Do
The drama continued when Swift, who is set to be honored as Artist of the Decade at the American Music Awards on Nov. 24, released another statement, this time alleging that Big Machine was blocking her from singing her past hits in a medley at the awards.
In a lengthy statement on Twitter, Swift revealed that Borchetta and Braun “have now said that I’m not allowed to perform my old songs on television because they claim that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year.”
And it’s not just the AMAs performance that the men are effectively holding hostage; Swift alleged that they are keeping her from using her old music in a Netflix documentary about her career.
She wrote, “Scott Borchetta told my team that they’ll allow me to use my music only if I do these things: If I agree to not re-record copycat version of my song next year (which is something I’m both legally allowed to do and looking forward to) and also told my team that I need to stop talking about him and Scooter Braun.”
“Basically,” Swift said, “be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished.”
Swift went on to say that she is the one who wrote, recorded and put time and effort into her music and developed a huge fanbase, not Borchetta and Braun.
She concluded, “Please let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this. Scooter also manages several artists who I really believe care about other artists and their work. Please ask them for help with this — I’m hoping that maybe they can talk some sense into the men who are exercising tyrannical control over someone who just wants to play the music she wrote.”
Nov. 15, 2019: Swifts Friends Think She's 'Fearless'
Nov. 15, 2019: Big Machine is 'Dancing with Their Hands Tied'
Following Swift’s statement, Big Machine made one of its own. The record label said, “As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her Tumblr statements yesterday based on false information. At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere. Since Taylor’s decision to leave Big Machine last fall, we have continued to honor all of her requests to license her catalog to third parties as she promotes her current record in which we do not financially participate.”
“The truth is,” the statement continued, “Taylor has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company, which is responsible for 120 hardworking employees who helped build her career. We have worked diligently to have a conversation about these matters with Taylor and her team to productively move forward. We started to see progress over the past two weeks and were optimistic as recently as yesterday that this may get resolved. However, despite our persistent efforts to find a private and mutually satisfactory solution, Taylor made a unilateral decision last night to enlist her fanbase in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families.”
Then, they addressed Swift directly: “Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist. All we ask is to have a direct and honest conversation. When that happens, you will see there is nothing but respect, kindness and support waiting for you on the other side. To date, not one of the invitations to speak with us and work through this has been accepted. Rumors fester in the absence of communication. Let’s not have that continue here. We share the collective goal of giving your fans the entertainment they both want and deserve.”
Nov. 15, 2019: Not Exactly a 'Love Story' Ending
In response to Big Machine’s statement, a rep for Swift told PEOPLE, “The truth is, on October 28, 2019 at 5:17 p.m. the Vice President, Rights Management and Business Affairs from Big Machine Label Group sent Taylor Swift’s team the following: ‘Please be advised that BMLG will not agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recording restrictions in connection with these two projects:
The Netflix documentary and The Alibaba ‘Double Eleven’ event.”
“To avoid an argument over rights, Taylor performed three songs off her new album Lover at the Double Eleven event as it was clear that Big Machine Label Group felt any televised performance of catalog songs violated her agreement. In addition, yesterday Scott Borchetta, CEO and founder of Big Machine Label Group, flatly denied the request for both American Music Awards and Netflix. Please notice in Big Machine’s statement, they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post.”
“Lastly,” the rep wrote, “Big Machine is trying to deflect and make this about money by saying she owes them but, an independent, professional auditor has determined that Big Machine owes Taylor $7.9 million dollars of unpaid royalties over several years.”
Nov. 18, 2019: Big Machine Says Taylor Can 'Shake It Off'
PEOPLE learned that both Big Machine and Dick Clark Productions gave Taylor the go-ahead to sing her early hits at the AMAs.
The companies released a statement that read, “The Big Machine Label Group and Dick Clark Productions announce that they have come to terms on a licensing agreement that approves their artists’ performances to stream post show and for re-broadcast on mutually approved platforms.”
“This includes the upcoming American Music Awards performances,” they added. “It should be noted that recording artists do not need label approval for live performances on television or any other live media.”
Nov. 24, 2019: Taylor is "Fearless" at the American Music Awards
Fans were anxious to see whether or not Swift would be able to perform her old songs, and whether or not she would directly address the feud with Borchetta and Braun, but the singer did not make mention of them in any of her (six!) acceptance speeches. In fact, her allusions to the drama were simple, yet effective. She opened her medley with “The Man,” dancing with young girls in white shirts that had the names of her albums, Taylor Swift, Fearless, Red, Speak Now, 1989, and Reputation. Her piano—used to play “Lover”—was also adorned with the album names.
Dec. 12, 2019:
Swift called Braun out by name while delivering a moving speech after she was honored with the first-ever Billboard Woman of the Decade award.
After calling out the double standards women face in the music industry, she said, “Lately there’s been a new shift that has affected me personally, and as your resident loud person, I feel like I need to bring it up. And that’s the unregulated world of private equity coming in and buying up our music as if it’s real estate, or an app, or a shoe line.”
She doubled down on that not-so-veiled reference to her predicament with Braun and Borchetta by saying, “This just happened to me without my approval, consultation or consent. After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalog was sold to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.”
“To this day, none of these investors have ever [contacted me] or my team directly to perform their due diligence on their investment in me to ask how I might feel about the new owner of my art, my music… my handwriting,” Swift continued, adding “Of course, Scooter never contacted me or my team to discuss it prior to the sale or even when it was announced.”
Swift didn’t stop there. She continued, “I’m fairly certain he knew exactly how I would feel about it though and let me just say that the definition of toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying, ‘But he’s always been nice to me’ when I’m raising valid concerns about artists and their rights to own their music. Of course, he’s nice to people in this room, you have something he needs.”
“The fact is that private equity is what enabled this man to think, according to his own social media posts, that he could ‘buy me.’ Well, I’m obviously not going willingly,” Swift asserted before praising the women who came forward to support her.