Jul 1, 2019

Taylor Swift unloads on Scooter Braun's Big Machine deal

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Private equity now owns Taylor Swift's back catalog — and she isn't happy about it.

The state of play: Ithaca, a media holding company led by Scooter Braun, announced that it has acquired Big Machine Label Group, which has released each of her albums thus far. Under terms of the deal, which was partially financed by The Carlyle Group and is said to be valued north of $300 million, Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta will continue to run the label, hold a minority stake in Ithaca, and join its board.

  • Big Machine was not one of the labels in which Ithaca already had a stake, per a source familiar with the situation.


  • 2017: Carlyle invests in Ithaca, best known for managing such artists as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Kanye West. It also quietly held minority stakes in many of the country's largest music management companies.
  • 2018: Swift decides to leave Big Machine, whose other artists include Florida Georgia Line and Rascal Flatts, to sign with Universal Music Group. Big Machine's final offer to keep her apparently included a reversion of Swift's master recordings to her.

After news of the deal broke, Swift put everyone involved on blast.

  • She wrote on Tumblr that she learned of the deal via the public announcement, and that she believed Braun has "bullied" her in the past.
"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."

The other side: Braun didn't return a request for comment, and thus far has kept quiet outside of retweeting someone (unrelated) who wrote that "context is everything." Braun's wife, however, did reply via Instagram. So did Bieber. Both of them claim Swift has some of her facts wrong.

  • Borchetta writes that he texted Swift about the deal on Saturday night as a heads-up, and that her father should — or at least could — have been aware weeks earlier as a Big Machine shareholder. He also disputed Swift's depiction of the masters reversion proposal and negotiations, including some document photos and email conversations.

The bottom line: Yesterday morning, this was an interesting music industry deal, furthering the power and influence of a PE-backed holding company that most music-lovers have never heard of. Today, it's a PR debacle and, in music management, relationships are everything. In other words, don't be surprised to eventually see an amicable resolution.

Go deeper: Taylor Swift inks Universal Music Group mega-deal

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Acting Navy secretary resigns over handling of virus-infected ship

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday after apologizing for comments he made about Capt. Brett Crozier, who was removed after a letter he wrote pleading with the Navy to address the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt was leaked to the press. The resignation was first reported by Politico.

Why it matters: The controversy over Crozier's removal was exacerbated after audio leaked of Modly's address to the crew, in which he said Crozier was either "too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this." After initially backing Modly's decision, President Trump said at a briefing Monday that he would "get involved."

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 1,407,123— Total deaths: 81,103 — Total recoveries: 297,934Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 386,800 — Total deaths: 12,285 — Total recoveries: 20,191Map.
  3. Trump admin latest: Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill.
  4. Federal government latest: Senate looks to increase coronavirus relief for small businesses this week — Testing capacity is still lagging far behind demand.
  5. World update: China reopens Wuhan after 10-week coronavirus lockdown.
  6. Wisconsin primary in photos: Thousands gathered to cast ballots in-person during the height of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.
  7. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Pelosi calls for removal of acting Navy secretary

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday called for the firing or resignation of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, following his decision to relieve Capt. Brett Crozier from his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt last week.

Why it matters: Pelosi said Modly "showed a serious lack of the sound judgment and strong leadership" in firing Crozier, who wrote a letter pleading for help in battling a coronavirus outbreak onboard the ship. The letter was leaked to the press, leading to Crozier's ouster.