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Taylor Swift's feud with Scooter Braun, 'Taylor's Version' recordings explained

The megastar announced the release of '1989 (Taylor's Version)' in August

Taylor Swift performs onstage during night two of Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour at Nissan Stadium on May 06, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee
Ahad Sanwari
Ahad SanwariOnline News WriterNew York
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It's a good, well, era to be a Swiftie. On top of a global tour that's smashing records and dominating headlines, Taylor Swift recently announced the re-recording and release (come October) of her award-winning pop crossover album 1989, which has been christened 1989 (Taylor's Version)Fans are still reeling from the July release of 2010's Speak Now (Taylor's Version). 

While each successive re-recording has been cause for celebration (and massive record sales), it's now a much more fraught time for one of the folks who unwittingly inspired the entire Taylor's Version project: Scooter Braun, the music manager who mysteriously just lost big-name clients Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande.

For those not in the know (or if you just want a refresher), here's a breakdown of the Taylor Swift masters controversy, from the record label sale that started it all and the Scooter Braun feud.

VIDEO: Taylor Swift reveals details of new album

Taylor Swift vs Big Machine and Scott Borchetta

In 2018, Taylor, now 33, signed a new contract with Republic Records after her 13-year contract with Big Machine Records expired.

One of the stipulations for her new contract was that she would be allowed to own the masters for her recordings aka the final version of the song that is recorded and can be sold — for use in advertisements, TV and films, future album compilations, video games, and the like.

Taylor Swift and  CEO of Big Machine Records Scott Borchetta plaque presentation backstage at the Taylor Swift reputation Stadium Tour at MetLife Stadium on July 21, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey© Getty Images
Taylor's 13-year long contract with Big Machine Records came to an end in 2018

The singer-songwriter had explained in the past that she did not have ownership of her recordings under Big Machine (her first six albums) and negotiations on acquiring them fell through, hence her decision to switch labels.

As such, she owned the masters of her 2019 album Lover and the albums that followed (folklore, evermore, and Midnights) due to them being under the Republic contract.

What did Scooter Braun do to Taylor Swift?

In June 2019, it was announced by Big Machine that famed artist manager Scooter Braun had purchased the label for an estimated $330 million through his holdings company Ithaca Holdings.

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Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta pose for a photo at a private residence on June 28, 2019 in Montecito, California© Getty Images
Scooter Braun purchased Big Machine, thereby acquiring Taylor's masters

As a result, Ithaca and therefore Scooter would acquire ownership of the masters of all the artists under Big Machine, including Taylor herself, which means that any use of such music would require prior permission and the payment of a fee to Ithaca Holdings.

Taylor retaliated immediately to the news with a long and emotional Tumblr post, decrying Scott's "betrayal" and branding Scooter's behavior "incessant, manipulative bullying."

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Scooter, known for boosting the careers of artists like Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, and Ariana Grande, was also the manager of Kanye West in 2016 which was the year the rapper released the infamous song 'Famous,' which included derogatory lyrics about Taylor.

Scooter Braun and Kanye West© Getty Images
As Kanye's former manager, the former country star accused Scooter of "incessant, manipulative bullying"

"Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it," Taylor wrote in reference to Kanye and Justin calling her out on social media and the firestorm that surrounded her Reputation era in 2017.

Further strife followed when the 'Cruel Summer' singer accused Scott and Scooter of not allowing her to perform her older music and use it in her 2020 Miss Americana documentary, and amplified when Big Machine released Live From Clear Channel Stripped 2008, a previously unreleased live album of Taylor's 2008 radio show performance, which she stated she did not authorize.

Taylor Swift, Taylor's Version

In August 2019, Taylor announced that she would be re-recording and releasing all six of her previous albums, through the publishing rights she held over her work given she is the primary songwriter for every single one of her songs.

Taylor Swift and  founder, Big Machine Records Scott Borchetta attend the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 7, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada© Getty Images
Taylor decided to regain ownership of her masters by releasing re-recorded versions of her first six albums

In October 2020, before the first of her re-releases even came out, Scooter had sold all of the masters and acquisitions to American private equity firm Shamrock Holdings, a decision Taylor had contested as well, to no avail. She then began her re-recording process in earnest that November.

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She started that journey off with Fearless (Taylor's Version) in April 2021 and followed that up with Red (Taylor's Version) that November, and finally Speak Now (Taylor's Version) this July and 1989 (Taylor's Version) this October. More than just reclaiming her blockbuster albums for herself artistically, the Taylor's Version releases – which fans have already purchased and streamed in record numbers – would de-value the worth of the older recordings sold to Shamrock.

Taylor Swift performs during the "City of Lover" concert at L'Olympia on September 9, 2019 in Paris, France© Getty Images
"Lover" was the first of her albums under Republic Records

Thanks to her new contract, like Lover and the albums that followed, Taylor now owns the masters and the rights to the recordings of all the songs from these three albums, and sweetened the deal for fans by dropping some unreleased cuts or "From the Vault" tracks as well as previously edited songs such as the 10 minute version of the acclaimed 'All Too Well.'

How have record sales and streams been for the Taylor's Version re-recordings?

Like everything else Taylor touches these days, business has been good for the Taylor's Version re-recordings, as Billboard has tallied in great detail. Released in April 2021, Fearless (Taylor's Version) has sold 737,000 copies (versus 41,000 copies for the original 2008 recording over the same time period) by mid-July. The LP has generated a staggering 1.47 billion song streams. The even buzzier Red (Taylor's Version), released in November 2021, has sold 950,000 copies compared to 45,000 copies of them 2012 original, and has generated 2.86 billion song streams. The July 2023 release of Speak Now (Taylor's Version) saw 500,000 copies sold in its first week.

Taylor Swift's influence

Reactions to the re-release were overwhelmingly in Taylor's favor, with many artists praising her for taking back the rights to her own material, with some like Olivia Rodrigo noting that they negotiated deals that gave her ownership of her masters, while others like Bryan Adams re-recorded their own material for the same, citing Taylor as the influence.

Taylor Swift accepts the Favorite Pop Album award for 'Red (Taylor's Version)' onstage during the 2022 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 20, 2022 in Los Angeles, California© Getty Images
The re-recorded LPs have already become huge critical and commercial hits

Taylor's fans have gotten the big win as well, with the "From the Vault" tracks, surprise collabs with the likes of Hayley Williams and Phoebe Bridgers, and more mature perspectives on decades old music to benefit from.

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Scooter himself has spoken out about his regret over how the deal went down, telling the podcast The Limit in September 2022: "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."

Until then, let's relish in the now 22-track long Speak Now (Taylor's Version) and the five "From the Vault" tracks we'll be blessed with from 1989 (Taylor's Version).

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