Taylor Swift/Scooter Braun

She should have bought the label.

My inbox is filling up with today’s story about Scooter Braun’s purchase of Big Machine and Taylor Swift’s reaction thereto.

It’s always dangerous commenting about Taylor Swift, after she wrote that song about me, but she’s an iconic performer, arguably the biggest in the world, and therefore what happens to her is not only about her, but the business in general.

Which has got to change.

The artists should own their work, especially after they’ve paid for it. At least they should have reversion clauses, like deals used to contain because companies thought the old material would be worthless, which it turned out not to be.

Recoupment/going into profits more than pays for recording costs. And associated marketing. This is an ancient paradigm, like packaging costs and breakage, that have no place in today’s digital world.

Which is why artists are incentivized to go outside the major label system. It’s incidents like this, along with the success of Chance the Rapper, that direct acts in this direction, especially in today’s streaming world. Hell, Lil Nas X got a big check from Columbia, but a one hit wonder this big will generate dollars forever… Ever heard of “The Monster Mash”? Then again, that plays every Halloween, but we also continue to hear “I’m Too Sexy” and “The Macarena” and so many of the hits of the sixties. But acts are advised by scoundrels wanting their percentage. The acts come and go, the labels and the managers and agents are forever! You are not necessary, it only matters that somebody hits, and there’s always a lineup of others. George Michael fought Sony to his detriment, it ended his recording career. Meanwhile, the business did not go out of business.

And then there’s the story of U2. Chris Blackwell gave the band a percentage of Island in exchange for them re-signing. Island was not considered the best label in the business, but by making this deal the band got a huge check when Island was sold.

What kind of advice did Taylor Swift get?

I get that she signed a bad deal, any deal, when she was starting out. That was the paradigm back then. Just getting into the arena was hard enough, today you can get into the arena but it sits millions and you’re lost in the shuffle. Scott Borchetta made Taylor Swift into a superstar, no one else believed, no one else was willing to take a chance. So Scott deserves to be compensated. Furthermore, the one true asset of Big Machine, the dominating force in his catalog, was Taylor Swift’s work. Therefore, unlike Chris Blackwell, he was wary of making a deal wherein he coughed up her catalog, ergo the offer to have Taylor earn back her albums one by one. But everything’s a negotiation, and as referenced regarding Lil Nas X above, it’s about long term vision as opposed to short term money. Taylor Swift could have afforded $300 million. And she could have sold off the other assets and signed with Monty at Republic anyway.

And there’s more history than U2. None other than Paul McCartney, who wanted to buy the Beatles’ songs but was beaten out by Michael Jackson after telling Jackson to invest in publishing. Hell, Jackson’s estate was saved by this asset. Like I said, Swift should have bought her work.

As for it being purchased by Scooter Braun… The disses by Kim and Kanye, et al, are trifles, especially compared to the way Jackson ripped-off McCartney. She’ll get over it.

Then again, where is Scooter Braun getting $300 million? Maybe Swift’s letter will jawbone investors/bankers to put a kibosh on the deal, or carve out her work. It’s possible, but unlikely. But that’s how you fight back today, in the court of public opinion, isn’t that how Trump does it?

As for the deal itself… Everyone knew Big Machine was for sale, and it’s too expensive for Scooter to do it for spite. Furthermore, he’s not that kind of guy, at least in my dealings with him.

I was shocked when Taylor signed with Republic. I knew she was leaving her masters behind, didn’t she? She made a choice, to her detriment. And Borchetta and Big Machine not only made her a star, they continued to keep her in the public eye. Hell, the tracks released by Republic have been huge disappointments, there’s no doubt Big Machine could have done as good a job. Meanwhile, despite not being on Warner or Columbia, Island continued to deliver for U2.

Maybe the last chapter has been written, maybe not. Taylor should try to kill the deal or buy her assets back, although she’ll pay more than she would have in the beginning.

Meanwhile, despite her myopia, her lack of understanding of both the public and the business, Swift is doing a service for all artists. She stood up against free goods with Apple upon its launch, she stood up against Trump, and now she’s standing up against an archaic business in which the artists are the grease, indispensable, but treated like chattel.

Change happens slowly, but it wins out. This is why if you’ve got some leverage, have shown your impact online and on the stage, you can make a better record deal than any new act ever. Those who fail to change are left behind. This is the problem with the major labels, and the rockers, and the alta kachers, they think the past will always rule, but the truth is it’s just prologue. Meanwhile, doesn’t this demonstrate the vision and power of Scooter Braun? One of the majors didn’t make this deal. Independent outfits have bought publishing, but not masters, not masters of this significance.

In other words, this could be the first step in Braun unseating the majors. After all, indies are always hampered by having no catalog, now Braun possesses one.

Michael Cohl was trying to transform the recording landscape by making those huge all-encompassing deals at Artist Nation.

But then Cohl was killed by Rapino and it didn’t happen. Rapino only wanted to be in the live business.

So Taylor Swift is a visionary and a rube. Furthermore, she thinks she’s still a country artist and her fame and impact will be forever. But she’s now pop. And pop lives and dies on the hit. And not even Madonna can ride all the change.

Swift’s gotten a good ride. If she continues to follow this route of standing up for artists and fairness she could have a bigger impact than her recordings in the future.

Taylor Swift believes it’s her world and we just live in it.

Today she learned she’s just a cog in the big machine like the rest of us.

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