Late on Sunday afternoon, the pop superstar published a fiery post on Tumblr (of all places) taking mega-manager Scooter Braun and her former label head Scott Borchetta to task for purportedly conspiring against her. The post was in response to Braun’s recent acquisition of Big Machine Records, the rather bluntly titled label that put out all six of Swift’s smash albums thus far. Apparently, at age 15, Swift had signed a contract that locked her into a six-album deal that did not allow for her to own her own masters.
“For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work,” Swift writes in her Tumblr post. “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.”
Aside from the financial and proprietary loss of not owning her masters, Swift appears to be most upset at the indignity of having Scooter Braun own her work. In the post, the singer-songwriter details a litany of “bullying” she claims she’s suffered at the hands of Braun, painting him essentially as a bigger bête noire than Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, or anyone else with whom she’s publicly feuded. (Indeed, Swift charges that Braun helped facilitate the feud with Kardashian, along with his clients Kanye West and Justin Bieber, whom Swift reveals in an old Instagram post apparently laughing at her at the time.)
Swift’s post sent off a chain reaction in the intersecting worlds of celebrity and social media that somehow managed to eclipse the Pride Parade, Donald Trump’s Kim Jong-Un moment, and the release of the film Yesterday. (It should be noted here that what follows has been chronicled more comprehensively by reporter Yashar Ali, whose Twitter thread on the subject you should check out.) Braun’s celebrity clients were divided on the topic, but only according to levels of fame. Todrick Hall took Swift’s side (the two are good friends) and in a series of tweets blasted his former manager Braun as homophobic. Meanwhile, current Braun client Demi Lovato defended him, making it incredibly difficult for fans of both stars to keep battle lines straight. (Former Braun client Ariana Grande wisely stayed on the sidelines for this one.) Further complicating matters, Justin Bieber responded on Instagram, apologizing for the old antagonistic photo but also assuming responsibility for it (and thus defending Braun).
More damning than a Demi Lovato diss, however, is the response Braun’s wife, Yael Cohen Braun, posted on Instagram within hours of Taylor Swift’s Tumblr post. Here, the plot could be said to thicken considerably.
Is this true? Was Swift’s father a shareholder at Big Machine? According to a statement a Swift rep gave to People, no, no, he was not: “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. Her dad did not join that call because he did not want to be required to withhold any information from his own daughter.”
Swift’s version of events does seem suspiciously slanted toward almost cartoonish music industry villainy. The impression that there might be more to this story than Swift’s version only increased when Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records released a statement about Swift and her father, Scott Swift. (Considering that Scooter Braun’s real name is Scott, there are officially way too many Scotts in this drama.) In the statement, Borchetta describes in detail the shareholders meeting that led to Braun’s purchase, along with several other points that contradict Swift’s version of events—this includes a screenshot of the final offer for Swift to stay at Big Machine Records, which doesn’t appear to correspond with the “‘earn’ one album back at a time” description in the artist’s Tumblr post.
Who are we to believe in this story? What will happen next? Is there a chance that a worldwide blackout will cause everyone except for Taylor Swift to forget about the music of Taylor Swift, Yesterday-style, leaving her free to rerecord her masters all over again? The world will be watching.