- Taylor Swift on Thursday implored private equity giant The Carlyle Group to help her in the fight for ownership of her music.
- The Carlyle Group supported a deal that saw music producer Scooter Braun buy Big Machine Records, the label Swift used to record her first six studio albums, and consequently take ownership of the rights to those six albums.
- “I’m especially asking for help from The Carlyle Group, who put up the money for the sale of my music to these two men,” she wrote on social media, referencing Braun and Scott Borchetta, who founded Big Machine.
- Carlyle’s investment in Big Machine Records was part of a strategy to invest in the influence that superstars like Swift can have on consumers.
- “We have seen a big shift around the influence that celebrities and artists have over the consumer world,” Jay Sammons, head of consumer, media and retail at Carlyle said in an interview with Business Insider soon after the deal was announced.
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Pop superstar Taylor Swift took to social media Thursday night to implore her fans to put pressure on music producer Scooter Braun, the latest gambit in the ongoing battle over the ownership of the rights to the majority of her music.
In a lengthy statement posted to her Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, Swift accused Braun, who owns her former label Big Machine Records, and Scott Borchetta, who founded it, of impeding her upcoming performance at the American Music Awards, and blocking the use of her music in an upcoming Netflix documentary.
She also said that that Braun and Borchetta told her she could use her older music in the future if she agreed to stand down from plans to re-record her first six albums.
Until now, Swift had largely kept her anger over the saga to Braun and Borchetta, but on Thursday she included a new party in the narrative: The Carlyle Group.
The Carlyle Group is a private equity behemoth in the US, with more than $US220 billion under management, and played a key role in the sale of Swift’s back catalogue to Braun.
In her post on Thursday, Swift asked The Carlyle Group for help, saying that they “put up the money” Braun used to buy Big Machine, and consequently, all Swift’s music before her current album “Lover.”
“I’m especially asking for help from The Carlyle Group, who put up the money for the sale of my music to these two men,” she wrote, having asked fans to “let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this.”
“I just want to be able to perform MY OWN music. That’s it,” she wrote.
Big Machine disputed Swift’s version of events in a statement Friday, saying: “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.”
The Carlyle Group helped fund Scooter Braun’s deal to buy Big Machine
Carlyle’s involvement in Braun’s $US300 million deal to buy Big Machine is complex, but at the time the deal was announced, the group said it was “supporting” Braun, and his company Ithaca Holdings, in their purchase of Big Machine, which also owns the rights to music by country star Rascal Flatts.
Carlyle first invested in Ithaca Holdings in 2017, and according to a June story from The Wall Street Journal, Ithaca is now valued at $US800 million.
In an interview with Business Insider’s Casey Sullivan in July, a few days after the deal was announced, Jay Sammons, head of consumer, media and retail at Carlyle, said the company had made a minority investment in the deal.
“Not every private equity firm, I would say, is willing to do that,” he told Business Insider of the investment.
The deal, Sammons told Business Insider at the time, was part of a growing trend that Carlyle had identified, namely that celebrities now have a much larger influence over “the consumer world” than before.
“We have seen a big shift around the influence that celebrities and artists have over the consumer world, and we want to invest capital with great partners who help us capitalise on those macro industry trends,” he said.
As Sullivan noted in July, record labels have long been attractive investments for private equity houses, thanks to the long term nature of their returns. Popular artists tend to have extremely long careers, and can make their investors money for several decades.
The Carlyle Group declined to comment on Swift’s Thursday comments when contacted by Business Insider.
What is Swift’s feud with Scooter Braun about?
In June 2019, it was announced that Braun had completed a deal to buy Big Machine Records. Swift recorded her first six studio albums – “Taylor Swift,” “Fearless,” “Speak Now,” “Red,” “1989,” and “Reputation” – with the label, before moving to her current label, Republic.
When Braun closed the deal to buy Big Machine, he inherited the rights to those six albums. Swift was unable to own her first six albums, released from 2006 to 2017, because of a long-term record contract she signed when she was 15.
Big Machine Records apparently made it clear she couldn’t buy back her records in 2015 when Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel was in talks to buy the company – she could only “earn” them back one at a time for every subsequent album she made. Instead, she decided to walk away from the label.
“I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future,” she wrote in a Tumblr post at the time the deal was announced.
“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.”
Lauren Frias and Lindsay Dodgson contributed reporting to this story.
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