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Taylor Swift Music Deal Is 'Totally Normal' in the Music Business, Most A-List Artists in the Same Boat

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By Mike Walters

Taylor Swift made a huge move over the weekend, telling the world she is being screwed out of owning the masters of her own music. But music business insiders say it is standard operating business and most top artists have the exact same deal.

In Taylor's case, her former record label, Big Machine Records, owns the rights to her masters as a part of her contract to produce and put out her albums. Some may not know, but this scenario is how most musical contracts work.

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Universal Music Group, Warner Chappell Music, Sony and many others are in this business. Many of them make massive deals with the artists as business partners. It was reported in 2018 that Drake, as a free agent, would easily command a per-album advance of $15 million to $20 million.

But the masters would stay with the company who signs the artist.

One major music executive tells us, "Drake, Katy Perry, and even Bruno Mars have similar deals where they do not own their own masters."

The artists, including Taylor, DO own parts of their music if they wrote the songs themselves. In this case, Taylor wrote many of her own songs.

To be clear, Taylor STILL owns the rights to those songs but the record companies retain the masters to the music to exploit it, now and in the future.

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So, even though Scooter Braun is well known as Justin Bieber's manager, he is also a very powerful executive and investor in the music world. As a shareholder in Ithaca Holdings, him buying Big Machine Records (Taylor's masters included) is a standard business deal. It could have just as easily been Universal Music Group who bought the company.

Taylor has made it clear though that Scooter may be the major issue, not the sale. In her message, she put it like this, "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. In perpetuity. That means forever."

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The record label fired back, saying she had all the right in the world to obtain her masters buy resigning with the label and she chose not to.

One executive with the label, Erik Logan, went off on social media about the situation, saying, "I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and allow you to re-write history and bend the truth to justify your lack of understanding of a business deal … As I watch you attempt to re-write history and parse words, all from your massive platform, I’m reminded that’s what a real bully would do. You’re the real bully. Your power is fading, your shine is dull and this is what bully’s do, they lash out - especially when they are called to stand in their truth."

Bottom line, if Taylor and her father were aware of the business deal and she had the right to negotiate to get her masters and they both did not bite. Then, what the record label and Scooter Braun did, is the music business as usual.

As far as artists' rights, the music business will have to change drastically to take ownership of all of the music, so maybe this is the start of a major shift in the industry.

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