It's been several weeks since Taylor Swift took direct aim at music manager Scooter Braun and the CEO of her former record label, Scott Borchetta, in a heartbreaking note on Tumblr. It was a nearly immediate response to the news that Braun's company, Ithaca Holdings, had purchased her former label Big Machine Label Group for a whopping $300 million, thus giving ownership of Swift's master recordings from her first six albums to Braun, whom she wrote had subjected her to "incessant, manipulative bullying." It was also news that left the future of Big Machine in doubt. But in a new exclusive interview with Billboard released on Thursday (July 25), Braun and his new business partner Borchetta discussed the future of Big Machine and their goals to build "an ecosystem that allows artists to go after their dreams."
Although Braun didn't address his feud with Swift directly, he did mention the pop star briefly while discussing how his friendship with Borchetta first developed. It all started in 2009, when Swift invited Braun's client, Justin Bieber, to open up for her on her Fearless tour. "Our stories were similar," Braun told Billboard. "Everyone at Big Machine — Taylor was kind, Scott was kind — everyone was kind to me and Justin when we were doing that show, and you don't forget those things. I never forgot that, and we started a friendship." And even though the two businessmen spoke about possibly merging years ago, the time just didn't feel right — that is, until now. "I never felt like it was exactly the right time or the right fit," Borchetta explained.
According to Borchetta, how to approach the next era of Big Machine weighed heavy on his mind. "I promised myself, and our artists and executives, it was going to be one of two things: Either I'm out — and I had no desire to be out — or I'm going to find an opportunity that is truly additive, that can give us more arms and legs and levers than we have now." To him, teaming up with Braun meant he chose the latter, and for Braun, purchasing Big Machine was basically a no-brainer. "Scott runs an incredible company, and we're trying to build an artist-first environment and — in a climate with a lot of players — get the leverage we need to help our creators go after their dreams," he explained. "By combining what Scott had with what we had, we feel like we're in a unique position to fight the good fight."
Moving forward, though, both Borchetta and Braun don't want people to think that Big Machine underwent any major changes fundamentally. And while the sale may have made it seem like the label was going corporate, Borchetta insists that's actually not the case at all. "We have very specific agreements coming into this: Big Machine Label Group will continue to operate exactly as it has been. I've been fiercely independent — I choose to be fiercely independent — and Scooter is the same way. This is going to be a bigger company, but it's not going to be a corporation; there are things we can do on a dime," he said.
So what about all the artists signed to Big Machine — Taylor included — whose masters were included in that sale? Well, according to Braun, their intentions are nothing but pure. "These companies are built on people making sacrifices for their families, and we value that," Scooter said. "If Scott sold the company to someone else, then they would have done what usually happens, which is you take the catalogs, you strip it all down, people get laid off — and that's not right, those people put us in this position." Instead, Braun said no that no one would get laid off in the process.
Braun and Borchetta also said that their artists are thrilled about these changes. Why? Because, according to them, it will help streamline the business side of things. "The artists that we've talked to — they say they love it because there's such an upside to being able to talk with one 'artist team' instead of feeling like there's a wall between artist, label and management," Borchetta said. And despite Taylor's comments, Borchetta couldn't speak more highly of Braun. "When I told everybody at our staff meeting ... I said, 'Please welcome my new partner, Scooter Braun,' and you would have thought The Rolling Stones just walked in. They gave a standing ovation that went on for what felt like several minutes. He and I looked at each other like, 'This is right.'"
Read the entire new cover story over at Billboard.