Taylor Swift looks for Carlyle Group’s help in royalties dispute

Pop singer seeks asset manager’s assistance in securing ownership of rights to previously recorded albums.

A tweet from Taylor Swift''s Twitter account is seen after being posted
A tweet from Taylor Swift's account is seen on a computer screen after being posted on November 14, 2019 [Twitter/Reuters]

Taylor Swift accused her former record label of blocking her from performing her old songs at an awards show or using them in an upcoming documentary, escalating a dispute between the pop star and powerful celebrity manager Scooter Braun.

The singer-songwriter tweeted an impassioned plea asking U.S. asset management firm Carlyle Group and fans to help her in efforts to secure ownership of six albums she previously recorded under Big Machine Label Group LLC. Swift pointed out that Carlyle helped finance Braun’s acquisition of Big Machine.

Carlyle, which bought a stake in Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in 2017 and backed the Big Machine transaction last June with an equity investment, declined to comment.

In the tweet, the singer called out Braun and Big Machine record label founder Scott Borchetta for “exercising tyrannical control” by declining to let her use her older music or performance footage in an upcoming American Music Awards show and Netflix documentary.

The label denied the allegations in a statement Friday.

“I feel very strongly that sharing what is happening to me could change the awareness level for other artists and potentially help them avoid a similar fate,” Swift said in the tweet.

In its statement, Big Machine said it never told Swift she couldn’t perform her songs and doesn’t have the right to do so.

“The truth is, Taylor has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company,” the label said, adding that it wants to talk with Swift to seek a resolution to their dispute.

Swift’s spokeswoman, Tree Paine, later Friday tweeted a response to Big Machine’s statement, including what she said were details of an email in which Big Machine refused to license recordings for the Netflix documentary and another event.

Braun bought Big Machine earlier this year, a deal Swift has publicly opposed. She has threatened to rerecord her songs unless Braun and Big Machine sell her music back to her, and claimed that Big Machine would only let her use her music if she promised not to do so.

Borchetta previously said in a blog post that he’d offered Swift control of her music in exchange for a 10-year record deal, but she walked away to join Universal Music Group Inc.

Swift recorded the biggest hits of her career for Big Machine, including “Shake It Off,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”

Swift just released “Lover,” her first album since signing a new deal with Republic Records, a division of Universal Music Group. Universal also distributes music from Big Machine.

Typically in the music industry, artists who are just starting out in their careers will agree to give labels control over their recordings and songwriting in exchange for promoting them.

But that can become a source of contention when artists make it big and want a heftier slice of the revenue from their hits. Musicians including Janet Jackson and Prince have had similar clashes with their labels.

The owner of a recording makes money from its play on radio, TV shows and streaming services. Those are different from publishing rights, which an owner can use to make money when a song is performed live.

– With assistance from Heather Perlberg.

Source: Bloomberg