Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings has sold Taylor Swift’s music catalogue to private equity group Shamrock Capital for more than $300m, turning a handsome profit as the valuation of music rights soars.
The transaction drew an immediate rebuke from Ms Swift, who announced on Twitter that she would re-record the songs on her new label — a move she said would “diminish the value of my old masters”, which Shamrock has bought.
The deal is the latest twist in a years-long feud between Mr Braun, a powerful music manager to acts such as Justin Bieber and Ms Swift. It also reflects the influx of private equity and financial groups into the recorded music space in recent years, as streaming services helped the music industry rebound from a decade and a half slump.
The sale turned over control of the master recordings of six of Ms Swift’s eight multi-platinum albums to Shamrock, a Los Angeles investment group founded by the late Roy Disney. The company in July raised $400m to invest in entertainment rights.
The sale valued Ms Swift’s catalogue at about $300m, according to a person familiar with the terms, and would represent a return for Mr Braun, who last year bought the entirety of her former record label, Big Machine, for roughly the same price. Depending on the year, Ms Swift’s catalogue makes up less than half of Big Machine’s business, as it has also signed acts like Rascal Flatts and Thomas Rhett.
Shamrock said it had “hoped to formally partner” with the singer, a “transcendent artist with a timeless catalogue”, but added that it had gone ahead with the investment knowing there was a possibility she would not be on board.
When Mr Braun bought Big Machine last year, he felt Ms Swift’s catalogue was undervalued and saw an opportunity, said people familiar with the matter. He did not believe that music masters had been adequately re-priced to account for the streaming surge, these people said.
The value of recorded music has jumped in recent years as the industry rebounded. Universal Music was valued at €30bn in a stake sale last year, well above the €6.5bn that SoftBank had offered for it in 2013.
Groups such as the UK-listed Hipgnosis have raced to buy music rights in the past few years, as popular songs provide a predictable income stream to investors. An artist like Ms Swift can generate revenue for decades as her songs continue to be played in television commercials and films, and streamed by fans.
According to Ms Swift, she has spent the past year trying to buy back her catalogue from Mr Braun, after he inherited control of it via his purchase of Big Machine Records, the Nashville music label where Ms Swift began her career as a teenager.
However, Ms Swift on Monday said Mr Braun would not negotiate unless she signed an “ironclad NDA” and would “never even quote my team a price”, before she received a letter from Shamrock a few weeks ago stating they had bought her music from Mr Braun.
According to a letter posted to her social media accounts, Ms Swift told Shamrock on October 28 that because Mr Braun would continue to reap financial rewards from her master recordings, she “cannot currently entertain being partners”.
The singer has hit out at private equity groups over the past year as she waged a public war on Ithaca and minority investor Carlyle Group, who helped finance the purchase of Big Machine.
Ms Swift last year claimed Scott Borchetta, her former label manager and founder of Big Machine, blocked her from acquiring her own music catalogue and instead sold it to Mr Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.
Mr Braun did not respond to a request for comment.