Scooter Braun, a music mogul and manager to a multitude of stars, took to X (formerly known as Twitter) on Aug. 22, announcing, “I’m no longer managing myself,” in a veiled attempt at damage control after news surfaced that several of his biggest clients were leaving his management.
But what caused this mass exodus of Braun’s A-List clients like Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, J Balvin and Idina Menzel to sever ties with him so abruptly?
The Taylor Swift feud
The story starts in 2005 when Taylor Swift signed to Big Machine Records at just 15 years old, giving Big Machine the ownership to the masters of her first six albums: “Taylor Swift,” “Fearless,” “Speak Now,” “Red,” “1989” and “reputation.” Throughout her years signed to Big Machine, Swift tried to buy her master recordings from the label for years, but the former owner, Scott Borchetta, denied her request and maintained ownership.
As a result, in 2018, Swift left Big Machine and moved to Republic Records. In the following year, Borchetta sold Big Machine to Scooter Braun, one of Swift’s longtime enemies. Swift claimed to have attempted a negotiation with Braun, but he would only let her buy her masters if she signed an NDA to only speak positively of Braun and Big Machine records. Swift refused the offer, and Braun subsequently sold her masters to The Shamrock Capital Content Fund, which paid around $300 million for the collection.
The Kanye West phone call
Let's backtrack to 2016. Kanye West (currently known as Ye) dropped the album “The Life of Pablo” with the song, “Famous,” where he name-dropped Swift in the chorus: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b*tch famous (Goddamn) / I made that b*tch famous.” In the music video, West featured nude wax figures depicting several celebrities, including the naked likeness of Swift.
Immediately after the release, friends, family and fans took social media by storm, assailing West for his inappropriate lyrics. West ranted on Twitter about the backlash, while Swift’s publicist Tree Paine released a statement published in The New York Times: “Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single ‘Famous’ on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message…Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that bitch famous.’”
On July 18, 2016, West’s former wife, Kim Kardashian, leaked an edited version of the illegally recorded phone call where it seemed that Swift approved this lyric. In the video, Taylor says, "I really appreciate you telling me about it,” she says. “That’s really nice. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek either way."
Immediately after Kardashian’s leak, in a since-deleted Instagram post, Swift responded to the lyric: “Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me ‘that b*tch’ in his song? It doesn’t exist because it never happened…While I wanted to be supportive of Kanye on the phone call, you cannot ‘approve’ a song you haven’t heard. Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination.”
Kardashian called out Swift in her infamous tweet: “Wait it’s legit National Snake Day?!?!? They have holidays for everybody, I mean everything these days!” This tweet sparked a public smear campaign against Swift. Users flooded social media, effectively canceling her. Swift deleted all social media and disappeared from the public eye for a year.
But what does this have to do with Scooter Braun? Well, Braun was West's manager throughout this entire feud. Swift ranted on Tumblr that Braun had been actively bullying her throughout this entire ordeal. Most notably, Justin Bieber posted a photo with West and Braun with the caption, “Taylor Swift what up.”
In the same Tumblr post, Swift expressed that she doesn’t just blame Braun, but Borchetta for betraying her trust in the first place: “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.”
Since leaving Big Machine and joining Republic Records, Swift has renegotiated her contract and is currently in the process of re-recording her first six albums, taking back what was stolen from her. Swift has since indirectly called out Braun in her lyrics, contributing to Braun’s negative reputation, specifically in her hit single from “Midnights” called “Karma:” “Spider-boy, king of thieves / Weave your little webs of opacity / My pennies made your crown / Trick me once, trick me twice / Don't you know that cash ain't the only price? / It's coming back around.” The lyric “Spider-boy” was allegedly a reference to Scooter Braun and/or Scott Borchetta, who share the same initials “SB.”
Celebrities and fans have shown their support for Swift throughout this entire feud and in the rerecording process, many calling out Braun on social media. Selena Gomez weighed in via Instagram story: "My heart is so heavy right now," Gomez wrote in the post. "It makes me sick and extremely angry…It's greed, manipulation, and power. There is no heart or thought of anyone else's. No respect for the words my friend has written since she was a 14-year-old in her bedroom. You've robbed and crushed one of our best songwriters of our time, an opportunity to celebrate all of her music with fans and the world."
As Braun was receiving more backlash, some of his biggest clients vehemently stuck by his side, publicly defending him and his management. Demi Lovato, who has been with Braun since 2019, took to her Instagram story: “I have dealt with bad people in the industry and Scooter is not one of them. He’s a good man. Personally, I’m grateful he came into my life when he did. Please stop ‘dragging’ people or bullying them. There’s enough hate in this world as it is.”
Why are his loyal clients leaving now?
Ironically, Lovato is just one of the many clients to leave Braun’s management within the last month. Billboard reported that the split was “amicable” and the singer was “thankful for her time with SB projects.” However, Lovato is currently working on her new album, “Demi Lovato Revamped,” which includes recordings of her old hits, a difficult time to be without a manager. Many speculate that there might be something deeper to the split than what Lovato’s team is implying.
Ariana Grande, on the other hand, has been with Braun since she left Nickelodeon. The pop star's team issued a very similar PR response, “Grande has outgrown Braun and is excited to go in a different direction.” Idina Menzel and J Balvin gave similar, vague responses, leaving many wondering what exactly caused Braun’s partnerships to suddenly implode.
The rumors surrounding Justin Bieber’s split are much more complicated. Braun and Bieber’s partnership has defined Braun’s career since he discovered Bieber in 2008. Rumors swirled as talk of Braun’s and Bieber's lawyers getting involved, but the rumors have since been put to rest as Bieber is under a contract to remain in Braun’s management until 2027.
Braun has had his fair share of shady dealings in the past, most notably his purchase of Taylor Swift’s masters. It remains safe to assume that these splits weren’t as amicable as we thought.
Page Six reported: “All of Scooter Braun’s clients are under contract, and negotiations have been going on for several months..”
This mass exodus from Braun’s management isn’t random. Braun’s former clients are reportedly under strict contracts that prohibit them from sharing the private details of their splits from Braun. Though we don’t know the specific cause of these departures, it’s probably not a coincidence that most of Braun’s biggest clients have suddenly “scooted” far away from him.