Big Machine Records
Record Label (USA) | 2005-2018
Table of Contents
Big Machine Records was founded by Scott Borchetta. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Borchetta was an “involved manager” at MCA, “choosing singles and dispensing advice.” After he was fired from MCA in 1997, Borchetta accepted a role at the Nashville division of DreamWorks Records, but later decided to start his own label after Universal acquired the division. Before he left DreamWorks, Borchetta approached Taylor and her family after she performed at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, Tennessee after first meeting her in 2004. At the time, Borchetta had no infrastructure or financing. He made an offer to Taylor and her parents, whereby he would recruit her to the new label’s roster after it was established. Taylor eventually recontacted Borchetta around two weeks later, telling him: “I’m waiting for you.”
He formed the label in 2005, naming it “Big Machine” after a 2004 song by the band Velvet Revolver. Soon after he released Taylor’s first ever recording, the single “Tim McGraw” and her debut album Taylor Swift (2006). Keith dropped his affiliation with the label in 2006, but he was reported as an equity holder in November 2014, alongside the Swift family and Borchetta (the latter reportedly owned 60 percent of the business at the time). In October 2012, Borchetta told Rolling Stone magazine: “[Taylor Swift’s father] Scott Swift owns three percent of Big Machine.”
In February 2010, Taylor won four Grammys—including “Album of the Year” (Fearless), “Best Country Album” (Fearless), “Best Country Song” (“White Horse“), and “Best Female Country Vocal Performance” (“White Horse”) — becoming the first Big Machine artist to win a Grammy Award.
In response to a claim that Borchetta was seeking a sum of US$200 million for Big Machine since the release of Taylor’s fifth studio album 1989 (2014), the label head refuted the claim in November 2014: “Every time we have a Taylor [Swift] record, they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s selling the company.'” However, Borchetta did not rule out a future change of ownership, stating that “the business is changing so quickly, and if I see a strategic opportunity that’s going to be better for our artists and executives, it’s going to be a serious conversation.” Following the release of 1989, Taylor’s Big Machine contract required her to produce one more full-length album for the label.
In November 2017, Taylor released her sixth studio album reputation, her last album released under Big Machine. After this album, Taylor declined to renew her contract with the label. She eventually stayed in Universal Music Group, Big Machine’s distributor, and on November 19, 2018, after her contract with Big Machine expired, she signed with Republic Records, under a deal in which she would maintain ownership of her masters going forward.
In 2019, Big Machine Records was acquired (reportedly for $300 million) by talent manager and businessman Scooter Braun and his company Ithaca Holdings. The acquisition was financed by the Carlyle Group and several other private equity firms. As part of the acquisition, ownership of the masters to Taylor’s first six studio albums transferred to Braun.
On June 30, the day of Big Machine’s announcement, Taylor denounced the acquisition on Tumblr. She stated that she had tried to buy her masters for years, but was not given a chance unless she signed another contract, which she was not willing to do. While she knew that Big Machine was for sale, she said that she was unaware Braun would be the buyer, whom she described as an “incessant, manipulative bully”: “Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.” She accused Borchetta of betraying her loyalty by selling her catalog to Braun, whom Borchetta had known for his “bullying” towards Taylor.
|Parent Company||Big Machine Label Group|
|Founded||September 1, 2004|
|Distributor||Universal Music Group|
|Location||Nashville, Tennessee (USA)|