This week’s 52INSIGHTS is brought to you in collaboration with the Thinkhouse Media Relations & Advocacy team, who have been following the latest drama on young music-fans’ radars - The Scooter Braun and Taylor Swift Debacle.


I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years… Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to.” Taylor Swift

We all know who Taylor Swift is, with legions of die-hard fans worldwide. We recently covered her savvy social media tactics around the launch of her new album. But who is Scooter Braun? Few people know Scooter (Scott) Braun, though he is the man behind many famous performers. Credited for discovering Justin Bieber and former manager of Kanye West, he has worked with Usher, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato to name a few of his high profile clients.

So, what happened? On June 30th Taylor Swift shared a letter identifying Braun as the man who bullied her for years, who now has bought her entire back catalogue against her will. This was published on her Tumblr page and shared on her other social media channels alongside a photo of Braun with Kanyé and Justin Beiber allegedly bullying her. Taylor’s letter inferred a lot and, since her post, many high profile people have spoken out about the issue defending Braun - or siding with Swift. Taylor’s fans have also jumped to her defence across social media.

You can read her full post here.


Taylor’s post crucially left out many relevant details, which include:

  • Scooter didn’t just buy her back catalogue, his company Ithaca Holdings acquired the company that owns them in a $300m dollar deal – that’s far bigger than Taylor.
  • She was notified in advance by the current owner of Big Machine Label, Scott Borchetta. Her father (another Scott, Scott Swift) is also on the board of Big Machine Label and would have been privy to the acquisition in advance.
  • Finally, she was offered the opportunity to gain ownership of everything she had ever created via a renewal deal from Big Machine Label had she stayed on with them, but she chose another opportunity and parted ways with the company.

All of this information puts her letter in a different light and many have accused Taylor of withholding facts to suit her own agenda. This drove even more talkability as fans (or non-fans) looked to uncover and share the real ‘facts’ about the situation. For young critics of the situation, Swift didn’t get the platform, nor the tone right:

“I don't think her response should have been to complain to the internet.” Olwyn, 28

She signed a contract, she needed him before she became super famous, and the trade off was that he owned her music and she got really rich and famous. I think she’s just going to the internet for sympathy and to make people pressure him into changing his mind.” Anna, 26


While it’s common for writers to lose ownership of their music in various (common practice) deals, few have the platform that a performer like Taylor has. There are a number of youth culture elements that led to the story’s virality and amplification:

1)Feminism: In a climate where many women in the performing industry are finally comfortable enough to come forward and talk about their abuse at the hands of powerful men behind the scenes (#MeToo), Taylor is aligning herself to this issue, as a female wronged at the hands of men. Her narrative reflects elements of this broader cultural movement that makes it feel extremely important, especially to young female fans.

2) Stans & Celebrity Culture: Taylor is known very well for her die-hard fans who follow her direction without question. Since her assertions, Scooter Braun and his family have received a lot of hate and even death threats. What happens when we idolise celebrities without question en mass? In short, bad things - many high profile people’s adoration meant a slew of inappropriate and unusual behaviour was overlooked (Michael Jackson, Jimmy Saville and R. Kelly to name a few). Obviously this is a completely different situation, but the lesson should be to never let someone’s status and profile mean they are unquestionable. One individual assertion cannot always be taken as fact.

3) Online Bullying: Taylor posted an image circling Scooter’s face, identifying him as her bully. All we know about this, is that many of Taylor’s previous feuds have been with people linked to Scott – Justin Bieber, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West. However, bullying is a serious accusation not to be ignored.


Direct communication can never be underestimated. Taylor clearly felt hard-done-by with the way the announcement of the label takeover was handled. Internal communication and stakeholder management should be addressed with careful consideration, through the lens of culture. By looking to popular culture issues and themes (or indeed, internal culture themes) the root of business attitudes and behaviours will be revealed.

While young people are digital first, they do recognise that there is a time and a place for different kinds of conversation. Social media platforms are not always the right place to unload about certain topics - timing, tone and facts are super important.

Online bullying is a massive subject of youth conversation that has not faded away. If your brand or organisation operates an online presence, ensure that behavioural codes are well understood- include a strict no-bullying policy. Is there something you could do to tackle this via your channels in an appropriate way to improve the wellbeing of youth online?

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