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Taylor Swift, Carlyle have bad blood

Taylor Swift has called on The Carlyle Group to help her regain music rights after the firm backed Scooter Braun’s $300 million buyout of Big Machine Label Group, her former label.

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Private equity is the reason for the teardrops on Taylor Swift’s guitar.

On Thursday, the pop icon called on The Carlyle Group to help her win back the rights to her early songs that she lost when her former record label, Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group, was acquired by Carlyle-backed Ithaca Holdings for a reported $300 million on June 30. Carlyle has owned a minority stake in Ithaca since 2017.

Swift knew private equity was trouble when it walked in, at the time taking to Tumblr to decry Scooter Braun, the celebrity manager behind Ithaca.

“This is my worst case scenario,” she wrote in June. Then, in an August interview with “CBS Sunday Morning,” Swift shared her intent to record new versions of her old hits, which she’s contractually allowed to do starting in November 2020.

Fast forward to Thursday. Ahead of her planned performance at the American Music Awards, where she will be honored as artist of the decade on Nov. 24, Swift wrote in a tweet that Braun and Borchetta “have now said that I’m not allowed to perform my old songs on television because they claim that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year.”

Swift also highlighted Carlyle’s role in her woes. The Washington, DC-based firm manages about $221.8 billion in assets.

“I am especially asking for help from The Carlyle Group, who put up money for the sale of my music to these two men,” Swift wrote in the message. The firm did not respond to a request for comment.

Big Machine refuted Swift’s tweet as based on “false information” in a statement Friday morning.

“At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs,” the label wrote. “In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere.”

Swift also revealed she’s quietly been working with Netflix over the past few years to create a documentary about her life. Braun and Borchetta are preventing the use of her older footage and music for the project, according to her tweet.

“The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished,” Swift wrote.

Bad blood aside, this isn’t the first instance of private investors getting tangled up in a music rights controversy. Peloton, peddler of $2,000 exercise bikes that had raised nearly $1 billion in VC before going public in September, was hit with a $300 million lawsuit in August alleging it was illegally streaming music—including tracks by Swift—for its workout videos.

Featured image by Eva Rinaldi/CC BY 2.0

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    Written by Eliza Haverstock
    Eliza Haverstock was a PitchBook writer covering venture capital, startups, and private equity.

    A graduate of the University of Virginia where she majored in history and economics, she’s also a native of the Washington, DC, area. Previously, Eliza worked as a news editor for her college paper, The Cavalier Daily, and interned as an industrials reporter for Bloomberg in New York.
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