“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence on the future,” Seneca said 20 centuries ago, “not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.” The Roman philosopher’s phrase is close to 42-year-old Scooter Braun’s heart, so much so that, earlier this week, the New York native shared it on his social media. Traveling by helicopter with friends and enjoying the final days of August, the businessman posted the phrase to his Instagram account in what seems to be a final attempt to philosophically approach a difficult time for him both professionally and personally: some of the most powerful people he represented—Demi Lovato, Idina Menzel and, apparently, Ariana Grande—are leaving his artist management company and walking out of his life. His relationship with Justin Bieber, whose career he has been managing for three decades, hangs in the balance. All this while his arch nemesis, Taylor Swift, has succeeded like never before with her multimillion-dollar tour and her re-recorded albums. These are dark times for Braun.
Though his fate was to play second fiddle to the rich and famous, Braun achieved that status all by himself. He was raised in Queens by Jewish parents—his grandparents survived the Holocaust –and has four siblings, two of whom were adopted from Mozambique. Scott Samuel “Scooter” Braun was well-known as his class president, and after going to college in Atlanta, he became famous for throwing increasingly wild parties. Indeed, he ended up organizing soirees for hip-hop scene celebrities like Eminem and Jermaine Dupri, for whom he worked for four years. Fame begets fame and, when Braun went solo, he became the manager of Usher (the two are now close friends and go on vacation together) and Kanye West. In 2007, at the age of 26, Braun discovered a 12-year-old Canadian boy with bangs and the voice of an angel on YouTube and decided to give him a chance as his client. His name was Justin Bieber. The rest is history.
As far as one can tell from this convoluted story of cross accusations and limited transparency, Braun remains Bieber’s representative; Braun always appears in the star’s expressions of gratitude and in his Instagram photos. However, a couple of weeks ago entertainment industry media asserted that the professional duo had decided to part ways. They denied it, but some media, such as Puck, continue to maintain that “there are lawyers involved,” that Bieber—who has gone 30 months without releasing music and has canceled his tour due to illness—has “lawyers, an agency and new business agent” and that the artistic duo has not spoken to each other for months. People claims that the singer has been working on new songs for six months and that “Scooter and SB Projects have not set up one session or done one thing for this [new] record.”
The situation isn’t clear, but it does seem that Ariana Grande has left Braun; she started with him in 2013 and had already left, for a few months, in 2016. For months, the Florida-native has been working more as an actress (shooting Wicked) than as a singer: her most recent song is from October 2020. Media like Billboard and People take it as a given that she will leave. “They are friendly, but she’s outgrown him and is excited to go in a different direction,” a source close to the artist tells People. “Yes, there are negotiations happening because of contracts. But this is her choice. It’s time for something new.”
Grande joins a trend that began in May with rapper J Balvin leaving SB; Demi Lovato and Idina Menzel recently followed. Yesterday, reps for Carly Rae Jepsen, BabyJake and Asher Roth confirmed to AP that those artists are no longer working with Braun. Lovato started with him in 2019. “I couldn’t be happier [or more] inspired and excited; thank you for believing in me,” she stated at the time. Braun responded: “I feel, we feel, very honored, welcome to the family.” Lovato released two hit albums with Braun; a third, a compilation of her greatest rock hits, will be released in September. Menzel, a Broadway star and the voice of Elsa in Frozen, also started working with him in 2019 but left SB in January, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Braun’s career has aroused a lot of curiosity, as well as some hatred. In recent years, he has become one of the most controversial figures in pop culture because of his confrontation with Taylor Swift, who recently became one of the most powerful stars in the music world, with a tour of over 100 concerts, a year and a half that will earn her $1 billion. At the start of her career, Swift signed a disadvantageous contract at 15, which she decided to break in 2018, at age 29; she left her initial company, Big Machine Records, and switched to Universal Music. Then, the company’s owner, Scott Borchetta, also became the owner of all the artist’s masters, that is, her songs and the copyrights to them, whether in the form of lyrics, recordings or videos. That is, Borchetta owned everything that belonged to Swift between 2006, when she released her first album, and 2017, when her sixth album dropped. She assumed that could happen. But she never imagined that she would not have the opportunity to buy her catalog or that Braun would buy Big Machine months later for $300 million (about €265 million); Swift’s work represented half of its value.
Clearly, that caused the singer tremendous anger and pain. In a long post on the now-nearly-forgotten Tumblr website, Swift complained about Braun taking everything from her, the “music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it,” she wrote. Swift also accused Braun of " incessant, manipulative bullying.”
“When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them,” she acknowledged. “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. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.” The saga ended a year and a half later when Braun sold the artist’s catalog to the Shamrock Capital investment group for $405 million. He paid $140 million for it.
Neither Swift nor her fans have forgiven him. The artist delivered a harsh speech against him at the 2019 Billboard Woman of the Decade award ceremony, criticizing the fact that music could be bought " as if it [were] real estate. As if it [were] an app or a shoe line.” She added that “it happened to me without my approval, consultation or consent.” Swift also accused Braun of being " the definition of the toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying, ‘But he’s always been nice to me,’ when I’m raising valid concerns about artists and their rights to own their music. And of course, he’s nice to you. If you’re in this room, you have something he needs,” she asserted, unironically. After that, she ended the cycle, left Braun out of it and decided to take it all back by re-recording her own version of those six albums, legal as of November 2020. She has three; the fourth, 1989 (the year of her birth), will be released in October. She still does not have the first one, Taylor Swift, or the last one, Reputation. She also needs to recover her name and her reputation.
On occasion, a few of the artist’s fans go even further. On Braun’s personal Instagram profile, which has nearly four million followers, there are dozens of comments from angry Swifties attacking him, on every photo, no matter what he posts. “You’re not going to have any music left to steal,” they write next to a sunset. The comments border on the excessive. This summer, next to a photo of his daughter with her back turned, a user wrote: “Are you going to steal her music too?” or “She’ll figure out you’re a bad person.” He knows that hatred and, according to those closest to him, he wants to shake it off. A few months ago, he (uncharacteristically) acknowledged for the first time that he was wrong when it came to managing the purchase of Swift’s masters and that he was, perhaps, “arrogant” in his approach.
Braun’s silence is constant. During this mass exodus of clients, he has turned to hermeticism. The main players don’t confirm anything; it is a tight circle. Braun even allows himself to joke about it. “Breaking news: I’m no longer managing myself,” he tweeted ironically, last Tuesday. Actually, that’s partly the point. The fact that Braun is no longer the manager of all those artists is because he is simply not a manager anymore.
Breaking news… I’m no longer managing myself— Scott “Scooter” Braun (@scooterbraun) August 22, 2023
It all goes back to April 2021, when he sold his company to the Korean K-pop group Hybe, a transaction for which he received just over a billion dollars. The company’s CEO left three months later; only this June did Braun become chairman of the firm, which is valued at over $12,090,960,000 (€11.2 billion) and represents musical giants like the group BTS, now on an artistic hiatus. Such duties don’t allow Braun to be as present in the careers of the artists he represents. “He’s getting out of management — he has been for years. That’s the real story,” sources close to Braun tell Variety.
Braun is no longer the same person who organized the One Love Manchester benefit concert in just a couple of weeks following the attack on an Ariana Grande concert in 2017, nor the one who set up an association to build schools, founded by his brother Adam. Now he is a divorced businessman; he split from the mother of his three children in 2021, after seven years of marriage. He owns two houses: one in the Hollywood Hills that is over 59,055 feet in size, which he purchased for $65 million a couple of years ago; and another Alhambra-inspired house in luxurious Montecito, two hours north of Los Angeles, which he bought from Ellen DeGeneres for $36 million last year. They have pools, movie theaters, wineries, patios. The problem is that there is no time left for parties. Nor does he have many artist friends left to set the mood.
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