October 6, 2021 News & Press Releases

What People Are Saying About Glenn Youngkin’s Role in Buying Taylor Swift’s Master Recordings in 2019

by Democratic Party of Virginia

Richmond, VA — This week, new reporting highlighted Glenn Youngkin’s role as co-CEO of the Carlyle Group in working to buy Taylor Swift’s master recordings in 2019, taking control of the singer’s music and refusing to sell her the rights back.

On Tuesday, Terry McAuliffe released new digital ads highlighting Youngkin’s controversial deal to acquire Swift’s recordings in 2019. Youngkin has made clear that he will rip anyone off in order to make a profit. If he’ll do this to Taylor Swift –– he’ll do it to Virginians. 

See below for a recap of coverage on Glenn Youngkin’s role in buying Taylor Swift’s master recordings.

The Verge: Taylor Swift fans are getting caught up in the Virginia gubernatorial race“On Tuesday, the McAulliffe campaign launched a series of Facebook, Instagram, and Google search ads highlighting his opponent Glenn Youngkin’s role in the controversial purchase of Taylor Swift’s master recordings in 2019.

The buyout of Swift’s masters has been a point of bitter contention for the singer and her fans and could be an unexpected liability in the upcoming race. Last year, Youngkin — the Republican nominee for Virginia governor — retired as co-CEO of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group before launching his 2021 gubernatorial bid.

At Carlyle, Youngkin worked with the media executive Scooter Braun to acquire Big Machine Label Group, taking control of all of Swift’s master recordings and, for a time, refusing to sell them back to the singer. Several months later, Swift called on Carlyle to intervene in the deal, saying that the acquisition made it more difficult for her to perform her own music and produce her Netflix documentary named after her record Reputation.In a Tumblr post at the time, Swift wrote that the purchase of her masters put Braun in the position of “controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them in perpetuity.”

Axios: First look: McAuliffe calls on TaylorVirginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is tugging on the heartstrings of Taylor Swift fans with new digital ads highlighting rival Glenn Youngkin's professional connection to the music star, Axios has learned.Why it matters: The five-figure digital buy — while relatively small — seeks to draw on Swift's cultural appeal and relevance to win over younger voters.

The ads focus on the role Youngkin (the Republican nominee for governor) played as co-CEO of the Carlyle Group in buying Swift’s master recordings in 2019.Swift has complained publicly and passionately in recent years about her battle with the Carlyle Group and music producer Scooter Braun over the rights to her songs that made her most famous — those recorded before November 2020.McAuliffe’s campaign hopes the new ads will connect with and turn out younger voters who are fans of Swift’s music. [...]

The backstory: While Youngkin was Carlyle's co-CEO, Carlyle helped fund the sale of Swift’s record label Big Machine Label Group. “I’m especially asking for help from the Carlyle Group, who put up the money for the sale of my music to these two men. I just want to be able to perform my own music,” Swift said in 2019.In February, the Democratic Governors Association also tweeted about the Youngkin/Swift situation: “This is not exactly why we elect #DemGovs but it’s definitely part of it."

Billboard: Why Taylor Swift's Masters Are Playing a Role in Virginia Race for Governor[...]

Youngkin was co-CEO of private equity firm The Carlyle Group when it funded Scooter Braun's $300 million acquisition of The Big Machine Label Group, including Swift's master recordings, through his former media company Ithaca Holdings. The June 2019 acquisition infuriated Swift, who addressed the deal at the 2019 Billboard Women in Music event on Dec. 12 of that year.

"This just happened to me without my approval, consultation or consent," Swift said during her speech, which called out Braun, Carlyle and the other investors involved in the deal. "After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalog was sold to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in a deal that I’m told was funded by the Soros family, 23 Capital and that Carlyle Group."

Although a Nov. 24, 2019 New York Times story reported that Carlyle had intervened to urge Braun to reach out to Swift and "brought the bitter fight closer to a resolution," Swift, in her remarks at the Women in Music event, added that, "to this day, none of these investors have bothered to contact me or my team directly — to perform their due diligence on their investment.

On their investment in me. To ask how I might feel about the new owner of my art, the music I wrote, the videos I created, photos of me, my handwriting, my album designs."In November 2020, Ithaca sold Swifts catalog to Shamrock Capital for $300 million.Youngkin was named co-CEO of The Carlyle Group with Hewsong Lee at the beginning of 2018 and after a two-and-a-half year power struggle that Bloomberg Quint described as "increasingly acrimonious," announced his retirement from the company in September 2020.

He announced he was running for governor in January 2021."No matter the industry, Youngkin has shown he would rip off anyone for a profit," Democratic Party of Virginia Spokesman Manuel Bonder said in his statement. "What happened here is a continuation of Glenn Youngkin’s abhorrent track record of shipping jobs overseas, raising rents on seniors, and harming working families across our country. When it comes to Taylor Swift's music: what did Glenn know and when did he know it? Virginians deserve answers."

The Week: Virginia gubernatorial candidate rolls out ad campaign aimed at Taylor Swift fans

Taylor Swift fans have bad blood with Scooter Braun, and one Democrat hopes this might help him become the next governor of Virginia. [...] 

Carlyle Group helped fund the sale of Big Machine when Youngkin was co-CEO, according to Axios. McAuliffe's campaign acknowledged to Axios that the Democratic candidate himself was a "passive investor" at Carlyle, though his press secretary said he "did not have any investments associated with Taylor Swift's masters."

Youngkin stepped down from the private equity group in 2020.Swift in 2019 said that she had "pleaded" for years for the opportunity to own her catalogue of songs and was dismayed to learn that Braun, whom she accused of "incessant, manipulative bullying," had obtained ownership of the master recordings. The singer has since embarked on an ongoing effort to re-record her older music so that she has ownership over the masters for these songs, and her latest re-released album debuts in November. Braun sold Swift's masters in 2020.

The Hill: McAuliffe campaign targets Taylor Swift fans with ads linking Youngkin to Scooter Braun

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) campaign is targeting fans of Taylor Swift with new digital ads highlighting GOP gubernatorial opponent Glenn Youngkin's role in music mogul Scooter Braun's purchase of Swift's master recordings in 2019.Youngkin, who was then a co-CEO of private equity firm the Carlyle Group, worked with Bruan to acquire the Big Machine Label Group, including all of Swift’s master recordings, according to The Verge, which first reported the ads.Swift reportedly called Carlye in an attempt to intervene in the deal at the time, arguing that the acquisition had made it hard for her to perform her music and produce her Netflix documentary.“Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever,” Swift said in a Tumblr post in 2019.

NPR: How Taylor Swift and her master recordings play into the Virginia race for governor

The Democrat, who is running for the seat again on Nov. 2, has a new five-figure ad buy that connects his opponent, Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, to Swift's bitter battle to gain control over the master recordings of her first six albums, including Fearless, Red and 1989. Youngkin is the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, which financially backed the 2019 sale of Swift's masters to Ithaca Holdings, an umbrella company owned at the time by music manager Scooter Braun. Swift's masters have since been sold again. [...]

In 2019, The New York Times reported that the Carlyle Group helped broker a deal between Swift and Braun for him to allow her to perform some of the songs from her catalog at the 2019 American Music Awards, where she received the award for Artist of the Decade. That particular clash even drew attention from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who said in a tweet that Swift "is one of many whose work has been threatened by a private equity firm.”Newsweek: 

Why Taylor Swift's Name Is Suddenly Popping Up in Virginia Governor's Race

Terry McAuliffe's campaign on Tuesday brought Taylor Swift's name into the conversation about Virginia's upcoming gubernatorial election through ads targeting Republican Glenn Youngkin's previous work with the Carlyle Group.McAuliffe, a Democrat, alleged in his campaign ads that Youngkin "helped buy Taylor Swift's masters out from under her" during his time as the co-CEO of the Carlyle Group.The ads debuted Tuesday on Instagram, Facebook and Google, according to Axios.The controversy dates back to talent manager Scooter Braun's Ithaca Holdings LLC purchase of Swift's former label, Big Machine, in 2019. Swift's fight for the rights to her music escalated in the months that followed, with her posting pleas for her fans' help and support on Tumblr in November 2019.In that late 2019 post, Swift specifically called for help from the Carlyle Group, which she identified as the private equity company that "put up money for the sale of my music" to Braun and the founder of Big Machine.Youngkin was at the time serving as the Carlyle Group's co-CEO. He retired from that position last fall before launching his bid to become Virginia's next governor.

The Daily Caller: Taylor Swift’s Getting Dragged Into Gubernatorial Race With Ad Campaign Targeting Swiftie FansTaylor Swift has been dragged into the close Virginia gubernatorial race with an ad campaign targeting Swiftie fans by Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe.The 31-year-old pop singer started appearing in Facebook, Instagram, and Google search ads Tuesday from the McAuliffe campaign that paints his Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin as the one who helped music mogul Scooter Braun purchase Swift’s master recordings in 2019, the Verge.com reported. Youngkin retired as co-CEO of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group where he helped Scooter acquire Big Machine Label Group, which owned the master recordings of the “Shake It Off” hitmaker’s first six albums and some of her biggest hits, NPR noted.Swift fans know all too well that there’s bad blood between Braun and the “Me!” hitmaker after he refused, for a time, to sell them back to the singer.

Washington Examiner: McAuliffe recruits Taylor Swift fans in ad blitz tying Youngkin to Scooter BraunFormer Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is fighting hard to win back his gubernatorial seat against Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin , and his latest ad campaign might spark a bit of bad blood.The campaign ties his opponent to a role in music mogul Scooter Braun's acquisition of Taylor Swift 's master recordings in 2019. Youngkin previously served as co-chief executive of private equity firm the Carlyle Group, which worked with Braun to purchase the Big Machine Label Group, acquiring all of Swift's master recordings. [...]

Swift previously said she begged Big Machine Records founder Scott Borchetta permission to buy back her masters. However, the label would only sell off her records one at a time — if, and only if, she made additional records for Big Machine. She called the situation her "worst case scenario" in a June 2019 post on Tumblr.

NewsNation Now: How Taylor Swift could impact Virginia’s gubernatorial electionSinger-songwriter Taylor Swift is playing a big role in Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial race. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, launched a series of social media ads on Tuesday criticizing his opponent, Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, for purchasing Swift’s master recordings. According to The Verge, the ads have appeared on social media platforms including Facebook, Google and Instagram. However, only users who are engaged with Swift and who live in Virginia are seeing the ads.Variety senior correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister says she believes these political ads could push Swift fans to the polls because of the singer’s long and ongoing fight to buy back the master recordings of her first six studio albums. “She has spoken out a lot about her masters, she was very upset about it,” Wagmeister told “On Balance With Leland Vittert” on Tuesday. “If there is going to be any topic that will get her fans riled up and might get them to the polls, it would be this.”Youngkin is the former co-CEO of a company called The Carlyle Group. The group helped fund talent manager Scooter Braun’s purchase of Swift’s masters back in 2019.###