Why Taylor Swift’s Ryan Reynolds Commercial With Love Story Is a Genius Fuck You To Scooter Braun

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Why Taylor Swift’s Ryan Reynolds Commercial With Love Story Is a Genius Fuck You To Scooter Braun

Amid the delectable pop music, the many feuds, and the superstardom, it’s sometimes easy to forget that on top of it all, Taylor Swift is one of the finest business-minded artists in the industry. She’s one of her kind, in her ability to seamlessly build a music empire and craft an international brand. That has never been at the forefront more than during her on-going battle with Scooter Braun over the ownership of her back catalog of recordings.

Swift signed to the Scott Borchetta-founded Big Machine in 2006 when she was a teenager, and quickly became their spotlight artist. She recorded her first six albums with the label.

In 2018, when her 12-year contract with Big Machine was finished, she signed a new deal with Universal Music Group and Republic Records. However, the next year, Big Machine was sold to Ithaca Holdings, an umbrella company owned by industry big-wig Scooter Braun for a reported $300 million, giving him ownership over her first six albums.

“When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter,” she wrote in a blog post on June 30, 2019. “He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them.”

What she’s referring to is her feud with Braun, which goes back to 2016, and, yes, involves Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. She wrote:

“All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years. Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it … Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. 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.”

In a post responding to Swift, Borchetta claimed that she had prior knowledge of the sale, revealing that her father, Scott Swift is a shareholder in Big Machine and was alerted to the deal:

“100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement. We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to ‘albums’ but more of a length of time … Taylor had every chance in the world to own not just her master recordings, but every video, photograph, everything associated to her career. She chose to leave.”

This led to a very public back and forth with some celebrities taking sides. But one celebrity, Kelly Clarkson, came through with a pretty genius suggestion that Swift re-record her old music:

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Then, that August, Swift confirmed the speculation, saying that she would indeed record the new music.

On Wednesday, more than a year after the sale (and after the massive success of her new album folklore), Swift debuted the first of these re-recordings in a seemingly bizarre way.

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A new version of her 2008 hit “Love Story” appeared in a new advertisement for Match starring Ryan Reynolds. It’s not the most Swiftian way to release, or even tease new music—she’s known for big sneaky, promotional build-ups or all-out surprises. So why a commercial?

It’s a pretty genius power move. Essentially, the reason Swift would want to re-record her old music is to give fans an incentive—as Clarkson suggested—to buy the music directly from the artist, rather than the old recordings from Braun. As Billboard noted:

By re-recording and re-releasing these albums, Swift intent is to undercut Shamrock’s investment (and Ithaca’s before that) and reduce the value of those old masters, while creating more value for herself. The simplest way to do this is to deny uses of those old recordings and only approve uses of her new recordings once those are ready. Swift can do this because she controls her publishing, through Universal Music Publishing Group, and has the right to veto any (potentially quite lucrative) uses in movies, TV shows, commercials and video games. She could even prevent use of her original masters on newer streaming services like Twitch, which currently has no label licensing deals and must take down any copyrighted content at a rights holder’s request, or the next generation of platforms like Peloton or TikTok, which all require licensing deals as well.

When Swift debuts re-recorded music in a Match ad, she’s indicating to Braun that she is the one to make the money on placement of her old music when it’s in commercials or TV shows. This supremely de-values the investment Braun made in her recordings, giving her control once again over the financial potential of her old music.

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But there’s also another little fuck you to Braun (as she’s done before) that fans noticed in the Ad. At one point, in the background, you can see a dumpster fire, and next to it is a crashed scooter. And, as fans know, nothing in anything Swift related is an accident.

Culture Editor
Matt is the Culture Editor at Esquire where he covers music, movies, books, and TV—with an emphasis on all things Star Wars, Marvel, and Game of Thrones.

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