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Major artists are reportedly ditching their A-list manager Scooter Braun

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One of the big news makers in the entertainment industry this week is entrepreneur Scooter Braun, who discovered a young Justin Bieber once upon a time. His other clients include Carly Rae Jepsen, the K-pop star PSY and the Black Eyed Peas. But some high-profile artists are cutting ties with him. Demi Lovato is out, and multiple media outlets cite sources saying Ariana Grande is out, too. We don't know why they're leaving Braun, but it's an occasion to talk about his influence. So we brought in Elizabeth Blair from NPR's culture desk. Good morning.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: For those who don't follow the industry, who is he?

BLAIR: Scooter Braun is one of the most powerful players in entertainment. He's been an entrepreneur ever since college at Emory University. He sold fake IDs. He promoted these epic parties that attracted stars in hip-hop and sports. He quit Emory and eventually started his own entertainment management business. And he's known for spotting and nurturing young talent, like Ariana Grande. Last year, he talked to the NPR podcast The Limits With Jay Williams about the first time he heard Justin Bieber.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SCOOTER BRAUN: It's almost like falling in love. It's like when it happens, you feel, like, this sensation inside of you of, like, OK, I know what this is. I saw clearly that he could be one of the biggest artists in the world and one of the biggest artists ever. I was just like, I know what to do. I know how to help him 'cause he had this natural, God-given talent.

BLAIR: But now, the media outlet Puck is reporting that even Justin Bieber might be leaving Braun's company.

INSKEEP: This is a guy who has been famous for feuding with artists as well as nurturing them. I'm thinking particularly of Taylor Swift.

BLAIR: Yes. That's the main one. In 2019, Braun's company bought the record label that signed Swift when she was a teenager. That deal turned into something of a war between him and Swift. There was already some bad blood between them because, at one point, Braun supported Kanye West when he and Swift had a falling out. But basically, the feud was over artistic control. When Braun bought Big Machine Records, he owned the master recordings of Swift's first six albums.

INSKEEP: I'm just, you know, admiring the reference to "Bad Blood" there. Well done. Great job.

BLAIR: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: So owning master recordings means owning all the rights to the music, which is not something that Taylor liked at all.

BLAIR: No. And even though it's - traditionally, that's how it works. Labels have owned the master recordings of their artists. But Swift was really angry. She claimed that she was blocked from performing her old songs.

INSKEEP: And what did Braun have to say about that?

BLAIR: He told Variety that her reaction made him sad but that it was not factual. And some artists, like Justin Bieber, came to his defense.

INSKEEP: OK. So we have a picture of this man and his tumultuous career, and now some big artists seem to be leaving him. Do we have any idea why that might be?

BLAIR: We don't know why. I reached out for comment from Braun and Grande but did not hear back. A source confirmed to NPR that Lovato has left but did not say why. We do know that Braun's reputation is mixed. Depending on who you talk to, he's either a stalwart champion of artists or a ruthless businessman. Sources tell Variety that the departures have more to do with Braun stepping back from day-to-day management duties. A couple of years ago, his firm was bought by HYBE, the South Korean company behind BTS, and Braun is now CEO of HYBE America. We might know more in the coming days.

INSKEEP: OK. We'll keep listening for your reporting. NPR's Elizabeth Blair, thanks.

BLAIR: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Corrected: August 23, 2023 at 11:00 PM CDT
In this report, we incorrectly say Carly Rae Jepsen is one of Scooter Braun's clients. While she is listed on Braun's company website, a spokesperson for Jepsen says Braun has not managed her since 2016. Jepsen is currently with Mick Management. The story also incorrectly stated that Post Malone is one of Braun's clients.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.
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