Big Machine Records

Big Machine Records
Bm records.jpg
Parent company Big Machine Label Group
Founded September 1, 2005; 15 years ago (2005-09-01)
Founder Scott Borchetta
Distributor(s) Universal Music Group
Country of origin United States
Location Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Official website

Big Machine Records is an American independent record label, which is distributed by Universal Music Group, specializing in country and pop artists. Big Machine is based on Music Row in Nashville, Tennessee. The label was founded in September 2005[1] by former DreamWorks Records executive Scott Borchetta and became a joint venture between Borchetta and country singer Toby Keith.[2] The company concentrates on publishing, management, and merchandising and oversees imprints, such as Valory Music, that are part of the Big Machine Label Group.


Scott Borchetta is originally from Los Angeles, California's San Fernando Valley area ("The Valley"), and he played bass guitar in punk rock bands in his younger years. Borchetta's father, Mike Borchetta, worked in Nashville as a country promoter who courted radio stations with music he transported in the trunk of his car. Mike Borchetta was married to an aspiring country singer at the time, as he had divorced Scott's mother. Borchetta did not leave Nashville after a 1981 visit.[3]

Borchetta worked in the mailroom of his father's music company and eventually became a promotions staff member in 1991 for Universal Music Group's MCA Records. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Borchetta was an "involved manager" at MCA, "choosing singles and dispensing advice." After he was fired from MCA in 1997, Borchetta accepted a role at the Nashville division of DreamWorks Records, but later decided to start his own label after Universal acquired the division.[3]

Before he left DreamWorks, Borchetta approached Taylor Swift and her family after the musician performed at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, Tennessee after first meeting her in 2004. At the time, Borchetta had no infrastructure or financing. He made an offer to Swift and her parents, whereby he would recruit her to the new label's roster after it was established. Swift eventually recontacted Borchetta around two weeks later, telling him: "I'm waiting for you."[3]

He formed the label in 2005, naming it "Big Machine" after a 2004 song by the band Velvet Revolver.[4] Soon after he released Swift's first ever recording, the single "Tim McGraw" and her debut album Taylor Swift. Keith dropped his affiliation with the label in 2006, but he was reported as an equity holder in November 2014, alongside the Swift family and Borchetta (the latter reportedly owned 60 percent of the business at the time). In October 2012, Borchetta told Rolling Stone magazine: "[Taylor Swift’s father] Scott Swift owns three percent of Big Machine."[2][3][5]

By March 2009, Big Machine artist Danielle Peck had left the label. The departure occurred during a downturn period for the overall U.S. music industry.[6]

In February 2010, Swift won 4 Grammys—including Album of the Year (Fearless), Best Country Album (Fearless), Best Country Song ("White Horse"), and Best Female Country Vocal Performance ("White Horse")—becoming the first Big Machine artist to win a Grammy Award.

Borchetta signed a deal with Clear Channel—which later changed its name to iHeartMedia—in 2012 that ensures payment for Big Machine artists from terrestrial and digital radio airplay. Three years after the deal was signed, Borchetta said that the revenue streams were "very meaningful."[7]

On November 3, 2014, Swift removed all but one of her songs from Spotify after indications of her disapproval of the streaming service emerged in July of the same year. Swift, statistically one of the world's most popular music artists at the time, had previously delayed the streaming of her 2012 album, Red.[8]

Big Machine country music artists Justin Moore and Brantley Gilbert removed their music from Spotify on November 12, 2014. Like Swift, both artists allowed a single song to remain on the streaming platform.[9]

In response to a claim that Borchetta was seeking a sum of US$200 million for Big Machine since the release of Swift's fifth studio album 1989, the label head refuted the claim in November 2014: "Every time we have a Taylor [Swift] record, they're like, 'Oh, he's selling the company.'" However, Borchetta did not rule out a future change of ownership, stating that "the business is changing so quickly, and if I see a strategic opportunity that's going to be better for our artists and executives, it's going to be a serious conversation."[3] Following the release of 1989, her Big Machine contract requires her to produce one more full-length album for the label.[3]

The Zac Brown Band announced on January 12, 2015, that it had finalized a four-way strategic partnership involving the Southern Ground Artists record label, Big Machine Label Group, Republic Records and John Varvatos Records for the release of its fourth studio album. The terms of the deal state that Zac Brown Band will work with Big Machine Label Group for marketing and distribution, while Southern Ground Artists will work on radio promotion, Republic will provide support in the area of non-country radio formats and international promotion, and Varvatos will oversee branding and styling. Borchetta was quoted in the Big Machine press release as saying that there is "literally no ceiling" to what can be achieved by the new partnership, and also spoke of "moments when our best artists hit a global stride and a deeper sense of engagement that speaks a clearer musical language".[10]

In a February 2015 interview, Borchetta refused to comment on the status of the label's distribution deal with Universal Music Group (UMG), which was up for renegotiation at the time. He confirmed that the label would release the next American Idol album, in partnership with 19 Entertainment and UMG—Borchetta would be one of the mentors on the reality program's next series. Borchetta also disclosed that Swift agreed to the withdrawal of her catalog from Spotify after he first suggested the idea to her, and that he would remove the music of all Big Machine artists if it was within his power.[7]

In May 2017, the label branched out into the alcoholic beverage industry by launching Big Machine Vodka, a premium brand distilled in Lynnville, Tennessee. Borchetta described the new venture as "perfectly [complimenting] the music we take such great pride in".[11]

In November 2017, Swift released her sixth studio album Reputation, her last album released under Big Machine. After this album, Swift refused to renew her contract with the label. She eventually stayed in Universal Music Group, Big Machine's distributor, and on November 19, 2018, after her contract with Big Machine expired, Swift signed with Republic Records, under a deal in which she would maintain ownership of her masters going forward.[12][13][14]

In October 2018, Big Machine was placed for sale, with bids from Macquarie Group, Evan Spiegel and Universal Music Group. Big Machine was valued at $300 million.[15]

On June 30, 2019, Ithaca Holdings acquired Big Machine Records, with Scott Borchetta remaining as CEO, and music manager Scooter Braun.[16][17] The deal included the masters for Swift's first six albums.[18] Swift voiced her displeasure in a Tumblr post, saying she had been trying to buy the masters for years and describing Braun as an "incessant, manipulative bully".[18] The copyright dispute escalated during the year, with Swift accusing Borchetta and Braun of leveraging their ownership of her back catalog to keep her from performing her older songs in a performance as the American Music Awards Artist of the Decade or a Netflix documentary, Miss Americana.[19][20] Both sides accused the other of owing them millions of dollars.[21] Swift announced plans to rerecord her older songs in November 2020, to be released on Republic Records and not on Big Machine.[22] As of 2020, her Big Machine releases are still available in digital distribution platforms and are repressed on physical media.

Even after Ithaca's acquisition of Big Machine Records, it continues to be distributed by Universal Music Group.

Spotify issue

After Swift and Big Machine withdrew her catalog from Spotify in November 2014, the streaming service launched a social media campaign to persuade Swift to return and, in a statement on its website, claimed that 16 million of over 40 million users had played her music in the preceding 30-day period.[23]

In mid-November, Borchetta disputed figures released by Spotify that claimed that Swift would receive US$6 million annually from the streaming site—Borchetta said in a TIME magazine interview that Swift was paid a total of US$500,000 over the previous 12 months. Spotify responded to Borchetta, by clarifying that Swift had been paid US$2 million for global streaming over the year-long time frame. Spotify further explained: "We [Spotify] paid Taylor [Swift]'s label and publisher roughly half a million dollars in the month before she took her catalog down".[23][24] According to Borchetta, the amount Swift earned from streaming her music videos on the Vevo site was greater than the payout she received from Spotify.

Borchetta then clarified in a February 2015 interview that Swift's catalog would be permitted on a streaming service "that understands the different needs that we [Swift and Big Machine] have," whereby "the choice to be [on the free, ad-supported tier] or not" is provided. Borchetta argued that Swift's musical oeuvre is "arguably the most important current catalog there is" and stated that the streaming issue is "about each individual artist, and the real mission here is to bring ... attention to it."[7]

Taylor Swift's catalog returned to Spotify in June 2017.[25]


Big Machine Label Group
Limited Liability Company
Industry Music & entertainment
Founded September 1, 2005; 15 years ago (2005-09-01)
Founder Scott Borchetta
Headquarters Music Row, ,
Key people
Scott Borchetta, (CEO)
Sandi Spika Borchetta, (VP Creative Services)
Andrew Kautz, General Manager
Taylor Swift, the first signed artist
Parent Ithaca Holdings
Divisions Big Machine Records
Valory Music
BMLG Records

Valory Music Co.

In November 2007, Big Machine Records founded a subsidiary imprint called Valory Music Co. Acts signed to this roster include Jimmy Wayne (who was formerly signed to Big Machine), Jewel, The Mavericks, Thomas Rhett, and Justin Moore.[26]

By the end of November 2008, the Valory imprint entered into a partnership with Midas Records—promotion, sales, marketing, production, publicity and distribution—for Canadian acts Adam Gregory and Emerson Drive.[27] The announcement that Reba McEntire would join Valory was also publicized in November 2008. McEntire's debut single on Valory was scheduled for 2009, with her new studio album scheduled for the northern summer of the same year.[28]

BMLG Records

Big Machine joined with Universal Republic Records in June 2009 to found a new label, Republic Nashville.[29] In August 2016, Republic Nashville was rebranded as BMLG Records after Big Machine took back full ownership of the label.

Dot Records

In March 2014, Big Machine announced the revival of Dot Records and, as of February 2015, the imprint was run in partnership with Republic Records.[30] Dot was shuttered in March 2017 and a number of its artists moved to other Big Machine imprints.

Nash Icon Records

In 2014, Big Machine announced a partnership with Cumulus Media to create Nash Icon Music, a Big Machine imprint serving as an offshoot of Cumulus's Nash FM brand, focusing on active country acts who achieved mainstream fame in the 1990s and early 2000s. Cumulus also operates Nash Icon-branded radio stations with a similar focus.[31][32]

On October 21, 2014, it was announced that McEntire would be the first artist signed to Nash Icon Music.[33] Nash Icon Records folded into Big Machine Records in 2018.

Big Machine Records roster

Current country artists

Current rock and pop artists

  • Badflower[34] (Big Machine/John Varvatos Records)
  • Friday Pilots Club (Big Machine/John Varvatos Records)
  • Gunnar Gehl[36]
  • Pretty Vicious[34] (Big Machine/John Varvatos Records)

Former country artists

Former Nash Icon Records artists

Former pop artists

Valory Music Co. roster

Former artists

BMLG Records roster

Former artists

Former Dot Records artists

See also


  1. ^ Caulfiend, Keith; Tucker, Ken (November 10, 2007). "Valory Unveiled". Billboard. 119 (45): 8.
  2. ^ a b Stark, Phyllis (March 11, 2006). "The Honeymoon's Hardly Over, but Show Dog and Big Machine split". Billboard.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Devin Leonard (November 12, 2014). "Taylor Swift Is the Music Industry". Bloomberg Businessweek. Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  4. ^ Willman, Chris (October 26, 2015). "Big Machine's Scott Borchetta on Taylor Swift, the Fight Against Free and Remaining 'Bold and Disruptive' on 10-Year Anniversary". Billboard. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  5. ^ Brian Hiatt (October 25, 2012). "Taylor Swift in Wonderland". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Edward Morris (March 3, 2009). "Country Rosters Remain Stable Despite Sales Downturn". CMT News. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Melinda Newman (February 5, 2015). "Taylor Swift's Label Boss on Her Future, His Spotify Showdown and 'American Idol'". The Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  8. ^ Jack Linshi (November 3, 2014). "Here's Why Taylor Swift Pulled Her Music From Spotify". TIME. TIME, Inc. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  9. ^ "Justin Moore, Brantley Gilbert pull music from Spotify". Toronto Sun. November 12, 2014. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
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  12. ^ Wang, Amy X. (November 19, 2018). "Taylor Swift's New Record Deal Affects Thousands of Other Musicians". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
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  27. ^ "On Music Row: Valory takes Emerson Drive in tow". The City Paper. September 15, 2008. Archived from the original on January 10, 2015. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
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  29. ^ "New Nashville label starts with Sunny Sweeney aboard". Country Standard Time. June 5, 2009. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
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  39. ^
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  58. ^ "'Voice' Bummers: Kimberly Nichole Leaves Show, Craig Wayne Boyd Leaves Label". Yahoo!. June 13, 2015.

External links