2012 CMA Fest: Scott Borchetta speaks at Big Machine’s Fan Fair Hall booth
Hello Taylor Nation!
Here at the Swift Agency, one guy who’s going to make it really evident he’s not a professional journalist in a moment, we managed to catch most of Scott Borchetta’s Q&A at the Big Machine Label Group’s booth at the Fan Fair Hall for the 2012 CMA Musical Festival.
The first impression I got from Scott Borchetta is that he looks more like he belongs behind the wheel of a race car than a boss behind a desk. That’s not a coincidence – he’s an enthusiast of that sport. The idea of Big Machine itself, which as revealed by Scott was a bit of a joke as to how small they started, features a car in its logo which is usually followed by the roar of an engine in their earlier videos. He seems very soft spoken, but as you talk to him you realize that he’s got a bit of that Eastwood-like voice that makes you pay really close attention to what he’s saying. I can’t think of anybody who’d dare speak over him when he talks.
After hearing the questions coming in, it’s obvious that we can split move of them up in three major subjects: the Sparkly Dressed, Big Machine and the ubiquitous How-Do-I-Become-Successful question. Here’s where I’m about to pull a fast one on you. I don’t have all his answers committed to writing – so I’m going to have to resort to paraphrasing for when I don’t have the exact words. Whenever possible, I’ll try to quote.
Early on, he got asked what his accomplishment was. One of the most remarkable thing that I noticed about him is that he never seems tired or impatient. Even when he got the same question twice, he took the time to answer it. He never uttered a sigh. Upon this question, Scott just went “Ok. Where is she?” and turned his gaze up towards the posters searching for the Enchantress herself. Scott named her one of the greatest joys in his life besides his wife and family.
It was interesting hear what he looks at in a new act. His first words were: “Don’t look at Taylor. She’s the anomaly.” You can’t help but agree. The Blonde With The Sparkly Guitar paved her own road, and as much as many other acts wished they’d get the chance to start with their careers with their own songwriting that is highly uncommon. Scott also stated that it might sound like he’s being arrogant but you don’t want to meet him until you’re ready. That means you want to fine tune your skills and do as much social media as you can. Gain a following through YouTube, put your own music up for grabs on MySpace (personally I think ReverbNation is the place nowadays) and become better at your craft. However, he didn’t believe you need to set up studio time to jazz up your demo. Acoustic, he said, is fine and preferable.
He also got asked which artist he would like to sign up if he got the chance. “Carrie Underwood,” said Scott. “I don’t know if there’s a bigger singer in rock music.” Yes, he said rock music – that’s not a typo.
What his favorite Taylor Swift performance from the Speak Now Tour? Scott replied he loved the entire setup and arrangement for Haunted.
Why did he start his own label? He got sick of how big labels work. In his own words, he was smart to hire smarter people than himself. He doesn’t like compartmentalization – meaning he doesn’t like it when the guy in finances gets this big idea but he’s not heard unless he works in marketing – when that idea is potentially a multi-million one. Someone asked later what if there’s an idea that someone think it’s brilliant but Scott thinks it blows. “Then it blows,” replied Scott. But he reconsidered it a bit. “If I trusted that person and that person trusted the idea, I’d probably let them run with it.”
When asked about what things has the Queen of Sparks ever done for him he replied that she doesn’t gives him gifts. “She gives me music,” said Scott. “Moments.” He illustrated this with two examples. First, when T-Swizzle was supposed to choose a cover song to perform, she ended picking up one from Luna Halo – a rock group that Scott loved – and their hit “Untouchable” changing it from a rock song to a powerful ballad. His second example was Long Live, which she introduced it by saying “I wrote this for you.” Scott was not ashamed to say he did got teary-eyed when she first performed it for him.
So what does Mr. Borchetta look for in an upcoming artist? He pointed to the new artists that we meet at CMA Fest: “Watch the smaller acts. Do they engage you? If they don’t, I assure you they don’t engage me either.”
The new album from Taylor Swift will have a release date of October this year. From what Scott can tell us, the Outspoken One has been writing a ton of material and will not be attending CMA Fest. “She has to finish her album,” where his words. She’s doing more collaborations. From what Scott has heard and is willing to reveal, she’s going to blow it out of the water. They are planning to do something for the 2013 CMA Fest. They’re also looking at the next tour, but there are no specifics yet.
Would he ever consider a rock division? “We expand driven by music,” replied Scott. “I might do a rock division.” Incidentally, when he was thinking Big Machine might be getting too big, and wanting to make sure a label would not end up with too many artists, he decided to created another label. That’s how he ended up creating Valory Music with Big Machine Label Group as an umbrella label.
He was asked if there was Taylor stories he could share. Scott told the story of Taylor playing Tim McGraw. Scott loved it was a much a musical achievement as well as a marketing cutthroat. It was initially titled When You Think Tim McGraw, then shortened. He knew that when Taylor would play it, people might not remember who played it but they’d remember “that girl with the Tim McGraw song.” When Scott heard it, he told Taylor: “That’s the first single.”
The Q&A section ended, and they proceeded to the autograph line. I went in as part of the hopefuls, but managed to get there. Once we were face to face again (I had met him the day before) I couldn’t come up with anything smart to say. “So let’s say one day Taylor decides to go Lady Gaga and says she wants to arrive to an award show inside an egg,” I asked nervously, my poor idea of a joke. Scott however, made it worthwhile.
“Listen, you can’t worry about things like that,” he told me. “Taylor is who she is and I don’t believe she would ever do that.” Then he reconsidered for a moment. “However, if she ever came to me with such an idea, I wouldn’t try to stop her… because you know she’d have a reason for it.”
Like. A. Boss!
Coming up in the Calendar!
- June 15: Rocco’s Old School presents: Tequila Sunrise – A Tribute to the Eagles at House of Blues Cleveland. Tickets go on sale Friday, May 11 at 10am ET on LiveNation.com.
- July 22: The Teen Choice Awards 2012 air live (8:00-10:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed) on FOX. Taylor Swift is nominated for Choice Female Artist, Choice Single by a Female Artist for Eyes Open, Choice Female Country Artist and Choice Country Song for Sparks Fly. You can vote here.