A months-long feud involving the music industry’s most powerful people escalated this week after Taylor Swift accused her former label and a famed talent manager of stripping her of the rights to her own music once again.
The complicated drama began in July, when the 10-time Grammy winner penned a Tumblr post in response to the news that Scooter Braun’s company, Ithaca Holdings, acquired Big Machine Records, Swift’s former label, for a whopping $300 million. The acquisition encompassed all aspects of Big Machine’s business, including the rights to Swift’s first six albums, all of which are multiplatinum: Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014), and Reputation (2017).
Since then, a lot has happened. People took sides. Lawyers and publicists got involved. Calibrated responses were crafted and posted. Petitions went viral. Here’s everything you need to know.
Swift claims to be “sad and grossed out” that Braun owns her music.
On Tumblr, Swift described Bruan, who has worked with artists like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato—as an “incessant, manipulative [bully].”
“When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them,” Swift wrote. “Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter.
“Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy,” the “You Need to Calm Down” singer said, adding that Scott Borchetta, the founder of Big Machine Label Group who discovered Swift at Nashville’s famed Bluebird Cafe in 2004, knew about her disdain toward Braun and still went through with the acquisition. A detailed explanation about the acquisition (and more on if Swift can actually get the rights to her music back), here.
Swift claims she can’t play her songs at the American Music Awards and Netflix can’t use them in a documentary.
The singer planned to perform a medley of her biggest hits later this month at the AMAs, where’s she’s being honored as Artist of the Decade. She wrote on Twitter that Borchetta and Braun will not work with her privately to find a fair way forward so that she can sing her own songs. She claimed Netflix, which is working on a Swift documentary, can’t use any of her old songs. She also called on the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm (which, according to Business Insider, “played a key role in the sale of Swift’s back catalogue to Braun”) for help. “Don’t know what else to do,” Swift wrote in the caption of her tweet with screenshots of her tweet.
Guys, it’s been announced recently that the American Music Awards will be honoring me with the Artist of the Decade Award at this year’s ceremony. I’ve been planning to perform a medley of my hits throughout the decade on the show. Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun have now said that I’m not allowed to perform my old songs on television because they claim that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year.
Additionally—and this isn’t the way I had planned on telling you this news—Netflix has created a documentary about my life for the past few years. Scott and Scooter have declined the use of my older music or performance footage for this project even though there is no mention of either of them or Big Machine Records anywhere in the film.
Scott Borchetta told my team that they’ll allow me to use my music only if I do these things: If I agree to not re-record copycat versions of my songs next year (which is something I’m both legally allowed to do and looking forward to) and also told my team that I need to stop talking about him and Scooter Braun.
I feel very strongly that sharing what is happening to me could change the awareness level for other artists and potentially help them avoid a similar fate.
The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished.
This is WRONG. Neither of these men had a hand in the writing of those songs. They did nothing to create the relationship I have with my fans. So this is where I’m asking for your help.
Please let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this.
Scooter also manages several artists who I really believe care about other artists and their work. Please ask them for help with this—I’m hoping that maybe they can talk some sense into the men who are exercising tyrannical control over someone who just wants to play the music she wrote. I’m especially asking for help from The Carlyle Group, who put up money for the sale of my music to these two men.
I just want to be able to perform MY OWN music. That’s it. I’ve tried to work this out privately through my team but have not been able to resolve anything. Right now my performance at the AMA’s, the Netflix documentary and any other recorded events I am planning to play until November of 2020 are a question mark. I love you guys and I thought you should know what’s been going on.
Big Machine Label Group responded. Then Swift’s publicist fired back.
A spokesperson for Big Machine Label Group (Swift’s former record label now owned by Braun) said the singer is misrepresenting the situation. The organization posted a statement to its website.
As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her tumblr statements yesterday based on false information. At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere. Since Taylor’s decision to leave Big Machine last fall, we have continued to honor all of her requests to license her catalog to third parties as she promotes her current record in which we do not financially participate.
The truth is, Taylor has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company, which is responsible for 120 hardworking employees who helped build her career. We have worked diligently to have a conversation about these matters with Taylor and her team to productively move forward. We started to see progress over the past two weeks and were optimistic as recently as yesterday that this may get resolved. However, despite our persistent efforts to find a private and mutually satisfactory solution, Taylor made a unilateral decision last night to enlist her fanbase in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families.
Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist. All we ask is to have a direct and honest conversation. When that happens, you will see there is nothing but respect, kindness, and support waiting for you on the other side. To date, not one of the invitations to speak with us and work through this has been accepted. Rumors fester in the absence of communication. Let’s not have that continue here. We share the collective goal of giving your fans the entertainment they both want and deserve.
Swift’s publicist Tree Paine responded in a statement posted on Twitter, writing: “Big Machine is trying to deflect and make this about money by saying she owes them but, [sic] an independent, professional auditor has determined that Big Machine owes Taylor $7.9 million dollars of unpaid royalties over several years.”
Many of the Swift’s famous friends have voiced their support.
“My heart is so heavy right now,” Selena Gomez wrote on Instagram Story. “It makes me sick and extremely angry. (I don’t mind if there may be retaliation) this is my opinion. It’s greed, manipulation and power. There is no heart or thought of anyone else’s. No respect for the words my friend has written since she was a 14 year old in her bedroom. You’ve robbed and crushed one of our best song writers of our time an opportunity to celebrate all of her music with fans and the world [sic].”
“Scott and Scooter, you know what the right thing to do is 🙏🙏,” Gigi Hadid tweeted. “Taylor and her fans deserve to celebrate the music!!”
“Solidarity with Taylor here, this sounds awful,” Lily Allen wrote on Twitter, “and people wonder why music hasn’t had its #MeToo moment?”
“Fuck that. We’re with you,” tweeted Tinashe.
“[W]hat a complete power pull @scooterbraun @scottborchetta,” tweeted Rebecca Black. “The way this industry is set up, there are times where we have to get legal permission to perform anything we share rights to. but [sic] denying access like this is solely to play with and diminish a person.”
“Not only are we looking at an awful business movie, (because one would be incentivized to allow Taylor to perform her songs seeing as it would direct to rediscovery of a catalog they currently profit off of) but this is just mean,” Halsey wrote on Instagram. “This is punishment. This is hoping to silence her from speaking about things by dangling this over her head.
“These people are protected because they inspire complicity with fear,” she continued, “banking on the illusion that people will not stand up for her. That the world will say she is over reacting. You’re barking up the wrong tree. It is her grace and patience in these moments that make her the Artist of the Decade.”
Has Justin Bieber chimed in on the drama?
As People reports, Bieber, a longtime friend and client of Braun, posted this cryptic message on his Instagram Story: “I’m having a rough day, thought I’d share, remind you ur not alone. Keep pushing.”