Earlier this year, it was revealed that Taylor Swift’s entire music catalog (prior to her most recent album, Lover) was sold—and it caused some serious drama in the music industry. A quick summary: Swift’s former label—Big Machine Records, which was founded by Scott Borchetta—was acquired by Scooter Braun, who manages several high-profile artists including Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. “This is my worst case scenario,” the singer wrote on Tumblr at the time. “This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept.”
“I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world,” she continued. “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.” Naturally, Swift’s post led to a lot of conversations about artists’ rights and many in the music industry took sides. Borchetta disputed Swift’s version of the story, however. “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,” he said.
Put simply, Swift no longer owns the masters to her first six studio albums and cannot control exactly how or when they are used. Now, she claims Borchetta and Braun are not allowing her to perform her own music at the AMAs. She took to social media to tell her side of the story, writing, “Don’t know what else to do.”
“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,” she posted on Instagram and Twitter. “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.”
Swift adds that Netflix is working on a documentary about her life, and the rights to her music have not been cleared for use. “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,” she said. “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.”
She then asks for fans and other artists to let Braun and Borchetta know how they feel about the matter. “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,” she continues. “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.”
A number of celebrities including Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid, and Halsey have already voiced their support for Swift. Gomez describes the situation as being about “greed, manipulation, and power.” Adds Hadid, “Scott and Scooter, you know what the right thing to do is. Taylor and her fans deserve to celebrate the music!!”
And over 65,000 fans and counting have signed a Change.org petition in support of Swift. “Not allowing her to use her music in any projects is manipulative and power hungry, all over music SHE WROTE,” it reads. Letting them get away with this will continue the disgusting sexism of the music industry as well manipulation of smaller/upcoming artists who just want to create art.”
“At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMA’s or block her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere,” Big Machine Label Group said in a statement to CBS News.
It sounds like this situation is far from over.