Taylor Swift, who is to be honored as the Artist of the Decade at the American Music Awards on Nov. 24, yesterday enlisted her considerable base of consumers in a battle against her erstwhile record label, Big Machine, and both its new and former owners. She says they are preventing her from performing a medley of her original songs on the show.
In a tweet titled “Don’t know what else to do,” Swift laid out her case against Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta, who sold the label to Braun’s Ithaca Holdings for more than $300 million in June and remains as president and CEO. Swift left the label around that time, signing with Universal Music Group.
“The message being sent to me is very clear,” she writes. Be a good little girl and shut up. Otherwise you’ll be punished.”
“The feud, to put it briefly, stems from the fact that Swift doesn’t own the master recordings to her older albums. She announced over the summer that she would remedy the situation by rerecording most of the music she made under her former label, Big Machine Records, which Borchetta founded and Braun acquired. But on Thursday, she accused the men of ‘exercising tyrannical control’ by barring her from performing some of that music…,” Sonia Rao writes for The Washington Post.
“On top of that, Swift revealed Netflix is making a documentary about her life, but she says Scooter and Scott have declined the use of her older music and performance footage for that project too ... UNLESS she bows down to their demands,” according to TMZ.
“Embedded in her plea to fans to make their feelings known to Braun and Borchetta is what might be referred to as burying the lead: Swift says Netflix has been working on a documentary about her for several years. 'This isn’t the way I had planned on telling you this news,’ she writes,” Chris Willman reports for Variety.
Reuters’ Rich McKay is among those who report that Borchetta and Braun could not be reached immediately for comment.
Swift implored more than 85 million followers to lend some vocal backup to the cause.
“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 wrote.
“Fans responded, tagging Messrs. Braun and Borchetta in tweets. One fan, Michele Shirley, said: ‘Mr. Borchetta, I ask that you please reverse your decision to not allow Taylor Swift the opportunity to sing her own songs while she’s being honored.’ #IStandWithTaylor and #FreeTaylor were among the top-trending hashtags on Twitter on Thursday evening,” writes Anne Steele for The Wall Street Journal.
As of 7:15 a.m. ET this morning, Swift’s Twitter post had more than 205,000 retweets and 606,000 likes.
“A Change.org petition started by fan Jade Rossi has raced past 50,000 signatures,” Lars Brandle writes for Billboard. It was at 63,000 this morning.
And singer Halsey “is in TayTay’s corner,” too, Brandle reports.
“Not only are we looking at an awful business move … but this is just mean. This is punishment. This is hoping to silence her from speaking about things by dangling this over her head,” Halsey writes in her Instagram Stories.
“These people are protected because they inspire complicity with fear. 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 Artist of the Decade,” Halsey continues.
The entertainers have more than a fan’s interest on where this all leads, of course.
“Ms. Swift’s tussle with her former label has brought new attention to master-recording rights, an issue with significance in the streaming era. In most traditional record deals, an artist signs away ownership of master recordings, in exchange for an upfront payment and royalties from future sales. Superstars have sometimes been able to use contract renegotiations to gain ownership of their masters,” the WSJ’s Steele observes.
Or, as Swift wrote, “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.”