Taylor Swift has just peeled back a new layer in the acrimonious feud between her and the men who own her back catalogue of music, Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta. We know they control all the music she recorded prior to Lover — which has reportedly lit a fire under Swift to rerecord her entire discography before jumping over to her new deal with Universal Music Group’s Republic Records — and based on what she posted to Instagram this afternoon, they also control what music she can perform on live telecasts. According to Swift, that means a planned career-spanning number she’s scheduled to put on at the American Music Awards, where she will be honored as the Artist of the Decade, can’t include pre-Lover tracks. It also — surprise! — affects a Netflix documentary that’s apparently been in progress for years but is now in turnaround as the rights to her music sit in limbo. Here’s the story in Swift’s own words, which she also posted to Twitter with the comment, “Don’t know what else to do.”
Swift has been very clear about her dislike of Braun, describing him as a bully, and while Borchetta was the one who took a bet on the star as a very young singer-songwriter back when she was without a label, she grew into the artist that largely built his (and now Braun’s) Big Machine outfit into what it is today. So, unable to solve the dispute privately up to this point, the artist is now calling on her Swifties to basically come for Borchetta, Braun, and the artists he represents to let them know they are not doing right by Swift. That talent roster includes names like Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, and Justin Bieber (who Taylor also is not on good terms with, but anyone enjoying Selena Gomez’s new music is possibly questioning their allegiance to the Biebs these days.) Swift has decided to marshal her famously, we’ll say, vocal online forces to make a scene with the Big Machine owners and their artists. The war just went from cold to hot.
Update, November 15 9:15am: Swift’s former label home Big Machine Records, now owned by Scooter Braun, has issued a statement denying her accusations. It insists, “Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist.” Big Machine claims it did not say she couldn’t perform at the AMAs and has not blocked her Netflix film. “We do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere,” the statement continues. In turn, the label is accusing Swift of contractually owing the company “millions of dollars and multiple assets.” Big Machine says that discussions with Swift’s team seemed headed toward a resolution as recently as the last two weeks. It continues, “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.” Read the full statement below.
“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.”
Update 10:15am: Taylor’s longtime publicist Tree Paine tweeted a statement in response to Big Machine, saying the record label was “trying to deflect and make this about money.”