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Let Taylor Swift Perform Her Own Music, You Assholes

Taylor Swift performs at the Z100's iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2017 at Madison Square Garden on December 7, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

Perhaps no one is better at setting the charts or the internet afire with carefully calibrated sincerity than Taylor Swift, but at this moment I’m fine with her burning it all to the ground. As you may remember, Swift is in an on-going battle with Big Machine Label Group in the form of Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun, because these guys bought/own her back catalog of music and she understandably doesn’t like that. And this fight is far from over.

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Swift took to tumblr and twitter last night to explain the latest escalation between her and the producers that own her artistic output.

The short version is this: Swift claims that Braun and Borchetta are attempting to block both her upcoming performance of a medley of her songs at the American Music Awards and handicap an in development Netflix special about her because they are essentially holding her music hostage. She claims they won’t let her perform her old songs or use them in the special until she agrees not to re-record them and stops talking about the feud.

Swift’s claim is that she’s at a dead end in private negotiations about this and doesn’t know what to do, so she’s calling on fans and other artists that work with Braun and Borchetta to put pressure on them to set her music free, as well as to call out the Carlyle Group, the private equity firm that supplied the money for Braun and Borchetta to buy these rights. The gist seems to be she hope to recruit other artists to her cause against Big Machine and therefore gain more leverage.

The response has been, uh, swift, on both sides. Fans immediately launched a petition calling for Swift be able to use her songs. Which is, as of this writing, at 75,000 signatures.  Big Machine also responded, with their own statement, essentially calling Swift a liar and claiming “Taylor has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company.” They go on to note the amount of people that work for them and gaslighting Swift directly by telling her: “Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist.”

Without knowing the details, its possible that both sides are shaping the truth to their narrative, but Big Machine is being much bigger assholes about it and using language of manipulation and condescension that just doesn’t sit right. What we know is this: Braun and Borchetta own the rights to Swift’s music and as holder of those rights they control the deals that allow that music to be performed.

What’s likely happening is that they are asking Swift and the networks she will perform on, to pay money to perform her own songs, and probably a lot of money. Look at their language: “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.” That’s all true, but they do have the rights to what she performs and if and when her own songs are heard on air.

This is the tip of the iceberg of what feels like a nasty, protracted feud that’s gone public. This public fight is taking things to a whole new level, and it’s one that make things look really bad for Borchetta, Braun and Big Machine. These guys were already the villains in the story as seen by Swift’s fans, but their behavior here is doing them no favors.

The bottom line is: a private equity firm and a few jerks who publicly talk down to a grown woman like she’s being hysterical shouldn’t own the rights to music said woman wrote. It’s Taylor Swift’s art and she should be allowed to own it, or at least buy it back at a reasonable price. This fight is a shining example of how so many artists in the music industry get screwed out of the profits from their own work and creativity by a system built on a huge power imbalance. So please, don’t tell Taylor she needs to calm down.

(Via The Hollywood Reporter. Image: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason
Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.

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