Taylor Swift’s simmering disagreement with Big Machine has boiled over, with both sides issuing strongly-worded statements in a new dispute over the superstar singer-songwriter’s scheduled appearance at the American Music Awards.
Swift made the first move last night (November 14) with a statement on social media headed ‘Don’t know what else to do’.
In the statement, Swift said Big Machine boss Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun, whose Ithaca Holdings purchased Big Machine for $300 million in June, were blocking her from performing her old songs at the November 24 AMAs, at which Swift will pick up the Artist Of The Decade gong.
“I’ve been planning to perform a medley of my hits throughout the decade on the show,” she said. “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 said her performance at the show was now in doubt, and that Borchetta and Braun had also declined to license her old music for an in-the-works Netflix documentary “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,” the statement continued. “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.
“This is wrong,” she added. “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.”
Swift asked her fans to raise the issue with Borchetta, Braun and Braun’s stable of management clients in order to “talk some sense into the men who are exercising tyrannical control over someone who just wants to play the music live”. She also appealed for help from The Carlyle Group, which financed the Big Machine deal.
“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.”
Swift’s statement caused an immediate social media storm and prompted a denial from Big Machine this morning.
“As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her statements yesterday based on false information,” said a statement. “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 honour all of her requests to license her catalogue 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,” the statement continued. “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. Rumours 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.”
Hot on the heels of that, Swift's PR rep Tree Paine issued a statement denying Big Machine's claims and saying Big Machine Label Group's VP of rights management and business affairs had sent Team Swift a communication saying: "Please be advised that BMLG will not agree to issue licences for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recording restrictions in connection with these two projects: The Netflix documentary and the Alibaba "Double Eleven" event".
The statement said that Swift played only songs from her smash hit new album Lover at the Alibaba event "to avoid an argument over rights". It concluded: "Please notice in Big Machine's statement they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post.
"Lastly, Big Machine is trying to deflect and make this about money by saying she owes them but, an independent, professional auditor has determined that Big Machine owes Taylor $7.9 million of upaid royalties over several years."
The row comes a week after Music Week’s Taylor Swift cover story caused a global media sensation. In that interview, Swift contrasted her new deal with Universal’s Republic Records with her Big Machine contract, stating: “In my previous situation, there were creative constraints, issues that we had over the years. I’ve always given 100% to projects, I always over-delivered, thinking that that generosity would be returned to me. But I ended up finding that generosity in a new situation with a new label that understands that I deserve to own what I make."
Swift has become a leading advocate for artists' and songwriters' rights, and ensured her contract granted her ownership of her future masters.
“That meant so much to me because it was given over to me so freely,” she continued. “When someone just looks at you and says ‘Yes, you deserve what you want’, after a decade or more of being told, ‘I’m not sure you deserve what you want’ – there’s a freedom that comes with that. It’s like when people find ‘the one’ they’re like, ‘It was easy, I just knew and I felt free’. All of a sudden you’re being told you’re worth exactly, no, more than what you thought you were worth. And that made me feel I could make an album that was exactly what I wanted to make.”