It seemed like things had possibly reached a cease-fire behind the scenes in the battle between Taylor Swift and new record label owner Scooter Braun. Braun had applauded Swift’s seventh studio album Lover on social media, calling it “brilliant” and Swift had been silent, possibly indicating that icy relations had thawed but things have now reached a boiling point, with Swift pleading for help from her fans and other artists to pressure Braun and the label owners into allowing her to play her own music. That she wrote.
On Thursday, Swift turned to social media to get her message out. Revealing that weeks of talks between her team and the powers that be had failed to yield a positive outcome, Swift said that she had no choice but to ask her fans and famous artists managed by Braun, including Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato, to help her convince the pair that Swift should be allowed to perform her back catalogue, which includes everything released pre-Lover.
In the lengthy post, Swift says that she was hoping to perform a medley of her songs at the upcoming American Music Awards where she is receiving the Artist of the Decade Award but has been barred from doing so by Braun—so, expect to hear “The Man” on a loop instead.
Swift also revealed that she’s been working with Netflix on a documentary about the past few years of her life, with Braun also allegedly barring the studio from using music or performance footage recorded while she was still with Big Machine Records.
Don’t know what else to do pic.twitter.com/1uBrXwviTS
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 14, 2019
According to Swift, a settlement could be reached where she would be able to play her own music if she agrees to not re-record her old music, which she is planning to do once her contract ends in 2020. She must also refrain from speaking publicly about Braun and former Big Machine Records owner Scott Borchetta. “The message being sent to me is very clear,” wrote Swift. “Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished.”
Writing that she hopes coming forward will save other artists from a similar fate, Swift also pleaded with her fans and musicians under Braun’s management to help her “…talk some sense into the men who are exercising tyrannical control over someone who just wants to play the music she wrote.”
Swift closed the note by saying her future is currently unknown. “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 AMAs, the Netflix documentary and any other recorded events I am planning to play until November of 2020 are a question mark. I love you guys and I thought you should know what’s been going on.”
The latest responses
In a statement released Friday morning by Big Machine Records, the company, including Borchetta and Braun, have never barred Swift from performing her songs at the AMAs, or said that Netflix could not use her music, adding that they legally don’t have the right to take that action.
The label expressed shock at Taylor’s allegations and concerned for the safety of their employees following her post. “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,” reads the statement.
“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.”
The message ends with a hope that Taylor will reopen the lines of communication and that if she does so, they’ll be waiting with “respect, kindness and support.” “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.”
Since then, TMZ spoke to an unnamed executive at Big Machine Records, who confirmed that Swift is fully within her rights to perform music she wrote and recorded as an artist under the label. “Taylor Swift can 100% perform all of her catalog, past and present, on the AMAs,” said the exec, adding “Our confusion with her statement is that we have no legal right to stop this and have never tried. She and her team both know this.” TMZ also noted that Swift performed her 2014 hit “Shake It Off” during her August 22 performance on Good Morning America.
On the other side is Swift’s publicist Tree Paine, who tweeted the date and time that a legal notice was sent and received on October 28 from Big Machine Records to Swift, informing the singer that they would not issue waivers for her old songs to be played during the Netflix special or performed during the Double Eleven event. Paine says that Big Machine did say Swift is not allowed to perform her songs during the AMAs and alleges that the label is also incorrect about their statement that Swift owes the label money, saying that in fact an independent auditor determined that Swift is owed $7.9 million in unpaid royalties.
Statement regarding Big Machine pic.twitter.com/9ZhjE1ntHe
— Tree Paine (@treepaine) November 15, 2019
While none of Braun’s artists have yet commented following Swift’s plea, others have swiftly come to her defence, including longtime BFF Selena Gomez, who at this point is one of the only major artists to make a statement (Ed? Shawn? Katy?) and Swifties united to get the hashtag #IStandWithTaylor trending on Twitter.
Gomez published a passionate letter in support of her friend, using the words “greed, manipulation and power” to describe Braun’s decision to block Swift.
— Taylor Swift Facts (@blessedswifty) November 15, 2019
Camila Cabello spoke out about the important of Swift’s music not just to her, but to Swift’s millions of fans around the world.
📸 | Camila Cabello via her Instagram Story #IStandWithTaylor
“A record label cant be allowed to do this to an artist…whatever needs to happen to get this situation fixed, needs to happen.” pic.twitter.com/DuNgOi42nR
— Taylor Swift Updates (@TSUpdatesNYBU) November 15, 2019
Hilary Duff has since deleted her Instagram Story, but a screengrab shows the singer and actor supporting Swift and commenting on firing Braun as her manager.
— A 🇨🇦 (@theswiftone13) November 15, 2019
Longtime Swift support Halsey said that she believes Braun is hoping the world will accuse Swift of overreacting, which Halsey says is not only false, but demeaning.
📲 IG | Halsey supporting Taylor via Instagram story #IStandWithTaylor
“It is her grace and patience in these moments that make her Artist of the Decade.” pic.twitter.com/zC12Yq2x9G
— Taylor Swift News (@TSwiftNZ) November 15, 2019
British singer Lily Allen engaged with several Twitter followers about Swift’s situation, noting that music contracts are confusing to adults, let along teens who are new to the music industry.
She was 16 or something. Not allowed to drink or have sex, but somehow allowed to sign away her life.
— LILY ALLEN 2.0 (@lilyallen) November 15, 2019
Model and longtime pal Gigi Hadid asked the powers at play to reconsider their position.
Scott and Scooter, you know what the right thing to do is 🙏🙏
Taylor and her fans deserve to celebrate the music!!
— Gigi Hadid (@GiGiHadid) November 15, 2019
Singer Sara Bareilles called the situation an ‘outrageous abuse of power.’
— Sara Bareilles (@SaraBareilles) November 15, 2019
Even writer Roxane Gay, who admits that she is not a Swiftie, touched on the situation, which she says shows just how misogynistic business dealings can be for women when one of the most famous women in the world is being silenced.
As for new music that Swift can perform, the singer dropped the single “Beautiful Ghosts” from the upcoming Cats movie on Friday morning. Swift wrote the hauntingly beautiful track with musical theatre legend Andrew Lloyd Weber. The song is a big theatrical number but it’s definitely been overshadowed by the other Taylor Swift news.
The American Music Awards air Nov 24 at 8ET on CTV.