Borchetta and 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 wrote. She also stated the Big Machine executives had “declined the use of my older music or performance footage” for a Netflix documentary about the past few years of her life.
“Scott Borchetta told my team that they’ll allow me to use my music only if I do these things: 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,” she continued. “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.
“The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished. This is WRONG. Neither of these men had a hand in the writing of those songs."
Big Machine responded with its own statement early Friday, writing that its executives were “shocked” by Swift’s message and denying they had blocked her AMAs performance or Netflix documentary. While the statement didn’t address whether the label believes a recorded performance constitutes rerecording — therefore determining whether Swift would be allowed to perform her older hits at the AMAs — it noted the label had “continued to honor all her requests to license her catalog to third parties.”
“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,” Big Machine’s statement reads, later claiming Swift had denied several invitations to negotiate privately and instead “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.”
About an hour later, Swift’s publicist Tree Paine countered with a message she said the singer’s team received from Big Machine in late October: The label would “not agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recording restrictions” for the Netflix documentary. Paine also wrote that Borchetta had denied Swift’s request to perform older hits at the AMAs, noting that at a recent live event, Swift was able to perform songs only off “Lover,” her first album with Universal Music Group.
Paine concluded by claiming that, while Big Machine says Swift owes them money, an “independent, professional auditor” determined the label owes her $7.9 million in unpaid royalties.
Swift signed to Big Machine as a teenager and remained with the label until she left for Universal last year. Over the course of that relationship, her father, Scott Swift, became a Big Machine shareholder.
But when Braun acquired the label in June, Swift reacted on Tumblr by calling the news “my worst case scenario.” The difficult relationship between the singer and Braun, who formerly managed Kanye West and continues to work with Justin Bieber, dates from a decade ago, when West famously interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. While Bieber has stood by Braun’s side amid the public feud, other artists such as Halsey and the band Haim have defended Swift.
Last year, Variety reported that Big Machine “has derived as much as 80 percent of its revenue from Swift’s music in recent years” and, as such, was unlikely to hand over one of their greatest assets. Swift’s contract states that she can rerecord her first five albums starting in November 2020, which, she wrote on Thursday, makes the probability of performing at any recorded events between now and then “a question mark.”
In a rather unusual move for an artist of her caliber, Swift also asked fans to let Borchetta and Braun, as well as Braun’s clients, “know how you feel” about her situation. Within an hour, her tweet had amassed nearly 200,000 likes and more than 70,000 retweets.