But in last week’s post, Swift asked for her fans’ help in the latest fight: She was being honored with the Artist of the Decade Award at the American Music Awards (which air Sunday on ABC) and planned to perform a medley of her hits over the past 10 years. However, she said, Braun and Scott Borchetta — the Big Machine president — were blocking her from performing her old songs on the telecast because it constituted “re-recording” of her music, which would violate her contract that is in effect until November 2020. Her publicist added that Borchetta “flatly denied” the request to perform her music.
Swift wrote that Borchetta offered to grant her permission if she 1) didn’t rerecord all of her old albums next year, which she has announced she’s planning to do when her contract is up in November; and 2) stopped talking about him and Braun in public.
“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,” Swift wrote to her hundreds of millions of followers across Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. “Please let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this.” She implored Braun’s artist clients — who include Bieber, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato — to speak out: “I’m hoping that maybe they can talk some sense into the men who are exercising tyrannical control over someone who just wants to play the music she wrote.”
This went over exactly how you might expect: online pandemonium. Swift’s famously passionate fan base was livid. They bombarded Braun and Borchetta’s Twitter feeds and Instagram pages, furious that Swift’s music was being “held hostage.” Some of Swift’s famous pals — Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid, Cara Delevingne — posted messages defending their friend. Sara Bareilles deemed it an “outrageous abuse of power and completely unforgivable.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Democratic presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted their support.
On the other hand, some people blasted Swift for positioning herself as the victim when she had signed a recording contract, and for “weaponizing” her fans; “Entertainment Tonight” reported that Big Machine’s Nashville offices closed early one day last week because of death threats. (The label did not return multiple requests for comment.) Braun stayed quiet on the situation until Friday morning, when he released a long social media statement of his own.
“Since your public statement last week there have been numerous death threats directed at my family,” he wrote. He added that while he previously said he wouldn’t participate in a “social media war,” he arrived home to discover “my wife had received a phone call threatening the safety of our children, as well as other threats.” He included an image of a comment from an Instagram user that read, “Why dont you just die withyour children?? I will buy a gun tmr and them shoot you allin the head.”
“I won’t go in to the details of this past week. I have been at a loss. Thinking of my wife and children, my team and their families, I have gone through a range of emotions on how to deal with this,” Braun said. “I write this now only after a deep breath and much reflection. I am certain there is no situation ever worth jeopardizing anyone’s safety.”
He wrote that he was “shocked and disheartened” by her reaction to his Big Machine deal, and had been trying for months to set up a meeting with Swift — through her team and mutual friends — with no luck. “At this point with safety becoming a concern I have no choice other than to publicly ask for us to come together and try to find a resolution,” he wrote. “The game of telephone isn’t working.” As of Friday afternoon, Swift had not responded, and her publicist could not be reached for comment.
So how did things get this dire? Obviously, the main point of contention is that Swift’s music is worth millions — Billboard reported that in 2018, Swift’s songs made up 34 percent of the label’s sales and streaming activity in the United States.
But Swift also built her career on a deeply personal relationship with her fans, and was one of the first country singers to employ social media to bond with listeners. She only grew more savvy about connecting with fans over time: never charging for meet-and-greets, commenting on random Instagram posts, sending fans Christmas presents. As a result, when she frames a financial and contractual issue as a personal one about her art, her fiercely loyal Swifties are ready to go to battle.
“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 wrote. “So this is where I’m asking for your help.” And so the Swift fans went to work, still riled up from her initial post over the summer — where she revealed that Borchetta sold her masters to Braun, without her knowledge according to her — that reignited the debate about how musicians should own their work.
As negotiations about the AMAs were going on behind the scenes, in public there were warring statements: Big Machine wrote that Swift’s narrative “did not exist” and added that she enlisted her fans “in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families.” Tree Paine, Swift’s publicist, fired back with a tweet that noted the label didn’t deny Swift’s specific claims.
Then, this past Monday, the AMAs issue seemed resolved: Big Machine said it informed Dick Clark Productions, the producer of the AMAs, “that they have agreed all licenses of their artists’ performances to stream post show and for re-broadcast on mutually approved platforms.” In a please leave us out of this move, Dick Clark Productions rebutted quickly they made no agreement with Big Machine, and all issues should be dealt with through Swift’s management.
In the end, the only winner here might be ABC, which just got more publicity for the American Music Awards than the network ever could have dreamed. There’s no question that millions will be tuned in to see Swift: What songs will she end up performing? What will she say during a sure-to-be-bombshell acceptance speech?
TMZ reported that Braun won’t be in attendance at the AMAs. But in his post to Swift, another line stuck out as he pleaded with her to meet with him: “Many have told me that a meeting will never happen as this is not about truth or resolution but instead a narrative for you,” he wrote, a dig that gets at Swift’s well-documented obsession with trying to control her public image and narrative.
That has backfired in the past, specifically with one of Braun’s former clients, Kanye West — Swift wrote a whole album, “Reputation,” about the experience, and has alleged that Braun was tied into that situation. So it remains to be seen whether making her fight with Braun so public — especially with his new statement — will be worth the controversy.