We should all stand with Taylor Swift
The misogyny, power imbalance, and greed in the music industry
Okay, time to get angry.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a hardcore Taylor Swift fan. However, I’m not writing this article in an attempt to convert anyone else to become a fan alongside me. Instead, I’m writing this to shed a light on a detrimental aspect of the music industry that people too often overlook: the hostage-like mentality of legal documentation.
This probably seems a little intense for an article about a country-turned-pop singer, but let me give a run-down of the situation for those left in the dark.
In 2018, Taylor Swift announced that since her contract with her first ever record label, Big Machine Records, was up, she would be signing a new contract with Universal Music Group. Her contract with Big Machine dictated that she was to produce six albums under them, which she did, before her contract was up.
She was offered this deal, and agreed to it, when she was 14 years old.
It was was when she was arranging to leave Big Machine that she noted she was interested in purchasing back her masters – the six albums she released under the label – as she wanted to take ownership of her own work.
It was after this, in 2019, that it was announced that Scooter Braun, an American businessman known for representing popular mainstream talent such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato, purchased Big Machine Records from the label’s founder Scott Borchetta. This is when the seemingly private feud ramped up in the public.
Taylor Swift wrote a Tumblr post claiming that not only was she not told that Scooter Braun was purchasing the company, and therefore the rights to all of her previous work, but also that Scooter Braun had been “bullying” her for years, and that learning that Borchetta, whom she trusted, had sold the rights to his company and her music off without giving her the opportunity to buy them was devastating.
It was also during this time that Swift made it known that Borchetta and Braun attempted to blackmail Swift into re-signing with them in order to “earn” – as Swift states herself – her masters back.
Since writing her statement, Swift has claimed that she’s interested in re-recording her past work seeing as Big Machine refuses to sell her back her original songs, therefore rending the original records valueless.
The feud between Swift and her previous label only escalated this week when Swift posted on all her social media platforms that Borchetta and Braun were barring her from performing any of her old songs. She cited two major examples: the American Music Awards (AMAs) held on Nov. 24, and a Netflix documentary.
At the 2019 AMAs, Swift is to be awarded with the Artist of the Century award, in response to which she was going to perform a medley of songs that put her on the map, so to say. In a similar vein, Netflix has been working on a documentary about Swift’s life for the past few years and wishes to include, obviously, her old music.
Swift’s public statement claimed that Borchetta and Braun were refusing to let her do so. In response to the AMAs, the men claimed that it would be her re-recording her songs before she is legally allowed to do so in 2020, but they’ve also refused to give her the rights to use her music in her own documentary.
And, after that long-winded rundown of the current situation, we sit here today. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a bit upset about this.
I consider myself to be a creative. I see myself as someone who lives and breathes art in various forms, and therefore a lot of people I surround myself with in my life are creatives as well. I think being a creative makes me even more frustrated as I watch this situation unfold from the outside.
Swift has a hand in creating all of her own music, including writing an entire album on her own at 19. She’s stated herself that her previous albums were filled with “music [she] wrote on my bedroom floor and videos [she] dreamed up and paid for from the money [she] earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.”
I cannot imagine being placed in a similar position, where work from my deepest, innermost emotions was stolen and leveraged over me as a tactic to make money off of me, as if I was an object rather than a human.
Because the truth of the matter is that yes, Taylor Swift is a rich, white woman who can hold her own. She can fight this, she had been fighting this, and she will continue to fight this, but if this greed can happen to her, who’s to say it’s not happening to smaller artists? To artists of colour? To queer artists? To artists who don’t have as big of a platform?
If Taylor Swift, one of the most popular and powerful figures in modern music, is struggling with two white men who are holding her own work over her head and using it to threaten her to complacency, who’s to say this isn’t happening to artists around the world? Who’s to say other artists aren’t being blackmailed for their work but aren’t in a position to do anything about it? Who are forced to “behave,” as Swift herself penned.
This is, yet again, another example of a female in the entertainment industry being used and abused by men who did nothing to place her where she is today. Swift put herself in the position she’s currently in thanks to her hard work, passion, dedication, and talent. Yet, despite that, men who had no hand in her work, but who own it, are using her passionate, soul-filled work against her to force money, compliance, and respect out of her.
And they’re infuriated that it isn’t working.
And it should continue to not work. Artists deserve the rights to their own music. Women deserve to be treated as people rather than money-making objects. Men do not deserve to threaten women into silence and blackmail them in complicity in acts of greed.