If you've been on Twitter or following news within the music industry over the past few days, you may have heard about the ongoing feud between music artist, Taylor Swift, and two music industry executives, Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta.
This feud has been publicly started by Taylor Swift, who took to Tumblr to vent her frustrations with Scott, Scooter, and other individuals. While the feud exists for a few reasons, Taylor's central issue is that Scott Borchetta sold his music label, "Big Machine Label Group" to Scooter Braun. What does this have to do with Taylor Swift? Well, "Big Machine Label Group" was Taylor Swift's label for over a decade and owned the rights (or masters) to six of her albums. Thus, by purchasing the company, Scooter Braun, the same guy who discovered Justin Bieber, now owns most of Taylor Swift's discography.
While the above was a condensed version of events, I'm going to continue the article by breaking down what she said on social media, and ultimately why I don't agree with most of her claims.
Taylor Swift begins her post by saying, "for years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my own work." This line brings up a question that some of you might have been wondering: why doesn't Taylor Swift own her music? The answer lies in the way that the majority of music label contracts are structured. Most of these contracts stipulate that they will give an artist a deal if the music label owns an artists' music/masters. Now, I'm not here to argue whether this is fair because I believe there are points to be made both on behalf of and against the label's contract terms.
However, I have to state the obvious: Taylor Swift voluntarily signed this contract. Whether or not Taylor, her fans, or I believe the agreement is fair or not is irrelevant because Taylor signed it knowing she wouldn't own her music. Ultimately, I think that Taylor got "buyer's remorse." In other words, while I'm sure that she put a tremendous amount of work into making her music, she probably felt upset that her commercial success came at the price of not owning her work.
Taylor Swift also mentioned in the post how she was 15 when she signed her contract. Truthfully, I don't know what I would have done in her position at that age, and I have sympathy for her situation. But again, her age or other factors shouldn't matter because, as far as we know, Taylor Swift voluntarily signed that contract knowing that she wouldn't own her music.
I would further extend this to say that since Scott and his label own her music, he has every right to do what he wants with it. Would it have been kind of him to offer Taylor the chance to purchase it? Absolutely. Does Taylor have the right to be upset about not being able to buy her music? Absolutely. I mean, this whole issue probably wouldn't have arisen in the first place if he just offered to sell it to her. However, he owns her music and has every right to what he wants with it even if it makes him look like a jerk.
One of Taylor's main issues with this sale, apart from the fact that she wasn't able to purchase her music, is that it was sold to Scooter Braun, whom she claims has bullied her and tried to "dismantle" her career. It would be foolish of me to even comment on these claims because I don't know what she's been through and her relationship with Scooter. If Scooter bullied her, she has my utmost sympathy. However, in terms of the music business, Scott still has every right to sell her masters to Scooter despite Scooter's respective relationship with Taylor.
There's an important point I have to make, which is that individuals who are not close to the situation should not be commenting on the relationship between Taylor and Scooter. I've been a bit disgusted by some of Swift's fans online who are speaking ill of Scooter, threatening to show up at his house, and other comments along these lines. In my opinion, we need to step back from these knee-jerk reactions to celebrities' claims because there's no evidence to suggest Taylor is being honest or dishonest. Thus, it's wrong of fans to attack individuals online that they don't even know. To be clear, I don't fault Taylor in this because obviously, she can't control what her fans do.
Aside from this central point, there were a few other issues that I had with her blog post.
Firstly, when talking about how Scott Borchetta values music, she writes, "he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it." The reason I have a problem with this statement is that it completely dismisses the role that label executives, like these men, have in facilitating an artist's success. I'm not suggesting that they contributed to the music itself, but they've invested a lot of money into artists through studio sessions, salaries for musicians, publicity, and other expenditures. Also, there's no guarantee that they get a return on their investment since some artists don't generate revenue, and the executives' invested money is lost. I'm also aware that Taylor claims to have invested her own money into her music and videos, and I applaud her for believing in herself. However, spending her own money was her decision. Thus, she shouldn't be putting that on Scott, Scooter, or anyone else.
All in all, to suggest that these label executives had no part in creating value for an artists' music is ridiculous. Hindsight bias is real, and it's easy to assume that your music would've been "commercially" valuable without the label that first signed you. However, that's not always the case. You may have been making awesome music, but it's your label that helps to push your music towards the masses.
Another issue I had with Taylor's post was her comments towards one of Scooter's clients, Kanye West. Now, Kanye and Taylor have had a well-publicized rocky relationship that stems from West interrupting her speech at the 2009 MTV VMAs. Despite being a Kanye West fan, I agree that Kanye shouldn't have bombarded the VMA stage. However, I don't agree with Taylor's effort to suggest Scooter is trying to "dismantle" her career through two things Kanye did.
Firstly, she mentions how Kim Kardashian "illegally" recorded a phone call between West and Swift, where Swift gave Kanye permission to use specific lyrics on his song "Famous." What baffles me about this situation is that Taylor lied about giving Kanye consent, and we only found out she lied through this snippet. Somehow, Taylor is acting like the victim here when she was the one who lied in the first place. Taylor has been documented to have used Kanye West to generate popularity and success, and this article by Buzzfeed sums up perfectly how Taylor did it. Thus, for Taylor to even attack Kanye West about the phone call when Taylor lied and has used Kanye for clicks, is ridiculous.
The second accusation is about Kanye using a naked wax figure of Taylor in his "Famous" music video. Honestly, I don't agree with Kanye's actions here because I would never have made a music video like this. While I understand Kanye's artistic goal with this video, if she wants to blame Kanye for this, she has every right to feel this way.
Even if I didn't address these two actions by Kanye, it doesn't matter if Kanye was wrong or if Scooter had anything to do with it. It still boils down to the same thing, which is that Scott has every right to sell her masters to whomever he pleases. Is it a shitty move to sell it to Scooter if he was bullying Taylor? One million percent. But again, we don't know if Scooter was bullying Taylor, and regardless, the harsh truth is that Scott can do whatever he feels is best for business.
All in all, I do feel bad for Taylor because I can only try to imagine what it's like to invest over a decade into music that you don't have ownership over. Also, she has every right to feel upset over her situation. However, she should not be blaming the likes of Scooter, Scott, Kanye, and others for her circumstances. It's self-inflicted. She signed away the masters to her music, and the harsh reality is that the people who own her masters can do whatever they want with it.
While I've spent most of this article deconstructing what I don't like, I'd like to share something that I agree with in Taylor's post. She ends her blog by saying, "hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make." She makes a solid point. People should always be aware of their decisions and the consequences of their choices. Taylor is the perfect role model to teach younger generations that they should strive to own their music. We've seen this shift in the music industry where individual artists own their masters, such as Chance The Rapper and Nipsey Hussle (RIP), and, hopefully, Taylor can inspire many more to do the same.