Taylor Swift's former label denies blocking her from performing

Big Machine claims that Swift owes ‘millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company’, allegations that representatives for the singer deny

Taylor Swift’s former record label has denied the singer’s allegations that it has blocked her from performing material that she recorded for the label at the upcoming American music awards, and that it is preventing the release of a planned Netflix documentary.

Swift made the allegations in a tweet posted on 14 November, imploring fans to make their feelings known to Big Machine Label Group executives Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun.

On 15 November, BMLG issued a statement describing Swift’s allegations as being based on “false information” and issued new allegations that Swift “has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company”.

They said that “progress” had recently been made on the matter of Swift’s alleged debts, to which they had hoped to find a “private and mutually satisfactory solution” until the singer “[enlisted] her fanbase in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families”.

Representatives for Swift responded with a statement accusing the label of “trying to deflect and make this about money by saying she owes them”. They claimed that “an independent, professional auditor has determined that Big Machine owes Taylor $7.9m of unpaid royalties over several years.”

The singer’s representatives reiterated Swift’s claims that she had been prevented from performing material from her first six albums, which are the property of BMLG, at the AMAs and in her Netflix documentary, stating that Borchetta had yesterday “flatly denied the request”.

In an email dated 28 October seen by the Guardian, a BMLG executive explicitly states that the label “will not agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recording restrictions in connection with the Netflix documentary and the Alibaba ‘Double Eleven’ event’”, a Chinese sales gala at which Swift performed earlier this week.

Swift’s representatives issued a statement clarifying that Swift only performed material from her 2019 album Lover – her first for Universal Music Group – at the event in Shanghai “as it was clear that BMLG felt any televised performance of catalogue songs violated her agreement”.

The Guardian has contacted BMLG for further comment.

The battle over Swift’s music has regularly erupted into the public sphere since she left BMLG – whose founder and chief executive, Borchetta, signed her in her teens – for Universal Music Group in November 2018. The UMG deal gave her ownership of her master recordings at that label – something she did not have at BMLG.

In June Borchetta sold BMLG, and along with it Swift’s masters, to Braun, who manages Justin Bieber and Kanye West, and who Swift claimed was responsible for years of “incessant, manipulative bullying” of her.

As a way of reclaiming some control over her music, Swift said in August that she planned to record copycat versions of her back catalogue from November next year.

Don’t know what else to do pic.twitter.com/1uBrXwviTS

— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 14, 2019

In the note posted to Twitter, Swift said she had been planning to perform a medley of her hits at the AMAs, which will be broadcast on US television.

But the singer also alleged she had been told by Braun and Borchetta that she was “not allowed to perform my old songs on television because that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year”.

The pair had allegedly also thrown a spanner in the works of the Netflix documentary by declining the use of her older music or performance footage for the project, “even though there is no mention of either of them or Big Machine Records anywhere in the film”, Swift said.

She claimed that Borchetta would allow their use of the assets if Swift agreed to not re-record her songs in 2020 and remained silent on the topic of himself and Braun.

BMLG has been reported to make up to 80% of its revenue from Swift’s music.

“The message being sent to me is very clear,” Swift wrote. “Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished. This is WRONG …

“Right now, my performance at the AMAs, the Netflix documentary and any other recorded events I am planning to play until November 2020 are a question mark. I’ve tried to work this out privately through my team but have not been able to resolve anything.”

She also indirectly appealed to other artists managed by Braun, saying she hoped 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”.

“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,” Swift wrote.

“I just want to perform MY OWN music. That’s it.”


Stephanie Convery and Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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