Unleash the Swifties: Taylor Swift has tapped her millions-strong social media fan base to pressure the heads of her former label, who she says are wielding “tyrannical control” over her music.
The global superstar’s latest chess move has reignited her months-long public feud with Big Machine Label Group, spotlighting the music industry’s age-old issue of who keeps the keys to an artist’s work.
The 29-year-old pop singer known for her calculating social media strategy dropped a Tumblr post late Thursday accusing the Big Machine heads of blocking her from performing on television she’s set to do a career-spanning medley at this month’s American Music Awards, where she’ll receive an Artist of the Decade honor and releasing a Netflix documentary.
She implied Big Machine which has rebuffed the accusations was reacting to her plans to re-record her early albums, by saying that performing on television “would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year.”
This summer Swift began publicly sparring with industry mogul Scooter Braun over his company’s purchase of her previous label of a decade, which gave him a majority stake in the master recordings of her first six albums.
Swift vowed to regain command of those albums by making her own new masters, which she says she’s contractually allowed to start on in November 2020. In her post pleading for support from fans and fellow artists, Swift alluded to bullying from Braun and Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta.
Both parties have referenced a dispute over millions of dollars but voiced disagreement over who owes what. “The message being sent to me is very clear,” Swift said.Swift is now at Universal, with a contract under which she owns her work.
Swift has revived debate over music ownership in an era where streaming rules, and young artists who are savvy with social media increasingly are demanding more autonomy. “Signing and retaining the biggest acts in the world — or even a brand new act that there’s a bidding war for has gotten a lot more expensive,” said Larry Miller, director of New York University’s music business program.
“Some companies are occasionally willing to do things that have been contrary to the way their business model works.” Still, Miller said the major labels retain leverage when it comes to creating top stars: “In 2019 anyone can make a piece of music today on their laptop and smash it out.”
But “there’s a big difference between being theoretically discoverable and having an army of people… to make you the biggest artist,” he said. Swift, certainly a top global artist, says her stand is in part to give a voice to less powerful musicians.
“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,” she said.