On the Battlefield with Taylor Swift

You either love her or hate her, but either way, you have to have some respect for Taylor Swift. With seven best-selling albums under her belt, she’s easily one of the most successful artists of our time. In fact, she’s being named Artist of the Decade at the American Music Awards — the first woman to ever earn the title.

I’ll start off by stating the obvious: I’m definitely biased. I’ve been eyeing Taylor Swift’s every move in the music industry since I was seven years old, sitting criss-cross on my living room floor, the static popping off the TV while I religiously watched the music video for “Teardrops On My Guitar” as it aired on the Disney Channel. 

To be fair, so have millions of other girls, and there’s a reason behind it. Swift’s music is relatable, dynamic, and just plain fun to listen to. Contrary to popular belief, not all of her songs are about breakups! Her discography spans soft, melodic songs about the troubles of growing up to raw cuts on her mother’s cancer diagnosis — also including lyrics about anxiety, navigating fame, and expressing apologies in the only way she knows how: through her music. 

Swift is one of the most awarded artists of all time. At 29 years old, Swift has 10 Grammy Awards and 23 Billboard Awards; she seems to break her own records at every new release. It’s Madonna-level success in the ’00s.

Yet, with all this being said, society seems to have a personal vendetta against Swift. The media has been obsessed with her downfalls since day one. Reporting has always been more focused on finding the nitty-gritty details of her most recent breakup and some formulated drama than her tremendous successes and generous donations to fans in need.  

In recent months, it hasn’t been the media that’s been targeting Swift — it’s her ex-record label, Big Machine Records.

Over the summer, news broke that Scott Borchetta, the previous owner of Big Machine Records, had sold out to music mogul Scooter Braun for $300 million, without even giving Swift the opportunity to buy her own work. Swift released a statement via Tumblr stating that she had not been informed of the sale of her master tracks, and everything went downhill from there.

 

https://taylorswift.tumblr.com/post/185958366550/for-years-i-asked-pleaded-for-a-chance-to-own-my

 

 

Once her latest album Lover was released, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 and accounting for 27% of all US music sales that week, it seemed as though the storm had passed. The drama seemed lulled, at least until Swift could re-record her masters.

However, this past Thursday, Swift took to Tumblr again in a post titled, “Don’t know what else to do,” this time asking for help from her fans and supporters within the music industry. According to Swift, Braun and Borchetta had refused her the licensing to play a medley of her past hits when receiving the AMA’s Artist of the Decade Award, claiming that it would breach their contract and stand as a “recording” of her tracks before she is legally allowed to. Swift also stated that they denied the use of previous performances in a previously unannounced Netflix documentary about her life. 

 

 

Once again, Borchetta and Braun are waving Swift’s masters in her face, letting her know that they own her work and are using it to assert control over her. Big Machine Records came out with a flimsy response statement, saying that Swift’s posts were full of “false information,” and claiming that she contractually owes the label millions in royalties. 

But Swift, who is used to being stabbed in the back, was ready to prove her case. Swift’s publicist, Tree Paine, came back with a response on Twitter, loaded with time stamps and what we’re calling “receipts.”  

 

 

#IStandWithTaylor and #FreeTaylor became the top two trending hashtags on Twitter worldwide, with many celebrities and politicians chiming in with their support and calling for Borchetta and Braun to let Swift use her music. People were calling the two moguls out for taking the credit for “making Taylor Swift” when the label wouldn’t have likely survived without her name being attached to it.

Most shocking, however, is the utter silence from her male collaborators and friends. 

Days prior to Swift’s plea for support, she released a remix of her song “Lover” featuring Shawn Mendes. Previously, Swift had endorsed Mendes’ new releases, not to mention helping him jumpstart his career by having him perform as an opening act for her massively successful 1989 World Tour. He has not spoken up for Swift or mentioned support in any way

Criticism has also been placed on Ed Sheeran, whose success in the United States can be traced back to help from Swift too, as he was the opening act during her Red Tour and featured on numerous tracks. Swift praises Sheeran on the regular, mentioning him as one of her closest friends.

Sheeran’s silence has been louder than Mendes’, as he had his manager say that he has been supporting Swift in private. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if Sheeran had not posted public support for Justin Bieber, who has come to Braun’s defense and even subtly mocked Swift on social media over the past few months.  

Surprisingly, Bieber was once an opening act for Swift during her Fearless tour.

To use Swift’s own words off of her recent track “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” (an absolute bop discussing American politics through the lens of high school culture — go listen), “Boys will be boys, then where are the wise men? Darling, I'm scared.”

Why haven’t more men spoken up to support Swift in the music industry? Are they truly just not wanting to burn bridges? It’s sad to watch Swift’s success be burdened by men who had no hand in creating her. Yes, Borchetta signed her to a label, but she created her own success. His success in the industry is due to her hard work. 

Besides the lack of support, it can’t be ignored that Swift has been able to perform her old music without retaliation from Braun and Borchetta before the AMAs. Is this not them reminding her that they basically own her life’s work? In her Tumblr post she says they would give her the permission required if she stopped talking about them and didn’t remaster her tracks — is this not a form of blackmail?

The blatantly obvious, systematic sexism that plagues the music industry has truly surfaced over the past year, and it’s sad that in the 13th year of her record-breaking career, Taylor Swift would have to be at the heart of it. As an artist, she has defined an entire generation. She writes or co-writes every single song that she has ever released, and her Spotify artist collection totals 171 songs (which isn’t even her complete collection.) She’s an absolute master of her craft — creating amazing music.  

Erica Cobb on Daily Blast LIVE does an excellent job of describing the situation to a guest on the show, who claimed that Swift is “playing the victim again.”

We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for our Artist of the Decade as the story surrounding the shady business that haunts her music continues to unfold. Regardless of where your opinion on Swift stands, this situation cannot and should not be ignored. If someone with as much power in the industry as Swift is having people control her life, imagine what it must be like for smaller artists (here’s a hint — it isn’t fun.) 

 

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