On Thursday night, Taylor Swift posted a lengthy statement on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram updating the world on her ongoing legal battle with Scooter Braun. Braun bought the company that originally signed Swift, Big Machine Label Group—along with the rights to the entirety of Swift's pre-Lover catalogue—from the label's founder, Scott Borchetta, this past June. At the time, Swift decried the move as her "worst case scenario" and announced her plans to re-record her early music in 2020, when she's legally able to do so. But in the meantime, the situation has spun fully out of control: According to Swift, Braun and Borchetta are banning her from performing any of her pre-Lover music at the upcoming American Music Awards, where she'll receive the Artist of the Decade award, or including it in an upcoming Netflix documentary about her career.
So, Swift implored her fans, "Please let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this." And indeed they did. Selena Gomez, Halsey, Tinashe, and Camila Cabello are just a few of the celebrities who've voiced their support for Swift. Swifties have come out in full force—some by doxxing Braun. And then, on Friday morning, Big Machine released a statement, which immediately sent Swifties into yet another tail spin: "As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her Tumblr statements yesterday based on false information," it begins.
But what actually is false? Read on for a factual breakdown of the mess, here.
Do Borchetta and Braun actually have the power to prevent Swift's Netflix special or performance at the AMAs?
No—Big Machine admits as much in its statement, writing that "At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere." But that's besides the point, because Swift never claimed that they did possess that power; she clearly stated that Big Machine was instead preventing her from performing or featuring any of her music pre-Lover, both in general and more specifically in her Netflix special and at the AMAs.
Have Borchetta and Braun definitively decided to ban Swift from performing and featuring pre-Lover music—and is that even legal?
Unfortunately for Swift, yes. According to Swift's representative, Tree Paine, Big Machine explicitly declined to "issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recording restrictions" for Netflix and the AMAs. According to Swift, they claim that both would technically defy the contractual stipulation that she can't "re-record" any of her music before 2020.
But did Swift actually sell her music to Borchetta and Braun?
Not explicitly, no; the issue stems almost entirely from the contract that Swift signed with Borchetta in 2006, when she was all of 15. And while Swift's contractual obligations to Big Machine ended in November, her increasingly contentious relationship with the label has continued. Earlier this year, she declined to renew her contract with Big Machine, which proposed that Swift could "earn" the rights to one album back for each new album she released, in part because she knew that Borchetta was planning to sell the company.
And sell the company Borchetta did. Braun purchased the label—as well as the master recordings of Swift's six studio albums and two EPs—for $300 million in June. "Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy," Swift wrote after the news broke. "When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever."
Why are Borchetta and Braun doing this to Swift?
Seemingly simply out of spite. Since Borchetta and Braun have yet to personally weigh in, it's worth reading Halsey's statement of support, which makes quite a few points: "Not only are we looking at an awful business move, (because one would be incentivized to allow Taylor to perform her songs seeing as it would direct to rediscovery of a catalog they currently profit off of) but this is just mean. This is punishment. This is hoping to silence her from speaking about things by dangling this over her heard. These people are protected because they inspire complicity with fear. Banking on the illusion that people will not stand up for her. That the world will say she is over reacting. You're barking up the wrong tree. It is her grace and patience in these moments that make her the Artist of the Decade," she wrote on Instagram.
Is anyone actually siding with Borchetta and Braun?
The outpouring of support for Swift has been, well, swift. Aside from celebrities, quite a few Little Monsters, Harries, and Katycats—aka fans of Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, and Katy Perry, respectively—have pledged their allegiance to Swift. But a #TeamScooter hashtag does in fact exist, but the only person in the public eye who seems to be using it is the conservative firebrand Candace Owens. Around 2:30 a.m. on Friday, Owens simultaneously described Swift's reaction as "one of the most toxic forms of feminism I've ever seen"—then pulled the not-so-feminist move of ending her statement with "Once a ?. Always a ?."
Does Swift actually owe millions of dollars to Big Machine?
"The truth is, Taylor has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company, which is responsible for 120 hardworking employees who helped build her career," reads a portion of the statement from Big Machine. Almost immediately, Swift's camp fired back: "Big Machine is trying to deflect and make this about money by saying she owes them but, an independent, professional auditor has determined that Big Machine owes Taylor $7.9 million dollars of unpaid royalties over several years," her representative Tree Paine wrote in a statement. Big Machine has yet to respond, and so far both have yet to prevent evidence to support their claims, but it's worth noting that in 2018, Variety reported that Swift's music accounted for nearly 80 percent of Big Machine's revenue in recent years.
What are Swift's options for the AMAs on November 24?
- Comply with Borchetta and Braun's demands, either sticking to performing and featuring only Lover-era songs or abandon her plans to re-record her pre-Lover catalogue.
- Enlist other performers—Twitter users' suggestions include Halsey and Kelly Clarkson—to perform her earlier songs for her, as a tribute of sorts, then take the stage to perform her music from Lover onward herself.
- Go scorched earth and defy Big Machine by performing the medley anyway, betting that if Braun and Borchetta pursue legal action, she's amassed enough support to come out on top.
- Continue urging some of Borchetta and Braun's most prominent artists—Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber, and J Balvin among them—to convince them that the backlash they'd face wouldn't be worth the fight, and simply hope for the best.
Of course, Swifties have banded together to brainstorm a few other options, which aren't so much practical as they are extreme. For example: "I guess at the AMAs she could lip sync to recordings of her songs, but instead of singing the lyrics, repeatedly recite her enemies' home addresses and personal cellphone numbers so lip-readers could transcribe them"—an idea that's gotten quite a few likes and retweets.