How Taylor Swift's battle with Scooter Braun could change the music business

VCG/Visual China Group/Getty Images

Taylor Swift has a rumored history of being a little petty when it comes to the celebrity feuds she’s been involved with, which is well within her right, of course. It just means that outside of her loyal fanbase, not many people would think of rushing to her defense. Until now, when she seems to be taking on the goliaths in the music industry over issues of private equity.

On Thursday, Swift shared three screenshots to her Twitter and Instagram accounts, detailing the latest development in an ongoing battle over the music she recorded earlier in her career when she was represented by famous manager Scooter Braun and Big Machine Records president, Scott Borchetta. After she parted ways with the two, Big Machine refused to sell her the masters of the music she released through the label — she had no ownership over the music she wrote, recorded and produced. Big Machine was sold to Braun in June 2019, which meant that Braun effectively owned all of Swift’s early masters.

At the time of the sale, Swift addressed the issue publicly, claiming that Braun had bullied her incessantly, and was the last person she’d want to have ownership over some of her life’s work. She announced that she planned to rerecord the music owned by Braun in November 2020, when she was legally allowed to do so.

Fast forward to Thursday. Swift was chosen by the American Music Awards as the “Artist of the Decade,” and as part of being honored, she would perform a medley of her greatest hits. Swift claims that Borchetta and Braun have informed her that she would not be allowed to perform any of her songs they owned, “because they claim that would be re-recording my music before next year.”

On top of that, Swift said that Netflix was making a documentary about her life and that Braun and Borchetta refused to clear the music they owned to be used in the film. According to Swift, Borchetta said he would allow Swift to perform her songs and use them for the film under certain conditions: not re-record her albums next year, and to stop speaking about Braun and Borchetta publicly.

“This is WRONG,” Swift continued in her statement. “Neither of these men had a hand in the wiring of those songs. They did nothing to create the relationship I have with my fans. So this is where I’m asking for your help. Please let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun now how you feel about this.”

And this is where Swift put out the call to action, including to the artists that Braun manages. (Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, and Ariana Grande are among his clients.) Swift wrote: “Scooter manages several artists who I really believe care about other artists and their work. Please ask them for help with this.”

So, who has stepped up in the hours since Swift asked for artists and fans to come to her assistance?

Not Grande, Lovato, or Bieber. But other major artists not managed by Braun have spoken out in support of Swift. Selena Gomez, who is one of Swift’s close friends, posted a lengthy statement to her Instagram story outlining her outrage about her friend’s predicament.

"I have known Taylor for 13 years. She is the most dedicated, fearless, feisty, strongest woman I have ever known,” Gomez wrote. “I can tell you first hand the MOST important thing to Taylor is her family, love, her fans and her MUSIC."

Halsey, Gigi Hadid, Ruby Rose, Lilly Allen, Joeseph Kahn, Todrick Hall, Sara Bareilles, Elle Eyre, Tinashe, Jordan Pruitt, Bobby Berk, and Perez Hilton also issued statements of support. Tinashe told one fan who thanked her for speaking in support of Swift that the news made her “genuinely sick to her stomach.”

In addition to the legion of celebrities who have spoken out in support of Swift, her fanbase has mobilized the hashtag #IStandWithTaylor, amassing thousands of posts with words of encouragement for the pop star. Fans have also flooded the comment sections of Scooter Braun’s Instagram. In a post mourning the loss of a friend who died from cancer, fans left comments like “sorry for you loss... but what you did was absolutely disgusting” and “please join him.” Dozens of tweets have also popped up doxxing Braun and Borchetta following Swift’s statements.

Braun and Borchetta have not publicly responded to Swift, but Big Machine Records released a statement alleging that Swift’s comments put Big Machine employees in danger, and alleging that Swift still owed the company millions of dollars.

“Taylor made a unilateral decision last night to enlist her fanbase in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families,” they said, in a statement to Variety. “Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist. All we ask is to have a direct and honest conversation. When that happens, you will see there is nothing but respect, kindness and support waiting for you on the other side. To date, not one of the invitations to speak with us and work through this has been accepted.”

A representative for Swift denied Big Machine’s claims.