Women in Music 2019

Big Machine and Taylor Swift Trade Barbs Over TV Performance Rights, Money Claims

"Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist," the label says in a new statement.

Taylor Swift and Big Machine Label Group are trading accusations the morning after she claimed the label is restricting the televised performance of her old songs. Big Machine Label Group, founded by Scott Borchetta and recently acquired by Scooter Braun, said on Friday that they "do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere," rather, the dispute is regarding an unresolved payment issue between the parties.

On Thursday, Swift wrote to fans that Borchetta and Braun have blocked her from performing her BMLG-era songs on this year’s American Music Awards because "that would be re-recording my music before I'm allowed to next year." She also claimed the two execs nixed the use of her songs or performance footage of those songs in an upcoming Netflix documentary. She went on to claim that both projects would be cleared if she agreed to not re-record her old catalog next year, as planned. "The message being sent to me is very clear," she said. "Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you'll be punished."

In their statement, Big Machine does not explicitly deny Swift's accusation regarding the re-recording of her music on the AMAs or anywhere else, only that they never said she couldn't perform live or be the subject of documentary.  

Big Machine also denies that they’re strong-arming the star, saying her narrative “does not exist.” In their version of events, Swift has “admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company” and that any unresolved issues were being worked on behind the scenes. The company said the two parties were making progress on the issues when Swift went public on Thursday, asking her fans to pressure Borchetta, Braun and The Carlyle Group, which backed Braun’s $300 million acquisition of the label group.

"We started to see progress over the past two weeks and were optimistic as recently as yesterday that this may get resolved,” Big Machine wrote. “However, despite our persistent efforts to find a private and mutually satisfactory solution, 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.”

Indeed, Swift’s fans were quick to put social media pressure on Borchetta and Braun, and a Change.org petition was launched that has already attracted over 64,000 signatories.

Big Machine said it wants “direct and honest conversation” with the star but that “not one of the invitations to speak with us has been accepted. Rumors fester in the absence of communication. Let’s not have that continue here.”

Following Big Machine’s claims, a spokeswoman for Swift told Billboard that in late October BMLG opted against issuing licenses for existing recordings or “waivers of its re-recording restrictions” for the Netflix doc as well as an event for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. (Swift performed new songs at that event.) According to the rep, Borchetta himself “flatly denied” the waiver request for both the AMAs and Netflix on Thursday, the same day Swift went public. “Please notice in Big Machine’s statement, they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post,” the rep said.

Further, Team Swift argues that BMLG’s claims that she owes millions to them is inaccurate. “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.”

Read the latest statements from both sides below:

From Big Machine Label Group:

As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her Tumblr statements yesterday based on false information. 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. Since Taylor’s decision to leave Big Machine last fall, we have continued to honor all of her requests to license her catalog to third parties as she promotes her current record in which we do not financially participate.

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. We have worked diligently to have a conversation about these matters with Taylor and her team to productively move forward. We started to see progress over the past two weeks and were optimistic as recently as yesterday that this may get resolved. However, despite our persistent efforts to find a private and mutually satisfactory solution, 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.

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. Rumors fester in the absence of communication. Let’s not have that continue here. We share the collective goal of giving your fans the entertainment they both want and deserve.

--Big Machine Label Group 

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From Taylor Swift Spokeswoman:

The truth is, on October 28, 2019 at 5:17 p.m. the Vice President, Rights Management and Business Affairs  from Big Machine Label Group sent Taylor Swift’s team the following:

“Please be advised that BMLG will not agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recording restrictions in connection with these two projects: The Netflix documentary and The Alibaba “Double Eleven” event.”

To avoid an argument over rights, Taylor performed three songs off her new album Lover at the Double Eleven event as it was clear that Big Machine Label Group felt any televised performance of catalog songs violated her agreement. In addition, yesterday Scott Borchetta, CEO and founder of Big Machine Label Group, flatly denied the request for both American Music Awards and Netflix. Please notice in Big Machine’s statement, they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post.

Lastly, 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.

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Note: This story has been updated to include new statements.

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