This past summer, at the end of June, Big Machine Label Group, Taylor Swift’s former label, the label she was signed to at the beginning of her career, and the label that released her first six albums, right up to reputation, was acquired by Ithaca Holdings, led by Scooter Braun who manages Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato and has worked with Kanye West. After the sale was announced, Taylor shared on Tumblr how devastated she was that her master recordings are now owned by someone affiliated with her mortal enemy and accused Scott Borchetta of betraying her. She then confirmed later that she would re-record her previous work at some point in 2020 once she’s legally clear to do so. 

Taylor has been named the Artist of the Decade by the American Music Awards, taking place next Sunday, November 24. (Beyoncé did some things this decade but this post is not about that so I’ll save my saltiness for later.) It would make sense then, given that the award is recognising her decade, for Taylor to perform a medley of her hits. Evidently right now this is impossible and she posted a message to explain why: 

I believe her when she says that they’re cockblocking her from singing her songs, songs she wrote, songs that should belong to her. I believe her when she says that during negotiations, Scott Borchetta said she could use her own music only on the condition that she agree not to re-record them (so that he can keep making money off her catalogue) and to stop sh-t-talking him and Scooter in the media. This, as she says, is wrong. And if she’d ended her statement there, if she’d put this information out there and been all like…

Hey everybody, I’m excited about the AMAs next week and the Artist of the Decade honour and I really wanted to do a medley of my music but these two assholes are f-cking with my sh-t so I’ve been planning something else but it’s still gonna be special, tune in!

…I’d be right with her. But that’s not where Taylor ended it. Instead she appealed to her fans to help her change Scott and Scooter’s mind and also asked her fans to get on the “several artists who I believe really care about other artists and their work” so that they can talk to Scott and Scooter on her behalf. (Buzzfeed has a running list of other celebrities who are onside.) 

And how would the fans do that? On Twitter and Instagram and TikTok and whatever. And what happens when fans have a mission on Twitter and Instagram and TikTok and whatever? You know this. We all know it. It quickly turns into a f-cking mess. It gets ugly and abusive and it’s not like Taylor doesn’t know how that works. She has talked A LOT about how she’s been the recipient of that ugliness and abuse after Kim Kardashian and Kanye West dropped the receipts on her. And now she’s risking the potential of this happening to other people, other artists. Is that responsible? Is she so naïve to think that her fans are above the f-cksh-t of other fandoms, that her fans would never troll and demean and harass? That in asking them to help her, they’d do it respectfully, without cruelty? A quick scan of Scooter and Ariana and Demi’s mentions will tell you that that’s not the case. People are now threatening to release phone numbers and addresses. I’ve seen tweets that are body shaming and mental health shaming. I’ve seen messages that mention people’s children. This is always the risk when you get an army of fans riled up: that the anger will escalate and go to dark places. 

Also? I don’t know if getting her fans to ask other artists to help her with her music is all that boss. She’s essentially saying to the other artists, via her fans, that she’s having trouble with her business and needs an assist from them so that she can fix her business. Taylor Swift Inc is one of the biggest businesses in the business! And she got there because, as she keeps trying to tell us, she’s a badass motherf-cker who is really good at business. This, then, feels like a brand misfire. It’s incongruent with the image she’s been building – that she’s one of the smartest players out there, that she can handle her sh-t, that she’s a major strategist. But one of the key strengths of a strategist is problem-solving. Does this read to you as a creative way to troubleshoot? Is this, as the old saying goes, finding the advantage in a disadvantage? Turning lemons into lemonade? (And please. You know exactly why I just went there.) 

Or maybe it IS congruent with a certain image, though not necessarily the image that she wants out there: that she is always playing the victim. This is the criticism that Taylor’s detractors often come back to – that she’s constantly portraying herself as someone who’s been hard done by when, well, she’s Taylor Swift, and it’s not like she hasn’t participated in all kinds of petty sh-t. 

According to Page Six, the situation isn’t exactly how Taylor’s presenting it. 

“Sources close to Big Machine Records tell Page Six that [Scooter] Braun wasn’t part of AMA negotiations and rather Borchetta had been dealing with them with Swift’s attorneys.

Our sources also tell us Swift owes Braun and Borchetta $7 million and agreed to sort out the finances after AMA negotiations settled, but when negotiations fell flat, she threatened to publicly blast them — hence the statement Thursday.” 

I mean, obviously Scott Borchetta is going to dispute Taylor’s version of events, just like he did last time, and he appears to be making it about money which, to be fair to Taylor, is exactly what someone who’s trying to manipulate a situation, usually men, would do. Once you make it about money, it’s a distraction, it suggests greed. It casts doubt on the accuser – “oh she’s only doing it for the money”. This is nothing to do with money. It has to do with an artist being able to perform her own work and if he’s giving her ultimatums about access to her own work, it’s bullsh-t, no matter how much money is involved. 

So, again, to be clear – I am here for Taylor owning her music, doing whatever she wants with her music, and challenging those who are keeping her from what she created. It is, as usual, the execution that I’m stumbling on. Back in the summer, when all of this first blew up, Maria sent me a text that you can always fall back on where Taylor is concerned:

“Taylor has an affliction that even when she’s right, she’s wrong. It’s a classic Real Housewives trait: she takes a good point and makes a bad argument.”