Taylor Swift and former label trade accusations in fight over catalog

Taylor Swift and music manager Scooter Braun, who acquired Swift's back catalog in his purchase of Big Machine Label Group earlier this year.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision/Associated Press, left; Mark Von Holden / Invision/Associated Press)

Big Machine Label Group is fighting back against Taylor Swift’s accusations that the label, which manager Scooter Braun purchased along with Swift’s back catalog earlier this year, has blocked the pop star from using and performing her own songs.

On Thursday, Swift posted a lengthy message on social media alleging that the company barred her from singing any of her older tracks at the upcoming American Music Awards, where she’ll be crowned “artist of the decade.”

She also claimed the label prevented her from including her earlier tunes or performance footage in her forthcoming Netflix documentary.


“As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her tumblr statements yesterday,” Big Machine said in a statement posted to its website.

“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,” the statement added. “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.”

Swift says that the owners of her catalog are prohibiting her from performing her old hits on the American Music Awards and in a Netflix documentary.

Nov. 14, 2019

Swift’s publicist, Tree Paine, promptly responded to Big Machine’s comments on Twitter, quoting what she claimed is a message sent to Swift from the “Vice President, Rights and Management and Business Affairs from Big Machine Label Group.”

“‘Please be advised that BMLG will not agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recordings in relation to these two projects: The Netflix documentary and The Alibaba ‘Double Eleven’ event,’” the quoted statement read, the latter referring to a performance Swift gave at a festival hosted by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

“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 that Taylor said last night.”


The feud between Swift and Big Machine dates back to June, when Braun acquired Scott Borchetta’s company, along with Swift’s first six studio albums, which include many of her biggest hits. On Thursday, the conflict raged again when the “Lover” singer doubled down on her attacks on Borchetta and his partner Braun, calling the moguls “tyrannical” and unleashing a slew of allegations against them.

“I’ve been planning to perform a medley of my hits throughout the decade on the show,” Swift, 29, wrote, referring to the AMAs. “Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun have now said that I’m not allowed to perform my old songs on television because they claim that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year.

“Scott Borchetta told my team that they’ll allow me to use my music only if I do these things: If I agree not to re-record copycat versions of my songs next year (which is something I’m both legally allowed to do and looking forward to) and also told my team that I need to stop talking about him and Scooter Braun,” her statement continued.

In its response, Big Machine countered that Swift ambushed its team by pitting an army of millions of Swifties (#IStandWithTaylor has been trending on Twitter since Thursday) against them with her widely circulated complaint.

“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,” Big Machine said. “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 fan base in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families,” the statement said.

Following a public dispute with super-manager Scooter Braun, who purchased her master recordings in June, Taylor Swift plans to record new versions of her old songs.

Aug. 21, 2019

Swift also accused Braun and Borchetta of perpetuating sexism in the industry by threatening and warning her to “be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished.”

“This is WRONG,” she wrote. “Neither of these men had a hand in the writing 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 know how you feel about this.”

Big Machine wholly denied the star’s claims, accusing her of rejecting its offers to work with her to remedy the situation.

“Taylor, the narrative you have created does not exist,” the label said. “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.”


While Big Machine denied blocking the Netflix project or barring Swift from performing live, it did not specifically address in its public statements her allegations that it prevented her from singing her older songs or using them in the documentary.

Paine also argued that, rather than Swift owing money to Big Machine, as it claimed in its Friday statement, the label is actually $7.9 million in debt to Swift.

A rep for Big Machine Label Group did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.