Is the Scott Borchetta/Scooter Braun vs. Taylor Swift thing really a male vs. female issue?

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Taylor Swift and Scott Borchetta | Getty Images

I don't know who's right, who's wrong or, let's face it, who's being more honest or more deceitful in the Scott Borchetta/Scooter Braun vs. Taylor Swift issue because I do not know any of the three parties. What I'm about to say is not about that.
In her statement about Scott Borchetta's selling her masters (but actually all of Big Machine Label Group) to Scooter Braun, Taylor Swift says:

This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.

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.

Taylor Swift is not dumb. Tone-deaf in all senses of the word, maybe, but not dumb. I have followed this girl - nay, this woman - since fall 2006 when her deftly written self-titled debut album was released, and I refuse to believe she is anything but intelligent, business savvy, calculated, even. But her logic here is not quite sound: "Music has value" to a record label president/businessperson will always mean its value is beholden to businesspeople who had no part in creating it. When her contract expired, Taylor walked away from Big Machine and her masters because she found a better offer elsewhere. Taylor, more than anyone, probably knows that business is business and, in business, money always speaks loudest of all.

I don't know whether there were offers greater than the reported $300+ million Scooter Braun paid for Big Machine Label Group. If Scott Borchetta had a larger offer from someone who was not Scooter Braun yet still accepted Scooter's offer, the implied collusion between the two men that Taylor hints at might have some feeble legs to stand on. But this was a business transaction Taylor took no part in and, it sounds like, per her original Big Machine contract had no right to take a part in.

Now Taylor Swift and some members of her squad (namely Cara Delevingne and Halsey) are fixing a lens of sexism, misogyny, betrayal, men vs. one woman upon the issue -- or, perhaps said in another way, appealing to others' emotions and creating a narrative. And Taylor Swift fans are eating it all up, with some angrily demanding Taylor's other celebrity friends to take her side (see responses to an innocuous Shawn Mendes tweet). It seems Taylor's use of the Madeleine Albright quote "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women" has been interpreted to mean "there's a special place in hell for women who don't side with other women simply because they are women," which is possibly the exact opposite of what the feminist movement is trying to achieve.

I'm not taking sides (and really, what are we even being asked to take sides on? Of course all artists and creators should own their work. And legal contracts should also be honored). But I also cannot forget the times Taylor Swift has stated her victimhood and backpedaled, been discredited, or asked to be excluded from the narrative.

Again, I'd like to make the assertion that Taylor Swift is not dumb. So I am continually surprised when she makes a staunch claim which is later discredited with evidence or "receipts". And because I believe that Taylor Swift is not dumb, my more cynical rationalization of this behavior is that she aims to taint someone's name or reputation in the time it takes for the other party to pull out the receipts by mobilizing her still enormous and devoted fanbase. My less cynical rationalization? That it's a marketing scheme. (Justin Bieber put it more basically: "seems to me like it was to get sympathy".)

Because look how neatly Taylor ties her statement together with a perfectly placed bow: "And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make. I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23."

Further reading on this topic:
Taylor Swift's statement
Scott Borchetta's "rebuttal"
The Wall Street Journal article from which Taylor allegedly learned her fate
Yahoo! Finance's stance on the whole thing because, oh yes, they have one

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