Taylor Swift accuses Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun of 'tyrannical control,' blocking her from performing her old music at AMA

Key Points
  • Taylor Swift claimed on social media that Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun were "exercising tyrannical control" and blocking her from performing her old music.
  • Swift addressed her fans in a lengthy post titled: ""Don't know what else to do," asking them to let Borchetta and Braun know how they feel about this.
  • Back in July, Taylor Swift's lawyer denied she was given an opportunity to buy back her masters from Big Machine Label Group, as Borchetta has claimed.
Taylor Swift accuses Scooter Braun of 'tyrannical control' over her music
Taylor Swift accuses Scooter Braun of 'tyrannical control' over her music

Taylor Swift's public feud with music industry executives Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun is raging on after she claimed they were "exercising tyrannical control" and blocking her from performing her old music at the American Music Awards, where she will be honored with the Artist of the Decade Award on Nov. 24.

Big Machine Label Group told CNBC in a statement Friday that they "were shocked to see her Tumblr statements yesterday based on false information."

On Thursday, Swift addressed her fans in a lengthy social media post titled: "Don't know what else to do," where she asked fans to let Borchetta and Braun know how they feel.

taylor tweet

"Guys — It's been announced recently that the American Music Awards will be honoring me with the Artist of the Decade Award at this year's ceremony. I've been planning to perform a medley of my hits throughout the decade on the show. 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."

Swift also said in the post that Netflix had made a documentary about her life and that Borchetta and Braun did not allow the use of her old songs for this project as well.

Netflix declined to comment to CNBC. 

In her statement, Swift said Borchetta told her team they would be allowed to use her music only if she agreed to not re-record copycat versions of her songs next year — "which is something I'm both legally allowed to do and looking forward to," she added. "The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you'll be punished."

Big Machine Label Group said in a statement that at "no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special."

However, Swift never said that she was told she couldn't perform at the AMAs or that they would block her Netflix special. Swift said the music executives were not allowing her to perform her old songs. Big Machine Label Group did not address the use of her old songs specifically in its statement.

"We have worked diligently to have a conversation about these matters with Taylor and her team to productively move forward," the label said in the statement. "However, despite our persistent efforts to find a private and mutually satisfactory solution, Taylor made a unilateral decision last night to enlist her fanbase."

Swift's publicist Tree Paine chimed in Friday morning. In a statement on Twitter, Paine said Big Machine Label Group sent Swift a note in October that read, "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."

Tree Paine tweet

Swift had been asked to perform at an event sponsored by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to celebrate Singles Day, or "Double Eleven." The 24-hour shopping festival is similar to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States.

In her statement, Paine said that Swift performed three songs from her new album at the event "to avoid an argument over rights" because "it was clear that Big Machine Label Group felt any televised performance of catalog songs violated her agreement."

Paine ended her statement with a denial of Big Machine's statement that said Swift "has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company."

"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," Paine wrote.

Paine did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for further comment on the auditor.

Lisa Alter, a music attorney who does not represent either Swift or Big Machine Label Group, said that recording agreements typically place restrictions on re-recordings until a certain number of years after an album is released.

In Swift's comments, the musician said, "Right now my performance at the AMA's, the Netflix documentary and any other recorded events I am planning to play until November of 2020 are a question mark."

While an agreement would not restrict Swift from performing any of her songs, it would prevent her from performing them at an event that would be recorded, like the American Music Awards or in a Netflix documentary, Alter said. However, it is unusual that a label would restrict an artist from doing this. The restriction is usually put in place so an artist cannot record with another label or on their own in a way that would be competitive to the first label, she said.

A live performance or documentary, Alter said, would actually be in the label's favor in most cases.

"It's good for the artist and it's also good the label," Alter said. "If this is true, it does sound like they are taking a very punitive approach."

Alter said "artists and labels have fought from the early days of labels" but that Swift is in a position not all those artists have been in — she is in this dispute while she is still at the peak of her performance. Her voice is still in the condition it was when she put out her first albums, which means her re-recordings could be competitive to the original label. She can also use her following to gain sympathy.

"The disputes have always been there but because of social media, there's the ability to really take the dispute to the fan base in a way that was not possible," Alter said.

In her statement, Swift also pointed to other artists who work with Braun.

"Scooter also manages several artists who I really believe care about other artists and their work. Please ask them for help with this — I'm hoping that maybe they can talk some sense into the men who are exercising tyrannical control over someone who just wants to play the music she wrote. I'm especially asking for help from The Carlyle Group, who put up money for the sale of my music to these two men," her statement said.

Taylor Swift performs during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 15, 2016 in Los Angeles.
Kevin Winter | WireImage | Getty Images

Representatives for artists Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato — all of whom work with Braun — did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. The Carlyle Group declined to comment to CNBC.

Selena Gomez, a fellow musician and Swift's friend, came out in support of Swift via Instagram Friday morning, saying that Swift "gave a voice to those who didn't know they had one all along."

"No respect for the words my friend has written since she was a 14 year old in her bedroom," Gomez wrote. "You've robbed and crushed one of our best song writers of our time an opportunity to celebrate all of her music with fans and the world."

In July, Taylor Swift's lawyer denied she was given an opportunity to buy back her masters from Big Machine Label Group, as Borchetta has claimed.

The fight, which led to the #Istandwithtaylor hashtag trending on Twitter, began when Braun's company, Ithaca Holdings, announced it will acquire Borchetta's Big Machine Label Group. Swift began her career at the label, where she remained until she signed with Universal Music Group in Nov. 2018.

After the acquisition was announced, Swift took to Tumblr, calling the acquisition — which includes the handing over of her first six albums — her "worst case scenario."