Taylor Swift’s ongoing feud with music executives Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta has entered a new and extremely dramatic phase. On Thursday night, Swift published an emotional plea on her social media accounts, claiming that Braun and Borchetta were blocking her from performing her old hits at the upcoming American Music Awards and in a previously unannounced Netflix documentary — and now Swift’s fans are doxxing Borchetta and Braun in retaliation.
Swift’s public feud with Braun and Borchetta began this summer when Borchetta, the founder of Swift’s old record label Big Machine Records, sold the label, and with it, Swift’s old master recordings to Scott Braun. The sale gave Braun ownership over all the records Swift made prior to 2019’s Lover, and meant that any time someone wanted to license one of Swift’s old hits, they would have to go through Braun.
For Swift, the sale was unacceptable. Braun was Kanye West’s manager when Kanye released his infamous “Famous” video, which features a nude likeness of Swift in bed with Kanye. Swift has said that she considers Braun to bear personal responsibility for the whole affair, which was, she wrote this summer, “a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked.” Swift said she tried to purchase the rights to her master recordings herself, but neither Braun nor Borchetta were willing to make a deal she found acceptable.
So to get around them, Swift announced in August that she planned to re-record all of her old albums starting in November 2020, the point at which her old contract allows her to do so. The plan was that she would own the masters for all of her new recordings herself, and anyone who wanted to license them could go through her rather than Braun.
But now, Swift says that Braun and Borchetta are refusing to allow her to perform her old hits anywhere. “Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun have now said that I’m not allowed to perform my old songs on television because they claim that that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year,” she wrote. And that ban would block her from performing her old hits both at November’s American Music Award, where Swift will be honored as Artist of the Decade, and in a forthcoming Netflix documentary.
Per Swift, Borchetta will only drop this claim if Swift agrees both to cancel her plans to re-record her old albums and to stop talking publicly about him and Braun. “Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished,” Swift summarizes. “This is WRONG.”
Don’t know what else to do pic.twitter.com/1uBrXwviTS
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 14, 2019
If Swift’s summary is correct, Braun and Borchetta are attempting to gain some leverage against her after she thoroughly trounced them in the court of public opinion this summer. But Swift has enormous leverage of her own, in the form of her army of dedicated Swifties, and she is willing to use it. “This is where I’m asking for your help,” she writes in her post. “Please let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this.”
The Big Machine Label Group refuted Swift’s claims in a statement issued Friday morning. “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,” reads the post. It goes on to argue that Swift “has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company” — the assets presumably being her old masters — and that “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.”
Big Machine is being a bit weaselly with its language about the ban (they don’t have to be unable to legally block Swift from performing live to make it difficult for her to perform live), but it isn’t wrong to note that the safety of its employees may be at risk. As Vox’s sister site The Verge has reported, some of Swift’s fans responded to her post by doxxing both Braun and Borchetta, publishing their private contact information, including phone numbers and physical addresses, to Twitter.
Swift hasn’t responded to the doxxings, and it’s not a move she explicitly directed her fans to make. But it’s relatively common during Twitter wars for figures with a lot of followers to point their fans in the direction of a hapless target, and then sit back and watch the fallout. That move was a favorite tactic of infamous online of all people Milo Yiannopoulos, of all people, before Twitter finally banned him. Weaponizing his followers worked for him because it allowed him to direct increasingly vicious and hateful harassment at his targets while keeping his own hands ostensibly clean. Swift knows how unpleasant that can be, because she experienced online attacks herself at Kim Kardashian’s hands two years ago.
The great Taylor Swift-Scooter Braun war is getting messier and messier, and it’s starting to look as though everyone involved is willing to play dirty.
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