Taylor Swift calls out Scooter Braun, talks 'toxic male privilege' in music industry

On Dec. 12, the evening before her 30th birthday, Taylor Swift was honoured with the ‘Woman of the Decade’ award at Billboard‘s annual Women in Music ceremony.

The Blank Space singer earned the highly prestigious honour thanks to her many accomplishments, releases, dedication and overall contributions to the music industry as a powerful female figure.

Instead of simply thanking her supporters with a brief anecdote before walking offstage, Swift, who is now 30, celebrated the win in a different way.

She used her time in the spotlight and successfully captivated her primarily female audience with a moving, 15-minute speech, detailing some of her struggles over the last decade as a female artist and ultimately what she believes is wrong in the industry — which she said is ruled by “toxic male privilege.”

Swift offered famed music entrepreneur Scooter Braun as her primary example to back up that claim. He is someone the pop icon has accused of bullying on several occasions.

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She described the 38-year-old — who now owns her former record label, Big Machine Records (or BMLG) — as the definition of “toxic male privilege” in the music industry.

Swift, of course, was referring to her most recent contention with Braun, in which he, along with her former manager, Scott Borchetta, attempted to block her from performing any of her old songs at the 2019 American Music Awards (AMA), or any future television broadcast.

Though the dispute eventually came to an agreement late last month, Braun became the owner to the rights of Swift’s entire music catalogue back in June — excluding the rights to 2019’s Lover — after purchasing BMLG and partnering up with Borchetta, 57.

The deal cut between BMLG and Dick Clark Productions allows Swift to perform all songs from her pre-2018 music catalogue again; on any live television performance.

Swift officially parted ways with Borchetta and BMLG in Nov. 2018, after working with them for more than a decade. She joined Republic Records shortly after and released Lover last August.

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In the contentious speech, Swift spoke about the investors that funded Braun’s purchase, claiming, “to this day, none of have bothered to contact me or my team directly to perform their due diligence on their investment… in me.”

“To ask how I might feel about the new owner of my art,” she added. “The music I wrote. The videos I created. Photos of me, my handwriting, my album designs.”

Taylor Swift performing on stage during day two of Capital's Jingle Bell Ball 2019 with Seat at the O2 Arena, London, England.

Taylor Swift performing on stage during day two of Capital's Jingle Bell Ball 2019 with Seat at the O2 Arena, London, England.

Scott Garfitt/EMPICS Entertainment

“Scooter never contacted me or my team to discuss it prior to the sale or even when it was announced,” claimed Swift. “I’m fairly certain he knew how I would feel about it, though.”

She continued:

“Let me just say that the definition of the toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying, ‘Well, he’s always been nice to me’ when I’m raising valid concerns about artists and their rights to own their music.”

“Of course he’s nice to you,” said Swift, “If you’re in this room you have something that he needs.”

“The fact is that private equity enabled this man to think — according to his own social media post — that he could ‘buy me,'” she added. “I’m obviously not going willingly.”

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In a statement issued by BMLG Records last month, however, the label denied Swift’s allegations that they had never contacted her — a claim the singer previously made in a lengthy Tumblr post, too.

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

BMLG continued:

“To date, not one of the invitations to speak with us and work through this has been accepted. Rumours 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.”

“As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her statements based on false information,” the statement read. “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.”

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“Since Taylor’s decision to leave Big Machine last fall, we have continued to honour all of her requests to license her catalogue to third parties as she promotes her current record in which we do not financially participate,” BMLG wrote in its statement.

“The truth is,” continued the release, “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.”

In this Dec. 7, 2016, file photo, Scooter Braun arrives at the 4th Annual Wishing Well Winter Gala at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, Calif.

In this Dec. 7, 2016, file photo, Scooter Braun arrives at the 4th Annual Wishing Well Winter Gala at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, Calif.

Rich Fury/Invision/AP, File

Braun himself recently spoke out about the controversy in public, too, claiming that he felt that his safety was threatened after Swift called upon her fans for help taking on he and his company in the Tumblr post.

“We live in a time of toxic division…,” he said during a Q&A at The Hollywood Chamber’s 2019 Entertainment Industry Conference, “and of people thinking that social media is the appropriate place to air out on each other and not have conversations.

“When there’s a lot of things being said and a lot of different opinions, yet the principals haven’t had a chance to speak to each other, there’s a lot of confusion,” concluded Braun, who never mentioned the Bad Blood singer by name.

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After scalding Braun, Swift’s acceptance speech took a complete 180-degree turn to express appreciation for the women surrounding her and her career.

“The most amazing thing,” she said, “was to discover that it would be the women in our industry who would have my back and show me the most vocal support at one of the most difficult times and I will never, ever forget it.”

Before acknowledging the success and commitment of some of her fellow female artists, Swift recounted many of the widespread criticisms she received over the last decade, starting with her third studio album, Speak Now (2010).

Swift admitted that when people began questioning her singing voice and whether or not she was writing her own music, she made the decision to create Speak Now entirely by herself.

In this Aug. 26, 2019 file photo, Taylor Swift arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards in Newark, N.J.

In this Aug. 26, 2019 file photo, Taylor Swift arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards in Newark, N.J.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File

She claimed that the critiques forced her to be more “accommodating” when writing new music.

“They’re saying I’m dating too much in my 20s?” she asked. “OK, I’ll stop… I’ll just be single for years.”

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“Now they’re saying my album Red is filled with too many breakup songs,” she continued. “OK, I’ll make one about moving to New York and deciding my life is just more fun with my friends.”

Swift then listed off a variety of generic complaints she was pelted with during each era of her career.

“At that time, I couldn’t understand why this wave of harsh criticism had hit me so hard,” she said.

“Now I realize that this is just what happens to a woman in music if she achieves success beyond people’s comfort level.”

The Me! singer proceeded to acknowledge and commend the efforts made by her peers within the competitive music industry, listing off names like Lana Del Rey, Lizzo, Sigrid, Halsey and Billie Eilish among many others.

“Why are we doing so well?” she asked the audience. “Because we have to grow fast. We have to work this hard. We have to prove that we deserve this. We have to top our last achievements.”

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Swift added: “Women in music, onstage or behind the scenes, are not allowed to coast. We are held at a higher, sometimes impossible-feeling standard.”

“In the last 10 years,” she continued, “I have watched as women in this industry are criticized and measured up to each other and picked at for their bodies, their romantic lives, their fashion.”

“The only way forward is forward motion,” she concluded.

“We shouldn’t let obstacles like criticism slow down the creative forces that drive us.”

Swift’s speech garnered a mass wave of appraisal on various social media platforms, and is considered only one of the many reasons why she deserved Billboard’s ‘Woman of the Decade’ award.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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