In this evolving world of fake news and misinformation, we [in conjunction with Music Tip Tuesday] have tried to create a safe informative space to educate young and new musicians, artists and producers on how things work in the music business. We outline laws and general practices and avoid editorial and conjecture as much as possible.
So here’s a quick fact check on the recent Taylor Swift vs Scooter Braun dispute.
In a tweet on Nov. 14, Swift said the two [Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta] wouldn’t “let her” perform a mashup of her hits during the recent American Music Awards where she was honored as Artist of the Decade. Under U.S. Copyright Law, the songwriter [and their music publisher] have approval rights over the first [and only the first] recorded & released version of a newly written composition [i.e., a “first use” license].
After a composition has been released to the general public [Spotify and/or CDs etc.], any recording artist has the right to perform that song as long as the song [melody and lyrics] are not altered. Taylor can perform any song she likes [hers or otherwise] as long as it has been previously released.
The royalties generated from that performance “Broadcast Performance Royalties” would be paid by the broadcaster to the publisher, and from there, Taylor Swift would earn her share as a writer / co-writer of the song. In this case, Big Machine would earn no money from the ownership of the masters.
Additionally, Taylor said they're stopping her from using her old music in a Netflix documentary currently being made that follows her over the last few years of her life. When Netflix licenses music for a production they must agree to terms with both the “Master Rights” owner [Big Machine] and the “Musical Composition Owners” [the publishers who represent all the writers involved]. If any one of these parties declines the usage, the song cannot be used by Netflix.
Lastly, Taylor said "Scooter has stripped me of my life's work that I wasn't given an opportunity to buy. This is my worst case scenario." Meanwhile, Big Machine records had been for sale for over a year before Scooter Braun paid Borchetta’s $300 million asking price. Taylor’s dad, Scott was a shareholder in Big Machine Records and would have been aware of any potential sale. According to Borchetta, he said he would have sold the company to Taylor if she paid the asking price, and alternatively offered to transfer 100% of all Taylor Swift assets to her immediately if she signed a new agreement for future recordings.
Taylor has represented some things that are factually incorrect, and additionally encouraged her fans to harass Braun. It’s almost impossible to win a social media war of words against a celebrity artist [with loyal & biased followers], but now as several Swift fans have made death threats against Scooter Braun’s family, things could escalate to the courts.