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Taylor Swift blasts Scooter Braun and 'toxic male privilege' in Billboard speech

Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
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Taylor Swift used her speech at Billboard’s 2019 Women in Music event on Thursday to speak out about her ongoing dispute with Scooter Braun.

The singer and songwriter, who turned 30 on Friday, received the Woman of the Decade award at the event, held in L.A on Thursday. Swift used the platform to call out Braun, whose company, Ithaca Holdings, purchased her former record label, Big Machine Label Group, including the masters to her first six albums (meaning the rights to her early music). She went on to criticize other investors who she said were part of the deal, including George Soros, 23 Capital and the Carlyle Group.

Swift told the audience that as the “resident loud person,” she wanted to talk about the “new shift that has affected me personally” and “is a potentially harmful force in our industry.” She said it’s the “the unregulated world of private equity coming in and buying up our music as if it's real estate. As if it’s an app or a shoe line.”

She continued, “This just happened to me without my approval, consultation or consent. After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalog was sold to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in a deal that I’m told was funded by the Soros family, 23 Capital and the Carlyle Group. Yet, to this day, none of these investors have ever bothered to contact me or my team directly— to perform their due diligence on their investment. On their investment in me. To ask how I might feel about the new owner of my art, the music I wrote, the videos I created, photos of me, my handwriting, my album designs.” (Big Machine Label Group has said Swift was given an opportunity to buy her music back, however, she has said it wasn’t a straight-forward deal.)

Swift went on to say Braun — a music manager who reps megastars including Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato — “never contacted me or my team to discuss it prior to the sale or even when it was announced. I’m fairly certain he knew exactly how I would feel about it though — and let me just say that the definition of toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying, ‘But he’s always been nice to me,’ when I’m raising valid concerns about artists and their right to own their music. And of course he’s nice to you — if you’re in this room, you have something he needs.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 12: Taylor Swift arrives at the 2019 Billboard Women In Music  at Hollywood Palladium on December 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Taylor Swift arrives at the 2019 Billboard Women In Music at Hollywood Palladium on December 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Swift said that “private equity is what enabled this man, according to his own social media post, that he could ‘buy me,’” before adding, “[I’m] obviously not going willingly.”

She went on to thank the women in the industry who had her back as she’s taken on Braun. She said it’s been “one of the most difficult times” and she will “never, ever forget” the support, before adding cheekily, “like ever.”

Actress Jameela Jamil, who presented Swift the award and is an outspoken feminist, applauded Swift for going there in her speech. “Watching a young woman speak up and speak out like that complete fearlessly and unapologetically about rampant gender inequality was pretty iconic,” she wrote on Twitter.

Braun bought Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group over the summer and it’s been a full-on public fight since then. Swift has said she plans to re-record the six albums that the label still owns.

Ahead of Swift being honored as Artist of the Decade at the American Music Awards last month, the feud was resurrected as she claimed they wouldn’t give her permission to perform her own songs. After more public back and forth, she performed old and new music during the awards show.

Ahead of the AMAs, Braun made a public plea to Swift to meet behind closed doors to discuss the situation, claiming he was driven by death threats her fans were sending to his family. In that post, he said he was open to “all possibilities” when it comes to rectifying the situation, suggesting potentially selling her back her music.

He hasn’t yet commented on Swift’s speech last night.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for 23 Capital, one of the investment firms Swift cited, told Rolling Stone, “It would be inappropriate to comment on specific details relating to the Ithaca/BMLG deal, however we are keen to highlight that our global team of music and entertainment specialists work across the music industry to support creativity and flexibility.”

Earlier this week, Swift told Billboard she was willing to pay “so much” for her masters. “Anything to own my work.”

Today is Swift’s 30th birthday and she shared a throwback photo to mark the occasion. She wrote, “Who’s gonna tell her she’s thirtay now?”

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