Say what you will about famous people mobilizing their armies of fans to get things that they want, but the system works. Just a few days after Taylor Swift called on her legion of Swifties to… politely ask her old record label to back down from its attempts to stop her from performing a medley of old hits at the upcoming American Music Awards (among other things), the label in question—Big Machine—has effectively thrown up the white flag of surrender. As reported by CNN, Big Machine has now released a statement explaining that “recording artists do not need label approval for live performances on television,” just for “audio and visual recordings and in determining how those works are distributed.” In other words, as long as Swift isn’t releasing a live album of her American Music Awards medley, then Big Machine doesn’t care what she does.
(For those who don’t closely follow the rights to Swift’s back catalog, the label itself and the rights to Swift’s pre-Lover albums were purchased earlier this year by former Kanye West manager Scooter Braun, a.k.a. the guy who is at least partially responsible for the feud that West and Swift have been in for years, with Swift having already left Big Machine for a sweeter deal with Universal Music Group.)
This apparent reversal for Big Machine comes after Swift’s publicist shared a statement revealing that the label had tried to argue that any attempt by Swift to perform her old songs would violate Big Machine’s control over the rights to those songs, barring her from doing the AMA medley she wanted and impacting production of a planned documentary on Netflix. Swift’s team also noted that Big Machine owes her nearly $8 million in unpaid royalties, with the label publicly denying that it owes her money and that it tried to stop her from performing her songs. This new statement from Big Machine about how Swift doesn’t needs its approval is also co-signed by Dick Clark Productions, which produces the AMAs, seemingly offering a definitive confirmation that, yes, she can sing what she wants.
A lot of this animosity between Swift and Big Machine comes from the fact that she’s been very vocal about her intention to rerecord all of her old songs (since the label only owns the original recordings of them), which would effectively make the catalog owned by Braun worthless. Swift she doesn’t like the label because it got in bed with this guy who she blames for a lot of her public embarrassments, and the label (at least according to the official stance of Team Swift) doesn’t like her because she keeps making it look bad and intends to gut what is probably an enormous revenue stream out of spite. And all of this is for the American Music Awards, which isn’t even one of the more exciting awards ceremonies!
UPDATE: Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that drama involving Taylor Swift will ever be simple. In a statement given to Variety, Dick Clark Productions has now said that it never made any sort of agreement with Big Machine to release the statement mentioned above, indicating that the record label put Dick Clark Productions’ name on it without authorization, which seems like a very strange thing to do. We don’t know why the label would do that, but it seems oddly insistent that Swift be allowed to perform the songs she wants to perform... even though Swift is saying that Big Machine previously threatened to stop her from doing it. Variety sums it all up nicely in this all-time great quote: “It was unclear at the time of this article’s publication exactly what is taking place.” Yep.