Music Industry

MUST READ: Taylor Swift will get to play her songs on the AMAs–BUT things are still very, very weird.

The drama that is Taylor Swift vs. Big Machine took another twist yesterday when the company (read: Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun) agreed to let Tay-Tay perform songs from her back catalogue on the American Music Awards this coming weekend.

The holdup seemed to hinge on a deal she signed with Big Machine promising to not re-record her old hits until sometime in 2020. Some were of the opinion that performing these songs on the AMAs would be a breach of that promise since the program itself will be recorded for delayed broadcast in western time zones. A technical point, yes, but this is war.

Now, though, Big Machine has granted permission to use the songs to which they own the master recordings. It also maintains that the Swift’s side of the story “does not exist.” I quote (and note what I have bolded):

“The Big Machine Label Group and Dick Clark Productions announce that they have come to terms on a licensing agreement that approves their artists’ performances to stream post show and for re-broadcast on mutually approved platforms. This includes the upcoming American Music Awards performances.

“It should be noted that recording artists do not need label approval for live performances on television or any other live media. Record label approval is only needed for contracted artists’ audio and visual recordings and in determining how those works are distributed.”

Correct. See what I mean about Taylor’s bogus narrative? She never needed Big Machine’s permission in the first place so what the hell was she going on about?

(A side note: Dick Clark Productions, the producers of the AMAs, say they had nothing to do with creating this apparent joint statement. Hmm.)

The only issue that could arise is if Tay-Tay (or someone else) records the performance and puts it up on YouTube or any other streaming service. Or as an on-demand broadcast. Or on a DVD. Or on a live album. Then we’re into different territory. These are the petitions that Big Machine have apparently waived in regard to the AMAs.

By the way, this restriction on artists re-recording their own songs is a standard contractual thing. Otherwise, a disgruntled artist might record the sames songs and release them through another label. Taylor isn’t the only one with this stipulation in her contract. (Ask TLC or Def Leppard how well open forgeries/counterfeits of big hits go over with fans.)

No one is really a winner in this fight, except maybe the AMAs, You can bet that some people will tune in just to see Taylor do what she said some big, bad music executives said she couldn’t. That’s what the AMAs are counting on. Last year’s ratings were down 25%, so every little bit will count.

I also have the feeling that this was all a Swift-created smokescreen designed to mask that her last album isn’t doing as well as her others. Maybe she needed to create some controversy (again) to boost sales and streams. Or is that too cynical of me?

So crisis averted. Until next time. Meanwhile, Tay-Tay, try to shake it off, okay?

More at Music Business Worldwide. You should also read this at Billboard.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37808 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “MUST READ: Taylor Swift will get to play her songs on the AMAs–BUT things are still very, very weird.

  • In the first statement Big Machine sent out, they said that they’re not stopping Taylor swift from performing anywhere she wants. That’s true. And I don’t think Taylor Swift would disagree either. Because that’s not what she complained about. She’s saying she won’t let her perform any of her old songs.

    That’s why PR agents are such a profitable endeavour. That kind of verbal judo where they say they’re firm on things without saying anything is a signature of a good PR agent. And it obviously worked because you’re eating it up. But just like how it’s all contract to these guys, everything is about the fine print.

    We can agree that we both don’t like how TSwift went about this. This is exactly the kind of “bullying” they’re preaching against. However, it’s not like she’s been dishonest about it either like they have. She’s said since this whole debacle started that she wanted her masters and that she gets to own her work. Yes, she was given an offer……. To work for Big Machine for a few more profitable albums so she can earn her old ones, one by one. These terms were confirmed by both parties.

    Now idk if you do math, but if she gets to own her old ones but her new ones are still under their contract, that just looks like a vicious cycle of servitude. She wanted out and she wants what’s hers. She’s being a drama queen about it, sure. But these people are also business men who doesn’t care about the passion behind the work, only the results.

    From this standpoint, it’s looking pretty even. You just have different words to describe how they do their own business. But they’re playing their fields. And Swift is edging out but not much. But there are no victims here. Just business men and women.


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