Billboard’s Women in Music event honored Taylor Swift by naming the pop star its first woman of the decade on Thursday night.
But when Swift took the stage to accept the award, she shifted the focus, putting the spotlight on what she considers to be big problems in her own industry — and she illustrated that by calling out the man who holds the rights to much of her music, record executive Scooter Braun.
"Lately, there has been a new shift that has affected me personally, and that I feel is a potentially harmful force in our industry. And as your resident loud person, I feel the need to bring it up," she told the crowd gathered at the Hollywood Palladium on the eve of her 30th birthday. “That is 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.”
Swift became an unexpected expert on the topic when, in June, Braun’s company acquired her former label, Big Machine Records, and with it, the masters to her first six albums, from her 2006 eponymous release to 2017’s “Reputation.”
“This just happened to me without my approval, consultation or consent,” she explained. “After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalog was sold to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.”
Swift claimed that no one involved in the sale contacted her or her team “to perform their due diligence on their investment” in her or to consider how she felt about it all.
Then again, the “Lover” singer believes Braun already knew.
“I’m fairly certain he knew exactly how I would feel about it, though,” she said, adding, “and let me just say that the definition of the 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 rights to own their music.”
She then told her fellow artists, “Of course, he’s nice to you; if you’re in this room, you have something he needs.”
According to the pop star, “Private equity is what enabled this man to think, according to his own social media posts, that he could ‘buy me.’” To which she added, “Well, I’m obviously not going willingly.”
Swift’s scathing speech was just the latest volley in the public back-and-forth between her and Braun that began over the summer.
In November, she even claimed that the chief executive of her former label, Scott Borchetta, and Braun told her that she was not allowed to perform her past hits on television and that the pair also stopped Netflix from using performance footage of her for a documentary about her life. She shared that information with her 85 million followers on Twitter.
Braun fired back at the performer in a post of his own, in which he said that her fans threatened his family in retaliation for the slights Swift leveled against him.
“It’s important that you understand that your words carry a tremendous amount of weight,” he wrote at the time.
But Swift seemed well aware of the power of her words at the Billboard ceremony Thursday, as she took aim at those she believes wronged her and celebrated those who’ve cheered her on.
“The most amazing thing 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,” the Woman of the Decade said. “I will never ever forget it. Like, ever.”