Friday, December 6, 2019

Taylor Swift and a Modern Version of a Dowry

            Taylor Swift, one of the most famous singers in the world right now, recent winner of the coveted Artist of the Decade award from the American Music Awards, and by all accounts a modern legend does not own her own music. The story was everywhere: Scooter Braun, manager of singers like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, and more, bought out Taylor’s old record label, Big Machine, and with it, the rights to her Master’s.
On a post to Tumblr, Taylor wrote concerning the situation: “For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead I was given an opportunity to … ‘earn’ one album back at a time.” Taylor says she refused this offer and decided to start fresh instead of being stuck in the same cycle. She states that she “knew Scott Borchetta [owner of Big Machine Records] would sell the label, thereby selling [her] and [her] future.” She claims that Scott selling her masters to Scooter is her “worst case scenario.” Taylor says that Scott knew about her anger and resentment towards Scooter and did this on purpose to spite her.
Scott Borchetta, on the other hand, claims that he let her know in advance of the sale and tried to keep things as civil as possible. He leans into the business side of the music industry in his response and posted part of a deal they offered Taylor asking for ten more years with Big Machine and during that period she would earn back her music. He states that “Taylor had every chance in the world to own … her master recordings.” Scott claims that her dad was aware of the transaction deal and that any lack of communication between the two was not the fault of him or Big Machine.
Taylor’s dad owns a portion of Big Machine Label Group from back in 2004 when a 14-year-old Taylor Swift signed with the startup label. He bought shares of the company in order to sit in on meetings where his underage daughter would be surrounded by adult men. Her dad, Scott Swift, also did this in order to help boost her career. This concept of having her father there in the country scene to ensure she would not be taken advantage of is similar to the idea of coverture. Coverture is an old term of when a woman is under the protection of her father until she is married and then becomes under the protection of her husband. In this case, Taylor’s masters were “covered” by Scott Borchetta, a man her father had a hand in picking with her. Until the day they were sold to another man, Scooter Braun who should protect her. This is similar to an example of a worst-case-scenario-marriage. Taylor’s masters would be her dowry and her father entrusted them to Scott Borchetta who sold her and her life’s work out to another man who now controls all her music up until 2018.
Understanding the principle of coverture is important when it comes to the Taylor Swift/Scooter Braun situation because of the unique circumstance of her dad’s shares in Big Machine. Historically, women have always had to be covered by men (their husbands and fathers) legally, creatively, etc. Taylor’s situation is a modern version of that, and her “worst-case scenario” is that she does not own her work and that a man she claims has tried to sabotage her now figuratively owns her.

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