Since yesterday afternoon, I have been openly weeping over what happened to Taylor Swift on Sunday morning — what she found out when she woke up. Why? Because if the biggest voice in the world can have the rug pulled out underneath her by two men, Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun, who both had vindictive intentions, imagine all the women everywhere, every day experiencing this behavior from the men in their workplaces, social circles, and communities. I am truly shaken to my core to see the most powerful woman in the music world experience this “worst case scenario” (as she called it) and so publicly.
I’m not only furious about this as a Taylor Swift super fan (full transparency — I’m not about to hide this truth) but I’m devastatingly sick as a woman in business who knows all too well about the Good Ol’ Boys Club, the handshakes, the cigars, the strip clubs, the backend deals, the overwhelming belief that women are not equal and will never, ever be equal in the work place. I’ve been off on the ground running in my career since 2010 and I’ve seen men pull the rugs out under superstar employees time and time again (and of course, it’s happened to me).
So you’re not a Taylor Swift fan, what in the hell am I talking about? Late last year, Taylor Swift’s contract with the record label she signed to when she was fifteen years old was coming to an end. She needed to either pick to stay at Big Machine Record or she could go somewhere else (and with her being Taylor Swift, imagine all the options she had — endless options and opportunities). Spreading her wings, she found a new home at Universal and announced it to the world on November 19, 2018. Since then, Taylor has been putting her friends through agony dropping Easter Eggs and clues about her new album, which she finally announced was called Lover and it would drop on August 23, 2019. With two singles out on with her new label, “Me!” and “You Need To Calm Down,” news abruptly dropped on Sunday, June 30, 2019 that Big Machine Records was sold by Scott Borchetta to Scooter Braun.
As she’s done about her mother’s cancer, her political beliefs, and many personal topics — Taylor took to her Tumblr yesterday and wrote the following:
For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.
Some fun facts about today’s news: I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years.
Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it. (See photo) Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.
This is my worst case scenario. This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.
When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.
Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future. And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make.
I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23.
Sad and grossed out,
Taylor Swift is one of the richest celebrities in the world. She is notoriously known as one of the most generous celebrities in Hollywood. If anyone could afford to buy her own work — it’s her. If anyone should be asked first and foremost if she wants her work that she’s spent years and years writing, curating, and creatively dropping for fans and haters alike — it’s Taylor Swift. I’m sure Scott Borchetta — hurt because his cash cow, the person that built him left his label — felt some sort of vindication selling Big Machine Records and the masters to the last person in the world that should have his hands on this specific artists work. Imagine the back end deal discussions. The high fives. The cheers. The handshakes. It’s sickening to see the biggest woman in the world basically have her work tossed over to someone with nothing but bad intentions and she had to find out while the rest of the world did — in a Wall Street Journal report.
All of this triggers me.
I once worked on a team of all men and they would have back room discussions without me despite me being at a Director level and critical to any and all conversation that would need to happen about the brand. I once worked for a super large company and a coworker who was the same level as me, but with two years less of experience, made $30,000 more than me and spent most days boasting about it as he watched Netflix at his desk. I currently have a male client who has ghosted me — he will not answer an email, text, phone call — despite all services being rendered and now I’m without the signed contract agreement of the second payment installment of $2800. However, before ghosting me — he managed to pay off my male web designer, who would have never been involved in the job if I didn’t bring him on board to begin with. And yet, it triggers me again because I just took a job — which I ended up leaving on day 13 — because I was considered emotional and lacking in character for voicing my opinions (especially about the male owner not wanting me to have permission to run social media platforms — despite it being my job to put together and oversee the social media strategy itself) and I know, without a doubt, for the client scripts I wrote while there final writing credits will go to “James Mabry” instead of me, “Charlsie Niemiec.”
These are just some of the injustices I’ve experienced in the work place. I am a white woman. I was born to middle class parents. My mom, sister, and I grew up in poverty — to many it would be considered extreme, to me — it was just a “struggling single mom” situation. Imagine what happens to women of color. Imagine what happens to women starting out at 22 in their first office job that is predominately men. Imagine what happens to women who come from low income, poverty situations and they enter the work force. The cards are stacked up against them and they are meant to come tumbling down. Why am I so sure of this?
If the most powerful star in the world, the most generous celebrity potentially of all time, the voice of my very own heartbeat has her worst nightmare happen (and so publicly)…it’s clear no woman is safe. At all. Period.
It must be said…Fuck Scott Borchetta. Fuck Scooter Braun. I hope Lover, which comes out on August 23, is the best selling Swift album of all time and these two poisonous man rats will sit in anger and shock when she walks onto that Grammy stage in February to become the first woman to win Album of the Year a third time. I hope she rises up like a kaleidoscope of butterflies (or goes back to being known as a snake) and shows just how sick, petty, and vindictive this business deal was — while selling one of the best performing albums of all time. And if I know anything, it’s to ALWAYS bet on Taylor Swift.
So listen, whether you love her or hate her, this isn't right. It's not okay. And yes, she will bounce back because she's Taylor motherfucking Swift but to have this happen to her -— it's clear, none of us women are safe. Not a single one us. And equality — it’s just an empty buzzword even in 2019.