return icon Vietnamnet.vn

Was Taylor Swift really banned from playing her hits?

Taylor's label can't stop her performing her own songs. The problem comes when she puts them online.

"I don't know what else to do," declared Taylor Swift in a lengthy Twitter post last week. "I just want to be able to perform my own music."

The star was distressed and upset. She wanted to play a medley of her hits at Sunday's American Music Awards but her old record label had forbidden it.

Or so she claimed. The label hit back with a statement of its own, saying it hadn't tried to stop the show and that Swift's narrative "does not exist".

Insults were traded, politicians weighed in and, eventually, a settlement was reached.

Big Machine Records issued a statement on Monday night saying it had agreed "to grant all licences of their artists' performances" for "the upcoming American Music Awards".

It didn't mention Swift by name but the implication was clear: Her performance could go ahead.

But the second half of the statement was the really interesting part.

"It should be noted," said the label, "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."

In other words, Swift never needed permission to play hits like Shake It Off, Love Story or I Knew You Were Trouble at the AMAs (in any case, performance rights belong to the publisher, not the record label).

What she couldn't do was put them online afterwards. And that matters.

Last year, 6.5 million viewers tuned in watch the AMAs on television, down from 9.15 million a year earlier, but clips from the show went viral.

Cardi B's carnivalesque performance of I Like It has racked up 28m views on YouTube alone, for example - making that platform more valuable to her as an artist than the TV broadcast itself.

Taylor Swift obviously wants her performance archived online, too... but that's where things get tricky.

"If Taylor was performing her own songs live at a festival, which wasn't being broadcast, it wouldn't be a problem," leading music and entertainment lawyer Talya Shalson tells the BBC.

"The issue in this situation is that, as it's a recorded performance, that would effectively be a re-recording" of the star's biggest hits.

"It's very common for labels to put in a re-recording restriction, which normally lasts three or five years after the end of the artist's deal," she explains.

Such a clause prevents the artist from taking their songs, recording them again and delivering them to another label, allowing the original rights-holder to "protect its investments".

A crucial bit of background to this story: Swift fell out with Big Machine in June this year, after the label was bought by Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande's manager Scooter Braun for $300 million.

Swift made no secret of her dismay. One of Braun's on-and-off clients is Kanye West, who has tormented Swift for more than a decade, interrupting her at award shows, disparaging her in his songs and putting a waxwork of her naked body into a music video.

Swift believes Braun encouraged and endorsed some of those actions, which is why she issued an impassioned statement this summer, saying she felt "sad and grossed out" by Braun taking control of her back catalogue, including every album she released up to 2017's Reputation.

She called the deal "my worst case scenario" that "stripped me of my life's work"; but later announced plans to re-record all of her old music, undercutting the value of the master tapes held by Braun and his investment company Ithaca Holdings.

Speaking to Good Morning America over the summer, she revealed the process would begin next year.

"My contract says that starting November 2020, I can record albums one through five all over again," she said.

"I think it's important for artists to own their work," she continued. "I'm gonna be busy, I'm very excited."

(Coincidentally, she played Shake It Off during the same TV appearance, apparently without any restrictions from Big Machine.)

Swift wouldn't be the first artist to record "forgeries" of their biggest hits: TLC, Prince and Def Leppard have all used the tactic to regain control of their music.

But her plans apparently spurred last week's tussle. In her initial statement, Swift said she'd been told the AMA medley could go ahead if she "agreed not to record copycat versions of my songs next year".

As leverage, Big Machine seemed willing to classify any archive of the performance as a "new master recording", putting Swift in breach of her contract.

But that is a "technical argument" which "to my knowledge, is not a position that a label has taken before," says music industry lawyer Susan Genco.

She describes Big Machine's original stance as "counter-intuitive and against the label's interest" because, if millions of people see Swift play on Sunday, they're likely to go out and stream her back catalogue, boosting the label's profits.

In that light, the decision to halt the performance seems misguided at best; vindictive at worst.

It's an ugly story, and one that's as old as the music industry itself: A young artist signs a restrictive contract at the start of their career, and only becomes aware of the consequences when it's too late.

In this case, Swift was able to mobilise her fans, who paid to erect #IStandWithTaylor billboards outside Big Machine's offices in Nashville; and the media, who covered the fall-out in blow-by-blow detail, until she got the outcome she wanted (although a planned Netflix documentary is still in dispute).

As an added bonus, a lot more people now know that Swift is performing at the American Music Awards this weekend, where she is due to receive the Artist Of The Decade award.

As Van Morrison once put it: "Music is spiritual. The music business is not."

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email. BBC

MORE NEWS

Revoking licenses of petrol distributors will not affect fuel supply

Although petrol distributors are allowed to buy products from more than one wholesaler, when supply interruptions occur, the distributor system has often not ensured a sufficient supply for filling stations.

Beauty contests heat up in first days of the Year of the Cat

Pham Kim Dung, a representative of the company that founded Hoa hau Quoc gia Vietnam (Miss National Vietnam) beauty pageant, said beauty queens need to make every effort to prove their talent as so many contests now exist.

Vietnam looks forward to catfish orders from China, the US

In January 2023, catfish exports brought $106.8 million to Vietnam, a 50 percent fall compared with the same period last year. However, Vietnamese farmers and exporters now see positive signs from the US and China.

High rates hurting businesses, hamper economic recovery

High interest rates have been hurting businesses' ability to invest in ramping up production capacity, said industry insiders and economists.

Chinese black-credit websites cheating Vietnamese out of money

Many websites have been created to trick people into transferring money to them.

Record number of Vietnamese runners qualify for Boston 2023

Nine of them are from Hanoi and HCM City, the two largest running communities in Vietnam, while the other is Dao Han, who currently lives in Florida, the US.

Vietnam’s transport sector seeking recovery and reboot

While making good recovery during 2022, Vietnam’s transport sector is betting on new policies and plans to increase private investment to obtain its ambitious goals.

Strong FDI flow into Vietnam's electronics industry to boost exports

The increased inflow of investment from foreign investors into Vietnam’s electronics industry is expected to create a positive outlook for the country’s exports of computers, electronic products, and components in the time to come.

Vietnamese professor honoured with prestigious IUPAC award

Vietnamese Professor Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh has received “the Distinguished Women in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering Awards” by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) in 2023.

Hanoi targets GRDP per capita of 36,000 USD by 2045

Hanoi is set to become a globally-connected city with high living standards and quality of life, according to a new plan that aims to raise the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) per capita to 36,000 USD by 2045.

Vietnamese security expert honored by US wireless carrier

Ngo Minh Hieu, a white-hat hacker, has been honored by many US technology corporations.

Many real estate firms declared bankruptcy in 2022

The number of real estate firms declaring bankruptcy and dissolution in 2022 increased by 38.7 percent over 2021, according to the Ministry of Construction’s (MOC) recent report.

Electricity prices must be reasonable: PM

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh recently chaired a conference on domestic consumption and exports in 2023.

Vietnamese aviation market predicted to fully recover by year-end

The Vietnamese aviation market is forecast to fully recover by the end of this year, according to a global outlook for the aviation industry released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently.

Many Japanese firms plan expansion in Vietnam: JETRO poll

Sixty percent of Japanese investors in Asia-Pacific polled in a 2022 survey by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) said they plan to expand operations in Vietnam within the next two years.
back_to_top