She has the music industry at her feet, is worth £253 million, has eight homes and almost 300 million followers on social media. Yet Taylor Swift has made a career out of being a woman wronged.
Former boyfriends have been immortalised in unflattering songs, and enemies mocked in music videos.
Her recent Reputation tour, which grossed a staggering £273 million, even featured massive snakes to refer to an infamous spat with Kim Kardashian.
But now Swift is limbering up for a fight set to make her previous penchant for elaborate score-settling look like a quiet afternoon in a knitting circle.
The singer, 29, has declared that a section of the showbusiness world — led by Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun — is bent on destroying her, accusing Braun of ‘incessant manipulative bullying’.
She has the music industry at her feet, is worth £253 million, has eight homes and almost 300 million followers on social media. Yet Taylor Swift (pictured at the 2019 Billboard Awards in Las Vegas on May 1) has made a career out of being a woman wronged, writes ALISON BOSHOFF
The issue is that Braun, himself worth around £317 million, has signed a deal, announced on Sunday, which means he owns Taylor’s back catalogue.
On Tumblr, Taylor said she knew her former boss and friend Scott Borchetta was going to sell the rights to her previous six albums, but wailed: ‘Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter.
‘Any time that 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.’ She signed off saying: ‘Sad and grossed out.’
Braun’s friends are countering that she is the bully, as her millions of fans are now furiously trolling Braun, his family and his associates.
So why all the fall-outs? And is she really a wronged woman — or does she, as some have alleged, just like to play the victim? ALISON BOSHOFF reports…
MAD AT MOGUL
Aged 15, Taylor Swift was a country music ingenue. She signed to Nashville-based Big Machine Records and her contract gave it ownership of her album masters.
Selling 30 million albums over the course of her six-album deal, her back catalogue became the label’s biggest asset.
She tried to buy the masters back, but was only offered the option of gaining control of one at a time in exchange for making a new one with them. She declined.
Last year, she signed a new deal with Universal Music which gives her ownership of all her future work. Meanwhile, Big Machine was put up for sale.
Both Universal and Warner Music wanted to buy the company, but the deal was too expensive and Borchetta opted to sell to Ithaca Holdings, founded by Scooter Braun.
He manages, among other artists, Kanye West (Kim’s husband and Taylor’s long-time foe), and discovered Justin Bieber.
Swift, 29, has declared that a section of the showbusiness world — led by Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun (pictured with him at the One Love Manchester concert in June)— is bent on destroying her, accusing Braun of ‘incessant manipulative bullying’
Taylor has bad blood with Scooter. He was pictured with Kanye and Justin Bieber in an Instagram post by Bieber captioned: ‘Taylor Swift, what up.’
At the time she was at war with Kanye over his song Famous, which crudely referenced her. She felt the post was bullying.
On Tumblr, she wrote: ‘Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work… 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 15 to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept.’
Scooter was originally a party promoter in Atlanta, and went on to manage R&B star Usher. Other clients include Ariana Grande, who has voiced support for him.
Bieber pleaded with Swift not to ‘bully’ Braun, saying: ‘Neither Scooter or I have anything negative to say about you, we truly want the best for you… when you try and deface someone I love’s character that’s crossing a line. To get people to hate on Scooter isn’t fair.’
Swift accused former U.S. radio host David Mueller (pictured right with her centre) of groping her bottom in 2013
Scooter’s wife Yael wrote on Instagram: ‘Who are you to talk about bullying? The world has watched you collect and drop friends like wilted flowers.
‘My husband is anything but a bully. You are supposed to be a role model, but continue to model bullying.’
Others have taken Taylor’s side, with model Cara Delevingne writing a supportive message.
Media experts now warn Taylor could use her power to make the deal essentially worthless.
She does not own her masters but she does control the publishing rights as she has writing credit on all of her songs, so could complicate his ability to use them in adverts, films or elsewhere.
Michael Sukin, a music lawyer who has worked with Elvis Presley’s estate, said: ‘She might have some rights that have to do with defamation and injury to personality. She’s a very rich woman.
‘She could make life difficult for them. She might not win, but who wants to risk all this money over that?’
DEFEATING THE DJ
Swift accused former U.S. radio host David Mueller of groping her bottom in 2013.
He then sued her for $3 million saying she had pressured his employer to fire him after an incident at a pre-concert meet-and-greet.
He said he had just touched her arm. She said: ‘He grabbed my bare ass.’ She countersued in 2017 — asking for just $1 in damages. A jury found in her favour.
TAKING ON TOUTS
Swift didn’t sell out her Reputation tour last year, but still earned a huge gross profit.
How? She experimented with a new way of ticketing. Her 1989 Tour in 2015 sold out in seconds, only for touts to resell tickets on secondary sites at five times the face value, making a fortune.
So this time, she sold tickets at higher prices — £350 for floor seats and £1,200 for VIP tickets. The idea was to charge what people end up paying on the secondary market.
There was also a ‘Verified fan’ scheme which saw fans watch music videos and buy the album and merch in return for codes to buy discounted presale tickets.
Patrick Ryan, of the ticketing company Eventellect, said: ‘When I see an upper deck ticket above $200 for a stadium tour, I have a hard time imagining that fan will leave thinking they got their money’s worth.’
A row began in 2014 when Taylor removed her back catalogue from streaming service Spotify.
She said it paid too little back to artists, who make an average of $0.004 per stream.
For the minimum monthly U.S. wage, an artist would have to sell 1,120 copies of an album or have more than 380,000 streams on Spotify.
She then criticised Apple for its three-month free trial period — and Apple agreed to pay artist royalties during the trial. Swift then put her back catalogue on Apple Music.
In 2017 she put her music back on Spotify, after it agreed to keep new releases off its free tier for the first two weeks of release. Taylor kept her 2018 album Reputation off it until she had made money from digital albums, tie-ins and the rest.
When she signed her new deal with Universal Music Group in November, her contract included an assurance that any sale of Universal’s Spotify shares will result in money being distributed to all its artists.
Taylor’s argy-bargy with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West began after Kanye’s ill-judged storming of the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) in 2009 (pictured)
FEUD WITH KANYE AND KIM
Taylor’s argy-bargy with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West began after Kanye’s ill-judged storming of the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) in 2009.
Swift, then 19, was accepting the award for Best Female Video when he grabbed the mic and insisted Beyonce should have won. He apologised in 2010.
All seemed sweetness and light for a few years, until Kanye released the song Famous in 2016. It featured the lyric: ‘I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that b**** famous.’
Kanye said that he had sought and got her approval. Her camp denied it, with Swift making a dig at Kanye from the stage at the Emmy Awards.
The music video for Famous included a naked waxwork of Taylor (pictured far left)
Kim stepped in, telling GQ magazine Taylor ‘totally knew’ about the lyric, but wanted ‘to play the victim’.
Kim later released an audio tape of Swift and Kanye appearing to discuss the lyric in question. The music video for Famous included a naked waxwork of Taylor.
In her Tumblr post on Sunday, Taylor said: ‘Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter [Braun] got his two clients together to bully me online about it. His client, Kanye West, organised a revenge porn music video.’
In the video for her song Look What You Made Me Do in 2017, Swift carved ‘Et Tu Brute’ on her golden throne — bemoaning Kim’s apparent betrayal.
In June this year, Katy Perry (left) proved her feud with the singer (right) was over by appearing in Taylor’s video for her song You Need To Calm Down
‘SABOTAGED’ BY KATY PERRY
Taylor and pop star Katy were firm friends at the start of their careers, but started feuding in 2012 after some of Taylor’s back-up dancers left her tour to work for Katy. Taylor felt that this was ‘sabotage’.
The 2014 song Bad Blood is said to be about their fallout, its chorus proclaiming: ‘Now we’ve got bad blood, you know it used to be mad love.’ In 2016, Perry released a fragrance called Mad Love.
In May 2018, Katy sent Taylor a literal olive branch and a letter of apology, and Taylor posted a video of the package on Instagram, adding: ‘Thank you, Katy.’
But even then, it looked like there may still be problems, with a source claiming: ‘Without context, it looks like [Katy’s] taking the blame for everything.’
However, in June this year, Katy proved the feud was over by appearing in Taylor’s video for her song You Need To Calm Down.
She then posted on Instagram a picture of a plate of cookies with ‘Peace At Last’ in icing, and tagged Swift in the post.
Taylor and pop star Katy (pictured together in January 2010) were firm friends at the start of their careers, but started feuding in 2012
THE BREAK-UPS MINED FOR HITS
Some have detected an element of formula in Taylor’s romantic life, whereby she dates a famous man, plasters him all over her social media, dumps him and writes a song about how awful he was.
Scottish DJ Calvin Harris knows the treatment only too well. They had a 15-month romance which ended in June 2016 when she took up with Tom Hiddleston.
After the split, Taylor let it be known that she had co-written his track This Is What You Came For under a pseudonym.
Calvin tweeted: ‘If you’re happy in your new relationship you should focus on that instead of trying to tear your ex bf down.’
Swift is pictured with then-boyfriend Harry Styles in New York in December 2012
Taylor and old Etonian Tom Hiddleston’s brief relationship caused a sensation.
The couple were photographed kissing on a beach in June 2016. A few weeks later, Tom was seen frolicking in the sea wearing a vest which said ‘I heart TS’.
The romance was over soon after, and sources in Taylor’s camp said they thought he was using her for publicity.
In the video for Taylor’s single Look What You Made Me Do, her male backing dancers are dressed in ‘I heart TS’ crop tops.
Scottish DJ Calvin Harris had a 15-month romance with Swift, which ended in June 2016 when she took up with Tom Hiddleston
Taylor wrote Dear John about musician John Mayer. It included the line: ‘Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with? The girl in the dress cried the whole way home.’
Mayer, appalled, called it ‘cheap songwriting’ and said: ‘It was a really lousy thing for her to do.’
Harry Styles of One Direction was the inspiration for the song I Knew You Were Trouble.
Taylor and old Etonian Tom Hiddleston’s brief relationship caused a sensation (pictured together in July 2016 in Rhode Island, USA)