On Sunday, pop start Taylor Swift took aim at Scott Borchetta, owner of her label, Big Machine Records, for selling her master recordings--the ultimate store of commercial value for musicians, as my colleague Damon Brown might put it--to someone whom she apparently considers an enemy.
Sorry, I don't do enough pop music to understand, I just pass on the message. But bear with me for a moment, because it's ultimately meant for you.
Here's a bit of what she wrote:
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, 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.
It goes on from there. The Instagram post has garnered 1,994,869 likes as of Monday night with 180,546 comments.
Swift has a reputation of sometimes taking revenge through her music. This is similar, in more ways than one. Sometimes, targets would return the fire. And that happened here.
Borchetta posted his reply. Here's part:
Taylor's dad, Scott Swift, was a shareholder in Big Machine Records, LLC. We first alerted all of the shareholders on Thursday, June 20th for an official shareholder's call scheduled for Tuesday, June 25th. On the 6/25 call the shareholders were made aware of the pending deal with Ithaca Holdings and had 3 days to go over all of the details of the proposed transaction. We then had a final call on Friday, June 28th in which the transaction passed with a majority vote and 3 of the 5 shareholders voting 'yes' with 92% of the shareholder's vote.
Out of courtesy, I personally texted Taylor at 9:06pm, Saturday, June 29th to inform her prior to the story breaking on the morning of Sunday, June 30th so she could hear it directly from me.
Borchetta added that perhaps Swift's father and representatives from her management company--all of whom were at the meeting, Borchetta said--mentioned nothing during the few days between the meeting and the call or that she hadn't seen the text from him. "But, I truly doubt that she 'woke up to the news when everyone else did,'" he wrote.
This could be a case of Rashomon, where the truth is always someplace in between. But it's clearly more complicated than Swift would want it to seem. As music insider and analyst Bob Lefsetz put it, she signed a bad deal when she was 15, but "Taylor Swift could have afforded $300 million," which was apparently the price for Big Machine Records along with Swift's masters.
"She should have bought the label," Lefsetz wrote at the top of his post.
Maybe Swift's point was marketing, to tie her enormous fan base closer to her using sympathy. Or maybe she was settling scores. But, yeah, she probably could have raised enough money to match or better the offer.
Here's where what happened ties in to entrepreneurs, business owners, and people working professionally as employees. To be effective, social media has to be wide open. You don't build a fan base or connect with much of anyone if you go private and only let in 17 of your closest friends.
Sure, you can block people on platforms, but eventually they hear what's going on from others who take screen shots and retransmit what you said. And then there are all the other people who might happen upon a post.
You've of course heard of cases where people wrote something stupid or tasteless in the past only to have to come back and ruin a career or opportunity. Is Taylor Swift out of business? Of course not, a silly notion--right now.
But everything turns. Eventually the pop star is an also ran. Or there's an important deal to cut. So long as people really need you, they'll find ways to deal with you. If they suspect that you might go after them in public or even, heaven forbid, potentially misrepresent how something happened, maybe they don't want to take the chance. And you won't be able to hide from them what you do.
Be as outrageous as you must for your brand. But always--always--keep it professional when it's time for business. People will remember and look to you in the future. Or they won't and will seek ways to avoid you. Career longevity is easy to support or to undercut. Remember that the next time you're on social media.