Taylor Swift is calling for change in the music industry.
On Thursday, Swift, 30, delivered a moving speech, in which she bluntly called out Scooter Braun and slammed the people who tried to hush her as the “definition of toxic male privilege” after she was honored with the first-ever Billboard Woman of the Decade award.
Swift passionately explained at Billboard‘s Women in Music awards that in addition to the continuous and unfair plight women face when trying to break into the music industry, there’s a new shift that has “affected me personally.”
“That is the unregulated world of private equity coming in and buying up our music as if it’s real estate,” Swift said.
In June, Swift publicly slammed Braun for acquiring her music catalog from her former label Big Machine. Their feud continued when Swift accused Braun of blocking her from performing her old songs.
“This just happened to me without my approval, consultation or consent,” Swift said in her speech Thursday. “After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalog was sold to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.”
“To this day, none of these investors have ever [contacted me] or my team directly to perform their due diligence on their investment in me to ask how I might feel about the new owner of my art, my music… my handwriting,” Swift continued, adding “Of course, Scooter never contacted me or my team to discuss it prior to the sale or even when it was announced.”
“I’m fairly certain he knew exactly how I would feel about it though and let me just say that the definition of toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying, ‘But he’s always been nice to me’ when I’m raising valid concerns about artists and their rights to own their music. Of course, he’s nice to people in this room, you have something he needs.”
“The fact is that private equity is what enabled this man to think, according to his own social media posts, that he could ‘buy me.’ Well, I’m obviously not going willingly.”
Despite her struggles, Swift said she found comfort in the many women who have stood by her during this difficult time.
“Yet, the most amazing thing was to discover that it would be the women in our industry, who would have my back and show me the most vocal support at one of the most difficult times.”
“I will never ever forget it. Like, ever,” Swift added.
During her speech, Swift also called for more women to be in more executive roles, A&R meetings and in recording studios.
“We have to prove we deserve this,” Swift said of the battles women in music face, adding that over the last 10 years she’s watched as women are “measured up to each other” and pit against each other — something she wants to end.
Despite there being a long road ahead, Swift made sure to point out the strides made in the music industry.
“I’ve seen forward steps in our awareness, in our inclusion and ability to call out unfairness and misconduct,” Swift said.
Swift also paid homage to the plethora of new female faces in music like Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo and fellow Billboard Women in Music honoree Billie Eilish, who was honored with Woman of the Year.
In November, Braun broke his silence on his feud with Swift saying during a Q&A moderated by Variety, “I just think we live in a time with toxic division and people thinking that social media is the appropriate place to air out on each other and not have conversations.”
The record executive, who declined to mention Swift by name, went on to say that the ideal solution would be to discuss the issue privately.
“What I’ll say is, people need to communicate and when people are able to communicate I think they work things out,” he continued. “I think a lot of times things are miscommunicated, but I believe that people are fundamentally good.”
Swift’s call to action comes at the 2019 Billboard Women in Music Awards after she revealed she’s finally aligned herself with a “generous label” amid her feud with Braun and Big Machine.
In PEOPLE’s Dec. 16 cover story, Swift — who is honored as one of four People of the Year — reveals exactly why it’s been so important for her to speak up about injustices in the industry, and how she’s feeling more supported than ever by her new musical home.
“One of the feelings of pride and contentment and gratitude that I had when Lover came out was this sense of being so thankful that after so long of being denied the rights to music that I had made and created, I finally felt like I was in a place where I had aligned myself with generous people,” says the 10-time Grammy winner, whose first six albums were all released under Big Machine.
“The label that I’m at now, the team that I have now, there’s not a single person in that sphere that wants to deny me of what I created, and that feels really good.”
When Swift signed her new contract with Universal Music Group, the label agreed to pay their artists a “significant portion” of money they earn from Spotify shares.
“It’s a hugely important thing to me as an artist because that’s our pension plan. That’s our thing that we get to leave to our kids,” she said. “That’s what we should be able to have as creators and writers.”
Despite any backlash the superstar may face when she speaks out, Swift said it would be disingenuous of her to stay silent.
“I’m just gonna always speak up for things if I think it’s a discrepancy in the narrative of the music industry. If I think that the industry isn’t bringing certain things to light that I think new artists should know about, if I’m in a position to speak about it — which thankfully I am — and somebody who’s younger who’s signing a record deal can learn from that, then that’s a good day.”
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