Taylor Swift Draws Private Equity Giant Carlyle into Her Music Spat

November 18, 2019 | News, Private Equity
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Tay Swift’s appeal for help has put Carlyle in the cross-hairs of both her fan following and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

In emotionally charged posts on Tumblr, pop star Taylor Swift laid bare her grouses against her former music label Big Machine Label Group. Celebrity media manager Scooter Braun’s holding company Ithaca owns Big Machine. Private equity giant Carlyle helped finance Ithaca’s acquisition of Big Machine.

Specifically, Swift alleged in a Tumblr post titled “Don’t know what else to do” that Ithaca was not allowing her to perform some of her old songs at a forthcoming show by the American Music Awards honoring her as Artist of the Decade. Ithaca also denied her permission to use her older music or performance footage in a Netflix documentary about her life.

“Scott Borchetta told my team that they’ll allow me to use my music only if I do these things: If I agree to not re-record copycat versions of my songs next year (which is something I’m both legally allowed to do and looking forward to) and also told my team that I need to stop talking about him and Scooter Braun,” Tay Swift wrote in her post.

“I’m especially asking for help from The Carlyle Group, who put up money for the sale of my music to these two men.”

The post understandably drew sympathetic responses from Swift’s fans, music industry peers, and also from politicians.

Sen Elizabeth Warren fires a fresh salvo at Private Equity

On Saturday, Sen Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “Unfortunately, @TaylorSwift13 is one of many whose work has been threatened by a private equity firm. They’re gobbling up more and more of our economy, costing jobs and crushing entire industries. It’s time to rein in private equity firms—and I’ve got a plan for that.”

On Friday, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, had tweeted about PE groups: “Their leveraged buyouts have destroyed the lives of retail workers across the country, scrapping 1+ million jobs. Now they’re holding @taylorswift13’s own music hostage. They need to be reigned in.”

How will this work out?

It may be an unequal battle. Swift is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, winning 10 Grammys and other awards. At the age of 26 years, she has a net worth of $360 million. She has a massive social media and fan following, which she can mobilize in her support.

Taylor Swift has a history of taking on bigger opponents if she has a cause. In 2015 she objected to Apple offering a free music trial to its subscribers. After her letter, Apple started to pay artists for music streamed during the trial period.

Combat, I’m ready for combat

I say I don’t want that, but what if I do?

‘Cause cruelty wins in the movies

I’ve got a hundred thrown-out speeches I almost said to you

  • Taylor Swift (The Archer)

 

[Related Story: Elizabeth Warren: Everything is Wrong with Private Equity, Everything  ]

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