Leverage. It’s one of those rare pieces of business jargon that actually means what it sounds like it. Money, assets, and rights all amount to force with which one moves something in the manner of a lever. So, it turns out, does fame. That’s why Taylor Swift has elevated a behind-the-scenes financial dispute into a brouhaha that’s collected the power of her fans, other pop stars, and even politicians such as Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. After today’s news that that gambit might pan out in the way she wants, maybe Swift will title her next album Leverage.
As the 29-year-old singer tells it, powerful men of the music world believe they have the goods to make her do what they want. In June, the record executive Scott Borchetta sold Swift’s longtime label, Big Machine, to the firm of Scooter Braun, who manages Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. The deal meant that the master recordings of Swift’s catalog prior to 2019’s Lover became Braun’s to use and profit from. Swift was mad. According to a note she posted online, Borchetta had asked too-onerous terms for her to buy her own masters, causing her to walk away from negotiations. He then didn’t directly inform her that he’d sell the label to Braun—a man who Swift said engaged in “incessant, manipulative bullying” of her over the years (largely by managing her nemesis, Kanye West). Borchetta replied publicly that he did in fact give Swift a heads-up through her dad, and Braun denied her claims that he’d bullied her.