“I don’t know what else to do,” declared Taylor Swift in a lengthy Twitter post last week. “I just want to be able to perform my own music.”
The star was distressed and upset. She wanted to play a medley of her hits at Sunday’s American Music Awards AMA’s but her old record label had forbidden it.
Or so she claimed. The label hit back with a statement of its own, saying it hadn’t tried to stop the show and that Swift’s narrative “does not exist”.
Insults were traded, politicians weighed in and, eventually, a settlement was reached.
Big Machine Records issued a statement on Monday night saying it had agreed “to grant all licences of their artists’ performances” for “the upcoming American Music Awards”.
It didn’t mention Swift by name but the implication was clear: Her performance could go ahead.
But the second half of the statement was the really interesting part.
“It should be noted,” said the label, “that recording artists do not need label approval for live performances on television or any other live media.
“Record label approval is only needed for contracted artists’ audio and visual recordings and in determining how those works are distributed.”
In other words, Swift never needed permission to play hits like Shake It Off, Love Story or I Knew You Were Trouble at the AMAs. What she couldn’t do was put them online afterwards.
And that matters.
Last year, 6.5 million viewers tuned in watch the AMAs on television, down from 9.15 million a year earlier, but clips from the show went viral online. Cardi B’s carnivalesque performance of I Like It has racked up 28m views on YouTube alone, for example.