Thursday evening in Los Angeles, Taylor Swift received Billboard's first-ever Woman of the Decade award.
And during her speech, Swift called out the institutionalized sexism she’s witnessed in the industry over the last decade, voiced her support for Lana Del Reyas the "most influential artist in pop" and called out Scooter Braun by name for buying her music against her wishes.
Swift explained,"When this decade began I was 20 years old. I saw that as a female in this industry, some people will always have the slightest reservations about you." Examples include questioning "whether a male producer or co-writer was the reason for your success, or whether it was a savvy record label responsible for your success. It wasn’t. People want to explain away a woman’s success in this industry.”
After "Fearless" won the album of the year Grammy, she said the “Swift backlash” exploded. “All of a sudden they weren’t sure if I was the one writing the songs, because sometimes I had co-writers in the room. This is what happens to a woman in music if she achieves success beyond people’s comfort level.”
Swift continued to call out double standards, saying: “Have you ever heard someone say about a male artist, 'I really like his songs, but there’s something about him I don’t like'? No, that criticism is reserved for us.”
She continued, “It comes down to this: Who lets that scrutiny break them and who keeps making great art? I've watched as one of my favorite artists of the decade, Lana Del Rey, was ruthlessly criticized early in her career, and then slowly but surely she turned into, in my opinion, the most influential artist in pop. Her vocal stylings, her lyrics, her aesthetics, they've been repurposed everywhere in music. And this year, her incredible album is nominated for album of the year at the Grammys."
Then, Swift called out what she sees as unfair music business practices with regards to private equity and other people's art. “Lately there’s been a new shift that has affected me personally, and as your resident loud person, I feel like I need to bring it up. And that’s the unregulated world of private equity coming in and buying up our music as if it's real estate, or an app, or a shoe line.”
“This happened to me without my approval, consultation or consent,”she said, referring to the recent purchase of her back catalog by former Big Machine label head Scott Borchetta and his new partner Scooter Braun. "Scooter Braun never contacted me or my team to discuss it prior to the sale". Swift noted she feels it should have been possible for her to buy her catalog before they did.
She didn’t let his supporters off the hook either, calling it “the definition of the toxic male privilege in our industry to say, 'Well, he’s always been nice to me'... Of course he’s nice to you; if you're in this room, you have something he needs."
In addition to naming names and calling for a discussion on private equity in the business, she urged everyone to keep advocating for female representation in recording studios, A&R departments and more.