Taylor Swift gave an unapologetic fifteen-minute speech upon accepting the Billboard Woman of the Decade award in Los Angeles last night, December 12, 2019.
The Shake It Off singer saw out her 20s with a speech that reflected on the challenges women have faced in the industry, and offered positivity and optimism for the future.
“In the last ten years I have watched as women in this industry are criticised and measured up to each other and picked at for their bodies, their romantic lives, their fashion. Have you ever heard someone say about a male artist ‘I really like his songs, but I don’t know what it is, there’s just something about him I don’t like!’? No! That criticism is reserved for us.
“But I’ve learned that the difference between those that can continue to create in that climate usually comes down to this: who lets that scrutiny break them, and who just keeps making art.”
Her speech propped women up in a way that made it clear why she was the Woman of the Decade.
“Female artists in music have dominated this decade in growth, streaming, record and ticket sales, and critical acclaim. So why are we doing so well? Because we have to grow fast. We have to work this hard. We have to prove that we deserve this and we have to top our last achievements. Women in music on stage and behind the scenes are not allowed to coast. We are held at a higher and sometimes impossible-feeling standard. It seems like my fellow female artists have taken this challenge and they have accepted it. It seems like the pressure that could have crushed us, made us into diamonds instead and what didn’t kill us made us stronger.”
Her take on the current state of the music industry was refreshingly positive, choosing to talk about the benefits of technology and her genuinely held hope that more equitable solutions for creators are just around the corner.
“In music, we’re always walking hand-in-hand with technology and sometimes that is so awesome, like how now we’re able to just drop a song that we made yesterday. I’ve spoken out in the past about the future of revenue flow for creators and the songwriters and producers who are being left behind due to these rapid shifts and changes. I still don’t think that record contracts or producers agreements have caught up and I hope that in the next decade we can keep searching for the right solution for producers, songwriters, and creators. Don’t you?”
She took aim at her rival Scooter Braun’s ‘Ithica Holdings’ who bought her catalogue in a shady deal in which Swift was not involved in.
“This just happened to me without my approval, consultation, or consent. After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalog was sold to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in a deal that I’m told was funded by the Soros family, 23 Capital, and that Carlyle Group. Yet, to this day, none of these investors have bothered to contact me or my team directly—to perform their due diligence on their investment. On their investment in me. To ask how I might feel about the new owner of my art, the music I wrote, the videos I created, photos of me, my handwriting, my album designs.
“And 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 right to own their music. And of course he’s nice to you—if you’re in this room, you have something he needs.
“The fact is that private equity enabled this man to think, according to his own social media post, that he could “buy me.” But I’m obviously not going willingly. 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, and I will never, ever forget it. Like, ever.”
Her final thoughts summed up her speech, which called out the faults of the last decade but offered optimism and hope for the future.
“To conclude, I will say that in ten years I have seen forward steps in our industry. In our awareness, in our inclusion, in our ability to start calling out unfairness and misconduct. I’ve seen the advent of social media the way it can boost the breakthrough of emerging artists, and I have seen fans become more engaged and supportive than ever before. I’ve leaned on that support and it has kept me in a place that no matter what I’ve always wanted to keep making music for them.”
Swift also won Billboard’s Woman of the Year in 2012, and Artist of the Decade at the AMAs this year.
What a way to see out your 20s! Swift turned 30 today, December 13, 2019.