Taylor Swift’s Label, UMG, Has Donated Thousands To Senator Marsha Blackburn

For much of her career, Taylor Swift was silent on the country’s political landscape It wasn’t until October 7, 2018, that she spoke out politically for the first time, issuing a statement via Instagram to both encourage her fans to register to vote and denounce Tennessee’s now-senator Marsha Blackburn, who she further criticized in the Netflix documentary Miss Americana over two years later. In November of 2018, just a month after speaking out against Blackburn, Swift joined the Universal Music Group label family, and recently the Daily Beast reported that Swift’s new label has not only regularly donated to Blackburn since 2005 but was flagged by federal regulators for exceeding the legal limit of PAC contributions for the current election cycle.  

When Swift left Big Machine Records for Universal Music Group and Republic Records three years ago, the move allowed her to retain ownership over the master recordings of any music she records under them, as she explained in her announcement. She also negotiated new terms for the way artists are compensated for the sale of the label’s Spotify shares. “It’s really important to me to see eye to eye with a label regarding the future of our industry. I feel so motivated by new opportunities created by…the ever-changing landscape of our industry…” Swift shared on Instagram, following years of championing artists’ rights. “New artists and producers and writers need work, and they need to be likable and get booked in sessions, and they can’t make noise — but if I can, then I’m going to,” she told Billboard in 2019

It took a little longer for her to become comfortable with getting loud on the political front, but she’s since adopted the same stance. “I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love…These are not MY Tennessee values…Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway,” she wrote on Instagram. Swift faced criticism for the time it took to take a stand, having remained mum on her political leanings for years. In 2012, Swift told TIME, “I don’t talk about politics because it might influence other people. And I don’t think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for.” Come the 2016 election, Swift was afraid that her influence would do the opposite of what she wanted if she spoke up. “I just knew I wasn’t going to help,” she later told Vogue. “Also, you know, the summer before that election, all people were saying was She’s calculated. She’s manipulative. She’s not what she seems. She’s a snake. She’s a liar. These are the same exact insults people were hurling at Hillary. Would I be an endorsement or would I be a liability? Look, snakes of a feather flock together. Look, the two lying women.

But she came to believe in the power of her voice. “Only as someone approaching 30 did I feel informed enough to speak about it to my 114 million followers. Invoking racism and provoking fear through thinly veiled messaging is not what I want from our leaders, and I realized that it actually is my responsibility to use my influence against that disgusting rhetoric,” Swift wrote for Elle in March of 2019, and others were grateful for the additional voice and the example she was setting for her young fanbase. The typical “singers should stick to singing” backlash ensued, but even President Donald Trump couldn’t turn against her completely: “I like Taylor’s music about 25 percent less now, OK?” he said the next day

Between Swift’s outspoken opposition to almost everything Blackburn stands for and her label’s apparent eagerness to shape the future of the music industry with her, it’s a little startling to learn that they’ve donated just shy of 10,000 dollars to Blackburn’s campaign since contracting with Swift alone. Of course, we have to point out Blackburn’s history of supporting the music industry, and artists in particular – it’s probably the one thing that she and Swift agree upon, and certainly an enticing position to a global musical entity like UMG. But it doesn’t erase, overpower, or discount the harmfully misogynistic, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic stances that Blackburn has taken or legislation that she has fought for. What’s a boost up in the industry if more than half of your workforce – from talent to crew to administrative and beyond – is at risk for personal harm by the other legislation she supports? 
A spokesperson for UMG told the Daily Beast, “Senator Blackburn represents a vital music community and has a long track record of advocating for issues supportive of creators…She has garnered broad support from across the music community…However, none of that excuses, or should be seen as condoning in any way, Senator Blackburn’s derisive comments last summer about Taylor Swift.” The Daily Beast didn’t quote the spokesperson as saying anything about Blackburn’s derisive ideology, but you can’t support your industry without supporting those who keep it running. I, for one, look forward to Taylor Swift taking on the music industry next in Miss Americana 2.0.

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