Haley Spalding & Kyle Graden talk to Billboard about raising more than $1,000 to fund the #IStandWithTaylor displays.
Two Taylor Swift fans are airing their grievances with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta in a very public way.
In the midst of Swift’s escalating battle with the music executives, on Monday (Nov. 18), photos of two digital billboards defending the pop star began circulating online, each bearing the hashtag #IStandWithTaylor and, alternately, a message aimed at Borchetta directly: “Scott, please let Taylor perform her own songs.”
As Billboard has learned, those billboards were the result of a now-closed GoFundMe campaign spearheaded by Haley Spalding and Kyle Graden, who raised more than $1,000 on the crowdfunding platform to buy the displays, which were designed by Swift fan Isabel Rocha. As Spalding notes, she and Graden were inspired by Swift’s previous call for her fans to speak out about Braun and Borchetta’s alleged efforts to bar her from performing her songs at the American Music Awards (she has since been cleared to do so) or to license them for a forthcoming Netflix special.
“Taylor has been singing professionally since she was 14 years old, and she deserves the freedom to use that art,” Spalding, who currently lives in Indianapolis, tells Billboard. “Taylor’s platform is so big that helping her helps every other artist, and we both are really passionate about that. So we wanted to do something besides tweet and post on Instagram and Facebook. We wanted to have something tangible that could start a conversation and that could show her that we’re supporting her at this time.”
Taylor asked us to let Scott know how we felt…. so @TTWAKyle and I did!!
— Haley (@Hspalding13) November 18, 2019
According to Spalding, the displays — which are located on rotating digital billboards above two banks in Nashville, where Borchetta and Braun’s Big Machine has its headquarters — cost $1,000 total and will run for a week while sharing space with other ads.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the size and loyalty of Swift’s fanbase — a separate Change.org petition defending the singer has already garnered more than 131,000 signatures — the money wasn’t hard to raise, says Spalding.
“I threw up a GoFundMe on Twitter, and I was like, ‘Hey, [if] any Taylor Swift fans want to donate to this, we’re trying to get enough money to get a billboard for Taylor,’” she says. “And within hours we had $1,000 to get the billboard, and over 70 Taylor Swift fans had donated to it.”
Echoing her idol, Spalding — who met Graden at a Reputation album release party he threw in Nashville, where Spalding previously lived — aren’t just doing this for Swift’s rights but for the rights of all artists to control their own music.
“I think that if the largest superstar, arguably, in America can’t have the rights to her own music and perform her own music, then what does that say for every other musician, [particularly] female[s]?” says Spalding, who has no immediate plans to fundraise for more billboards but is keeping the possibility open. “I think it speaks to a much bigger conversation than just Taylor Swift alone.”
The feud between Swift, Borchetta and Braun has escalated since Swift originally posted her missive on Instagram last Thursday. On Friday, Big Machine released a statement denying Swift’s version of events, alleging instead that Swift owed “millions of dollars and multiple assets” to the company. In response, a spokeswoman for Swift claimed that an independent auditor had actually determined that the label owes Swift $7.9 million in unpaid royalties.