An im­bal­anced link con­nects ra­dio sta­tions and su­per­stars

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Danika Wor­thing­ton

Of the many nar­ra­tives com­ing out of the civil trial be­tween singer Tay­lor Swift and for­mer ra­dio host David Mueller, one has slowly weaved its way through­out: The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the ra­dio sta­tion and the artist is an im­por­tant one, and there is likely an im­bal­ance of power.

Dur­ing his open­ing state­ments and through his line of ques­tion­ing, Mueller’s at­tor­ney Gabe McFarland has de­picted it as one where the pop­u­lar megas­tar, such as Swift, holds the power over the sta­tion, which would scram­ble to keep the star in its good graces.

But the Swift team de­scribes it an­other way. One where both the stars and their record la­bels have to work — even pay mil­lions of dol­lars — to get their mu­sic on the sta­tion’s air­waves.

With so many big names out there, there’s a lot of com­pe­ti­tion.

“For bet­ter or for worse, the ra­dio sta­tions have the power over the artists,” tes­ti­fied Frank Bell, who had 37 years in ra­dio be­fore go­ing to work with Swift as her ra­dio pro­mo­tions man­ager. He is one of those be­ing sued by Mueller in U.S. District Court in Denver.

Both sides need the other — the sta­tion for mu­sic and the artist for an out­let to fans. And the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Swift and KYGO was tem­po­rar­ily put in a rough place.

Swift al­leges that Mueller groped her dur­ing a meet-and­greet be­fore her 2013 con­cert at the Pepsi Cen­ter. Her man­age­ment team told KYGO about the in­ci­dent, say­ing their re­la­tion­ship was head­ing to­ward a grave place un­less the ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion was taken. Mueller sued Swift, her mother and Bell, claim­ing they in­ter­fered with his em­ploy­ment. Swift coun­ter­sued with claims of assault and bat­tery.

McFarland has pushed a nar­ra­tive that “ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion” was a thinly veiled way of say­ing the sta­tion needed to fire Mueller. Both An­drea Swift, who is Tay­lor’s mother and was part of her se­nior man­age­ment team at the time, and Bell tes­ti­fied that they meant for the ra­dio sta­tion to con­duct its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion and reach its own con­clu­sion of ap­pro­pri­ate pun­ish­ment.

Mueller, An­drea Swift and Bell all tes­ti­fied in court Wed­nes­day for the third day of the civil trial at the down­town fed­eral court­house.

There are mul­ti­ple mee­tand-greets be­fore Swift’s con­certs. The first one or two are for so-called VIPs, typ­i­cally peo­ple in the lo­cal ra­dio scene, such as on-air per­son­al­i­ties, like Mueller, or pro­gram man­agers. Typ­i­cally a ra­dio sta­tion will be given VIP tick­ets. And as a way to sup­port the sta­tions, Swift also gives gen­eral meet-and-greet tick­ets to be handed out to fans or em­ploy­ees, An­drea Swift said.

An­drea Swift tes­ti­fied that dur­ing the VIP por­tion, both she and Tay­lor Swift typ­i­cally min­gle with the ra­dio folks, talk­ing and tak­ing pic­tures. At the Denver VIP meet-and-greet, An­drea Swift said she rec­og­nized sev­eral folks from past events.

The mother tes­ti­fied that ra­dio re­la­tion­ships were im­por­tant to the Tay­lor Swift team. Douglas Baldridge, the lawyer ar­gu­ing the case for the Swifts and Bell, asked An­drea Swift if they could get away with pres­sur­ing the sta­tion.

“They deal with too many artists and big artists,” she said.

Baldridge asked An­drea Swift if she thought KYGO could sur­vive with­out her daugh­ter’s mu­sic. She an­swered yes.

An­drea Swift said she’s been go­ing with her daugh­ter to ra­dio sta­tions since the singer was 15. She said she knew that a teenage girl who wrote and played her own songs would be a hard sell — es­pe­cially in coun­try mu­sic. So she took a young Tay­lor Swift to sta­tions in per­son so the girl could prove her­self.

For six months, they went to ra­dio sta­tions across the coun­try, some­times hit­ting three a day. And from her ex­pe­ri­ence, she said there are times when a young fe­male artist will be alone with a man­ager or on-air per­son­al­ity. That’s what partly mo­ti­vated Swift’s team to call KYGO, she tes­ti­fied.

“What could hap­pen to a young woman if she didn’t have a com­pan­ion or some­one to ac­com­pany her in these sit­u­a­tions?” she said.

The trial con­tin­ues Thurs­day.

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