Taylor Swift has glimpsed the future of the music business, and it is glorious.
That’s the contrarian view the pop star espouses with a lengthy op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, in which she looks at an industry on the rocks and sees huge opportunities for artists – or at least, for those willing to approach things a little differently.
To break through, she says, all it takes is a little soul and a little savvy.
Her first piece of advice for young artists is to not devalue their work, even as album sales have declined and the pressure to give at least some music away for free has intensified.
“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for,” writes Swift, 22, who just enjoyed a Fourth of July weekend with famous friends in Rhode Island. “It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”
Rather than mope about the harsher financial reality of the business today, artists should use it as motivation, she adds. The secret to success, she believes, lies in connecting deeply with fans – which is part songwriting, part packaging. Those who do it right will have fans for life, she says, but it will take work.
“I think the future still holds the possibility for this kind of bond, the one my father has with the Beach Boys and the one my mother has with Carly Simon,” she says.
“I think forming a bond with fans in the future will come in the form of constantly providing them with the element of surprise … In the YouTube generation we live in, I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online. To continue to show them something they had never seen before, I brought out dozens of special guest performers to sing their hits with me.”
Young artists need to market themselves on social media, too, she adds – particularly Instagram, where she has 9.7 million followers and counting – and not worry so much about what genre of the music they’re attached to. Also, as the marketing models have gotten more varied, so too has the creative process, which can be a boon for exploration.
“This moment in music is so exciting because the creative avenues an artist can explore are limitless,” Swift says. “In this moment in music, stepping out of your comfort zone is rewarded, and sonic evolution is not only accepted it is celebrated. The only real risk is being too afraid to take a risk at all.”
She adds: “And as for me? I’ll just be sitting back and growing old, watching all of this happen or not happen, all the while trying to maintain a life rooted in this same optimism.”