- Taylor Swift wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on the music industry
- She remains optimistic about its future
- Swift says the key is to create art that is valuable and connects with fans
When it comes to the future of the music business, Taylor Swift sees the glass half-full.
In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece about the state of the industry, the 24-year-old singer/songwriter puts a hopeful spin on what's to come, declaring herself from the outset to be an optimist.
That's not exactly a surprising stance when you consider that she's created an empire on the strength of her pen and persona. With four albums and seven Grammys to her name, Swift earned almost $40 million in 2013 from a combination of albums sold, digital downloads, touring revenue, branding and sponsorships.
And when it comes to those album sales, Swift knows that "piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers ... drastically." But she also points out that people do still buy records -- just fewer of them.
"They are buying only the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart or have made them feel strong or allowed them to feel like they really aren't alone in feeling so alone," she writes. "The value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace."
It probably goes without saying that Swift does not believe in music for free; it's "art," after all, and "art is important and rare." Rather, she hopes for a future in which "every young girl I meet ... all realize their worth and ask for it" and predicts 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."
But album sales are just one piece of the music industry's jumbled puzzle. Artists are also challenged with sustaining interest, a challenge made difficult by younger generations that are "raised being able to flip channels if we got bored, and ... read the last page of the book when we got impatient," Swift acknowledges.
From the star's perspective, the trick will be in the element of surprise.
"I believe couples can stay in love for decades if they just continue to surprise each other, so why can't this love affair exist between an artist and their fans?" she asks. "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." Instead of signing an autograph, Swift says, just take a selfie.
Yet with all of the things that are changing in music, Swift predicts that at least one thing that will stay the same: an intense interest in the artist's personal life.
"There will always be an increasing fixation on the private lives of musicians, especially the younger ones," she observes. "There continues to be a bad girl vs. good girl/clean-cut vs. sexy debate, and for as long as those labels exist, I just hope there will be contenders on both sides. Everyone needs someone to relate to."
So 20, 30 or 40 years down the line, where does Swift see herself -- aside from surprising her fans?
"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," the singer concludes. "And I'd also like a nice garden."