Taylor Swift, who describes herself as an “enthusiastic optimist,” offered up a sunny outlook on the future of the music industry in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. The success of recorded music, in her opinion, comes down to finding the proper price point for music and for keeping music fans interested by surprising them. “In recent years, you’ve probably read the articles about major recording artists who have decided to practically give their music away, for this promotion or that exclusive deal,” she wrote. “My hope for the future, not just in the music industry, but in every young girl I meet…is that they all realize their worth and ask for it.”
At its core, the value of an album amounts to the quantity of the “heart and soul” its creator put into it, Swift wrote. But in her opinion, despite the fact that piracy has drained the record industry’s coffers, music is valuable and worth the price of admission. “Music is art, and art is important and rare,” she wrote. “Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. 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.”
Elsewhere, Swift opines that the music that people are buying are records that “hit them like an arrow through the heart or have made them feel strong or allowed them to feel like they aren’t alone in feeling so alone.” She believes that fans look at music much like they look at relationships, with some amounting to “a passing fling” while others are meant to be treasured; she wants to see artists building the sorts of bonds her father has with the music of the Beach Boys and her mother with Carly Simon. But in order to keep younger fans, she thinks artists must surprise their fan bases.
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“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,” Swift wrote. “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…I hope the next generation’s artists will continue to think of inventive ways of keeping their audiences on their toes, as challenging as that might be.”
Although she described herself as an optimist early in the article, she did point out that she was aware of changing times. Fans now opt for selfies over autographs, and with the importance of social media, she’s seen trends changing around the entertainment industry. “A friend of mine, who is an actress, told me that when the casting for her recent movie came down to two actresses, the casting director chose the actress with more Twitter followers,” she wrote. “I see this becoming a trend in the music industry.” That social media relationship with fans is important – she credited her MySpace presence as an important part of her getting a record deal in 2005 – and she predicts more artists will get deals based on their interaction with fans.