Secret of success according to Taylor Swift

Last updated 11:01 11/07/2014
Taylor Swift

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Taylor Swift suggests aiming "arrows through the heart" to keep music afloat, according to a comment piece she has penned in the Wall Street Journal.

OPINION: Obviously the Red singer means musical arrows that make people feel strongly about an album in order to buy it. And she comes down very pointedly, ahem, on the side of getting paid for her work and not wanting music to be free.

Faced with the issues of piracy, file sharing and streaming, she of course has a point. But there is something about her choice of words that makes it hard to take what is a very serious debate, well, seriously.

"In my opinion, 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," the 24-year-old writes, after confessing to being a bleeding heart when it comes to believing in the future of music.

"My hope for the future, not just in the music industry, but in every young girl I meet ... is that they all realise their worth and ask for it."

I'm sure the Wall Street readers of the world will take note. After all, they mostly deal in predicting worth.

But fair is fair and "music is art" (tick), "art is important and rare" (tick), "rare things are valuable" (tick) and "valuable things should be paid for" (tick).

Where she comes unstuck, however, is that unlike one-off paintings by Picasso, every teenager with a camera/recorder and a music app can potentially become a YouTube star (even if only fleetingly). And because of the mass number of reality talent shows on TV, being "recognisable" is no longer a trademark to let you know you have arrived.

So it is little wonder then that like most industries (journalism included), musicians' ability to get paid is being eroded by the need to be available/popular to the point of giving those talents away for free.

Even some of Swift's peers (major recording artists) "have decided to practically give their music away, for this promotion or that exclusive deal".

So what should musicians do? Here is Swift's solution.

"There are always going to be those artists who break through on an emotional level and end up in people's lives forever," she writes.

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"Some artists will be like finding 'the one'. We will cherish every album they put out until they retire and we will play their music for our children and grandchildren. As an artist, this is the dream bond we hope to establish with our fans."

I think it's a pretty safe bet that serious musicians already put their heart into their work in the hope of achieving success, getting paid and eventually creating a legacy. And I know there are millions, if not billions, of Swift fans who will hate me saying this but I seriously doubt emotion alone is going to be enough to make people pay.

At this rate, that grandchild she mentioned will definitely download the song for free, because we're talking two generations from now when people won't remember ever having to pay.

What is interesting, however, is the insight to her life, where the autograph no longer exists since the selfie is "part of the new currency, which seems to be 'how many followers you have on Instagram'."

And her tale about an actress-friend who was faced with a casting director who wanted the actress with the most Twitter followers.

"In the future, artists will get record deals because they have fans - not the other way around," Swift says.

But in the end, will any of this matter to Swift?

"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.

"And I'd also like a nice garden."

- Sydney Morning Herald


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