Taylor Swift

You might not think of Taylor Swift as a writer, but she’s written or co-written every song that’s appeared on any of her albums, and now she’s written something else: An op-ed for The Wall Street Journal about the history of the music business. Swift is one of the few people on earth who consistently sells lots of records, so she’s more qualified than most to talk about this. In her piece, Swift calls herself an “enthusiastic optimist,” claims that online communication and celebrity fascination will only increase, and posits that the album is far from dead. She also says that musicians should stop giving away their work for free: “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.” The piece includes one of those WSJ stipple portraits of Swift’s face, and you can read it here.

Also, as per her Independence Day weekend Instagram, Taylor Swift has prettier friends than most of us.

Comments (25)
  1. “I am an enthusiastic optimist about the broken system in which I am one of the few remaining beneficiaries.”

  2. Is that Lena Dunham flipping off the camera on the left side of that picture?

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  4. “The way I see it, fans view music the way they view their relationships…” says the last person who should be talking about relationships.

  5. Now we wait for the follow-up editorial after Taylor Swift and the music industry break up.

  6. My friends are prettier than that.

  7. If only we could all have our rich parents bankrolling our careers.

  8. Oh man. Despite being published in the Wall Street Journal, this is a DEEPLY anti-capitalist essay (at least the first section). Taylor Swift more or less ascribes to a Marxian labor theory of value, and explicitly rejects the market-clearing function of prices. Imagine an essay being written about Central American coffee farmers arguing for above-market clearing price* for coffee based on similar logic. Would that essay be in the WSJ?

    *Although, probably the market clearing price for a Taylor Swift song is slightly above zero. Not by much though, I would wager.

  9. Here’s a funny story about the music industry:

    Last week I was browsing Spotify (a service I pay $10 a month for) and I saw that Pitchfork gave a “Best New Music” 8.5 score to an album by a band called “A Sunny Day in Glasgow,” who I’d never heard of before. I didn’t take the time to actually read the review, but I saw the word “shoegaze” in the blurb under the score. I think I might have also seen the word “Philly.” Based on these two words, I clicked through and listened to the album. I liked it. Spotify was kind enough to inform me that the band had an “upcoming show in [my] country,” which is usually pretty funny, since the United States is a big place, but in this case it was good, because it listed a show that was happening at a small venue not a mile from where I was sitting. I went to the venue’s website and bought a $10 ticket for myself and one for my wife. When I went home and told my wife we were going to the show, she wanted to hear the album, but in the time it took me to walk home from work, the album had disappeared from Spotify. I guess someone didn’t want to give the music away for “free” anymore. Anyway, I told her it was good, and on Sunday night, we stopped by an ATM to get a fat $20 bill to buy the album on vinyl from the merc table (something we would have done, even if they’d left it up on Spotify). The ATM charged us a service fee of $2.50, which is considered more than reasonably these days. When we got into the venue, I saw that they were selling the album on vinyl for $15, but I didn’t buy it right away. I always like to hear the band before buying anything, in case the show goes horribly wrong and then I feel like an idiot with the record in my hands. While we were waiting, I recognized one of the women in the band who was on stage setting up from another show. It was Jen Goma who recently sang vocals on the “Pains of Being Pure at Heart” tour. I hadn’t realized she was in “A Sunny Day in Glasgow,” and I enjoyed the Pains show, so her presence reassured me that I was going to enjoy the set I was about to watch. Then the band came out and it was kind of awful. At the beginning of every song, I’d remember the song from the album and think, “Oh yeah, I love this one,” and then the vocals would come in and more often than not they were horribly off key. Jen Goma wasn’t usually terrible on her own, but her harmonizing with the other woman in the band was a train wreck. I don’t know if the women couldn’t hear each other or if they hadn’t gotten enough time to rehearse or what, but I was super uncomfortable the whole time. I felt bad for the band. (Some of their parents were there!) I felt bad for my wife, who had never even heard the album I’d based my tickets purchase on. I felt bad for the rest of the audience, who kept it polite and applauded after every song, despite wincing in unison after every rank note. I don’t know if they played an encore, because we split during the break. I skipped the merc table, so now I’ve got $20 in my pocket. I wanted to listen to the album again today, to maybe get over the live performance. Maybe my enjoyment of the album as an album would bring me back to a place where I could order the LP. But it’s not on Spotify anymore, so I guess it wasn’t meant to be. I read it was originally a Kickstarter album.

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      • I find your response to be smug and I do not like it sir.

        Which is to say I don’t think that was the point of his story at all.

      • @iheartmonsterpus

        Your tale of bourgeois sexual frustration doesn’t remind me of myself (who is Ellie Goulding?), but given what I wrote, I see where you’re coming from. At the risk of ending up like the man who wrote a novel and spent the rest of his life trying to explain what he meant by it, my reason for telling the story was that I think it illustrates how hard it is for an artist to connect with a fan, not because the system is broken, but because the facts of everyday life combined with the extreme challenges of making art provide a million opportunities for a missed connection. The fact that there are artists who can sell out a venue and make hundreds of people happy at a shot is what’s amazing, and we don’t need Taylor Swift or anybody else to figure out how to manipulate the system to try to make that more common than it already is. The problem isn’t commerce, it’s that art is hard and your potential audience has limited capacity, time and funds.

        I didn’t enjoy being at the show, but I don’t regret having gone. It was a good night anyway. I left out the $6 gin and tonics we drank on the rooftop bar. There was a breeze. The breeze was free.

    • so i guess ASDIG wasnt very good live eh? i should have known, i saw POBPAH live and i thought they were horrible.

    • “Because the members of the band are spread around the world, the members were never all in the same place during the recording of the album.”

      …Probably has a lot to do with them not sounding so good live.

  10. “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.” Agree with this point, Taylor, but sadly that’s not really how capitalism and/or patriarchal power structures work. Also: am I the only one that wants Emma Stone to get into music or at least put out an album?

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