Taylor Swift wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal in which she offered her optimistic predictions for the future of the music industry.
You might scoff at the idea of the 24-year-old Swift as an industry pundit, but think about it — she’s been in the game for nearly a decade, and in that time has proven to be one of the most consistently best-selling artists of any genre. If anyone knows how to succeed on a massive level in today’s record industry, it’s her.
Of course, this being Taylor Swift, she explained everything in terms of relationships.
But this isn’t just about her being on-brand — it’s actually the best way to frame all of this, because music is ultimately about people making emotional connections. “Some artists will be like finding ‘the one,’” she says. “We will cherish every album they put out until they retire and we will play their music for our children and grandchildren.”
Here are Swift’s predictions:
1. The album format isn’t going away.
“There are many (many) people who predict the downfall of music sales and the irrelevancy of the album as an economic entity,” she said. “I am not one of them. 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.”
2. Artists need to make music that matters to their fans.
Swift noted that people are still buying albums but not as many, and mainly just “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 encourages artists to make music that has this impact on their audience, and while that’s easier said than done, it’s an obvious point that’s often lost in more cynical discussions about the market.
3. Musicians need to keep surprising their audience.
“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 said. As an example from her own career, she mentioned that she was aware many of her fans would’ve seen much of her tour in support of Red in footage on YouTube before they came to see the show in person, so she went out of her way to make sure every date had a special guest or some other surprise they couldn’t know about in advance. “We want to be caught off guard, delighted, left in awe,” she said. “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.”
4. Genres will matter less to people.
“These days, nothing great you hear on the radio seems to come from just one musical influence,” she said. “The wild, unpredictable fun in making music today is that anything goes. Pop sounds like hip-hop; country sounds like rock; rock sounds like soul; and folk sounds like country — and to me, that’s incredible progress.” Swift said that she aims to make music that reflects all of her interests, and hopes that genres will “become less of a career-defining path and more of an organizational tool.”
5. Social media is key.
Swift noted that more and more, musicians, artists and actors get work based on how many followers they have on social media. “In the future, artists will get record deals because they have fans — not the other way around,” she says. It’s worth noting that this is already a trend in the music industry for both indie and major labels.
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