Taylor Swift wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal offering her take on the future of the music industry.
Swift argues that recorded music is worth money because art is important, rare, and valuable. Although I agree that music should not be free, it’s an unfortunate reality of the digital streaming era that music is no longer rare — any human being with a computer and Internet connection can create and distribute his or her music.
Good music is certainly rare and valuable, but because good music is not tangible, there’s no feasible way to enforce that listeners don’t consume without paying (streaming services are the industry’s best bet to make a little money from listeners).
Additionally, Swift predicts that genre distinctions will no longer matter as much to an artist’s career — genres will instead become more of an organizational tool. Perhaps that’s true, and we can see how country has shifted to pop, and how some people currently classify EDM as pop. A point that Swift doesn’t mention is that genres fluctuate over decades as musical influences, regional variations, and digital technology shape a given genre’s sound. And new genres will emerge that sound like more than the sum of their influences.
Finally, she discusses the importance of artists stepping out of their comfort zones and keeping their audiences interested and engaged by surprising (not shocking) them. In an age of already limited (and rapidly shrinking) attention spans, Swift is right on the mark. Writing this very article in the Wall Street Journal is a perfect example of doing just that.