Let's all give Taylor Swift some credit. But just a little.
On July 7, Swift published an opinion column in the Wall Street Journal saying, basically, the music industry isn't dying, it's just changing.
It was reasonably well-written, but also incredibly naive.
Swift fans loved this. They took to the virtual streets, hailing her amazing insights and witty discourse too. From this I learned one lessons.
Taylor Swift fans think Taylor Swift is an idiot.
The fact that she can string together enough words to fill a column seems to have astounded them and her shallow "insights" into the music industry are enough to show them only that she can think. This they translate into pure genius, because they didn't expect the pop star to also have a brain.
I should note, this is not true only of Taylor Swift fans nor of all fans. I happen to enjoy jamming out to some Taylor Swift, but found her column entirely too full of sunshine and rainbows to be taken seriously.
"Music is art, and art is important and rare. 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," Swift claims early on.
I happen to think writing is also an art, but nobody is paying any more for newspapers. Just as news is transitioning to the internet, so is music. With sites like Spotify, which allows you to listen to whatever artist you desire, and Pandora, which creates radio stations based on your specific preferences, music lovers have little need to go buy music anymore.
Swift gets that. She knows people are buying less albums, but still thinks people are buying music. They're just buying the most important albums.
I think that's true. In the past year I've bought two CDs. I purchased them - using my hard earned "artist" money - because I love the band and I want to support them (the band was the Avett Brothers, look them up on Spotify).
So, point to Swift. However, she fails to acknowledge how drastically this trend has been and will continue changing the music industry as we know it. If something is available for free, most people will not pay for it. Swift opines it is important for artists to connect with their fans during live performances and over social media in order to get a spot on that "willing to pay for it" list. That might help, but it probably won't garner enough sales to bankroll the kind of lifestyle popular musicians have been enjoying.
So what's the answer? I don't know and neither, apparently, does Taylor Swift. Although her fans gush over her WSJ wisdom, the pop star doesn't answer the most important question; how will the music industry survive the internet?
Swift kicks off her column by saying, or perhaps warning, readers that "Before I tell you my thoughts on the matter, you should know that you're reading the opinion of an enthusiastic optimist: one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dyingit's just coming alive."
But what kind of life will it be? It's a question that also plagues the newspaper industry and it will be interesting to look back when Swift and I are much older to see just how our fields have evolved, or failed.