Taylor Swift Insights on Future of Music Industry

I read with great interest an article by superstar singer Taylor Swift published on Wall Street Journal on how the music industry has evolved and how artists like her are supposed to adopt to the ever-changing ecosystem of the industry.

  • The Recording Industry Association of America, the same folks who are associated with disabling audio on YouTube videos for copyright reasons, revealed that 94.8% of the US$15 billion recording industry in 2003 is composed of sales of compact discs. This figure has shrunk to just 35% in an also-shrunk business of just US$7 billion in 2013. Subscription, streaming and digital downloads, virtually unheard of in the early part of the last decade, has zoomed to 61%.This means that to those who compute the industry’s dollars only based on number of cassettes, vinyls and CDs have failed to acknowledge the presence of an emerging medium. Last week, I shipped dozens of CDs back to my folks in the Philippines while being contented with monthly paid access to Spotify for unlimited albums, artists, everywhere I go.Ms Swift was quick to point that while sales have gone down, value of music will remain “based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work.” Once a tune has hit the heart of a listener, he or she could become a fan and and an advocate to an artist’s music — just as I got hooked with Toad the Wet Sprocket the moment I got hold of Dulcinea cassette tape in college. As music has since been easy to share, we don’t know what’s the average number of listeners every single CD bought from an outlet. At least YouTube tracks down the number of impressions which reflect on a music’s popularity and virality. Who knows YouTube impressions will also become a legitimate barometer in gauging gold and platinum albums in the future. Or is it already?
  • Probably  like everyone else, Taylor sees music as an art. And why not? It’s a creative expression of one’s self, and fans can easily relate with the lyrics, melody or both. And being an art meant it has value that should be paid for, not a free commodity some artists apparently do when they distribute their music for free. At the moment there is little variation on the value of music translated into US$0.99 downloads on for virtually a huge lineup of music on iTunes Store despite huge difference in popularity. Some songs are just like certain artists, one hit wonders. Others have become instant classics, getting adopted as personal theme songs. After which, it is likely that we fans start this bond with our favorite singers, following every album they release, buying their endorsements, and going to their concerts.Ms. Taylor predicts artists and their labels will be able to dictate their worth in the future. Now, it’s apparently hard to quantify the value of a song before it’s released in the market. Artists before were at the mercy of radio stations who dictate what to play on the airwaves. Now, it’s the social media generation and artists have plenty of ways to promote themselves.
  • taylor-swiftWe have talked too frequently about astonishing our website visitors and not allowing a lull (like a 5-second ‘loading’ splash page) to trigger our visitors with short attention span to leave our websites. This is true for this generation of music fans. It is so easy to click or tap the ‘Next’ button if a tune doesn’t offer surprise so every second counts. I guess many artists who go on band tours have thought of making every show on the road individually unique for fear of getting stereotyped as one dimensional, mimicking the same sounds, using the same ad libs in their performance as seen on popular video channels.By offering something unique, artists sure won’t bore their fans. In line with Taylor’s comments, the current generation of music as genre-independent and allows artists to be portrayed as multi-dimensional and can manage the taste of a wider group of audience. Which may be why I see plenty of new music performed by an artist but with (feat [insert name of guest artist]).
  • It pays to be a social media darling, in a good way. Record deals and decisions on casting may boil down to how many followers you have on Twitter and Instagram or fans on your Facebook page. The power of the masses has been fully uncovered that personal choices, not the record label’s, will prevail. That is why we can pick which songs to buy off an album, unlike in the past when it’s all or nothing.

Why am I posting this topic seemingly misaligned in this blog? It’s because like the artists, website owners or companies need to rethink out of the box and reach out to target audience to find out what they want, and serve it to them. Long gone are the days when consumers solely depend on popularity of a product endorser as the deciding factor when making purchases. Recommendations of friends on social media and feedback on a review website have risen to the occasion. And businesses need to pay attention to this.

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