As we’ve all heard over and over by now, Taylor Swift decided to pen an open letter in response to Apple’s three month free streaming trial of Apple Music. This post is no way an opportunity for me to personally bash her or demean what she does in any way, shape, or form. As a fellow musician, I recognize and respect what she does; it’s not easy and she clearly has a devoted fan base.
However, speaking as a musician, I have some serious issues with what she has said. Let us first take a step back and look at the big picture: Apple was offering a 3 month TRIAL. This trial of Apple Music was to be an extension of courtesy to all music listeners to a) get used to the program and b) get the chance to discover and appreciate music. I think this would have been a fair amount of time for people to really evaluate which artists they wanted to listen and then begin paying for what they truly want to hear.
While reading through Swift’s post, my honest first reaction was anger: anger over the quasi-condescending nature of her deciding to be the champion for the new artists. Other readers of her statement need to always keep in mind that she speaks from a position of security. It is no secret that Taylor has had a very successful career thus far and will continue to do so. But I feel that this success has given her a romanticized view of the music industry. She writes, “this is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success.” So, are we to assume that every time an artist releases a single that it will automatically be a success? This very notion demeans the power of the listener and music consumer. Once the music is out there, its success is in the hand of the listener. Despite whatever your musical tastes may be, when you look at the top charts for any genre in iTunes or Billboard, etc, the listeners are always honest. If the music is crap, you will KNOW the music is crap. Denying audiences this opportunity to evaluate music is not only narcissistic but unjust and I worry when she claims to be speaking on behalf of “every artist, writer, and producer…”
The bottom line here is that music, no matter what genre, is intended to be a communal experience; a part of the human condition which expresses our emotions when we just can’t seem to find the right words. Listeners should be given the chance to discover the music that speaks to them freely, choosing to pay for what they genuinely enjoy. I’m completely on board with paying for music, it gives the artists, writers, etc. the credit and royalties which they are entitled to but this CANNOT be a means to force music onto people, especially if they think it’s crap. My heart hurts a little that big musicians such as Taylor Swift, who have such a large following and therefore a considerable amount of influence, have this fixation on the money. This kind of viewpoint creates unnecessary divisions amongst music audiences and takes away from the main point of music: to be enjoyed.
Taylor, I respect you for what you do. Not many people can get up in front of hundreds of thousands of people and perform their material. But I’m sorry to say, you’ve lost me as a fan.