Taylor Swift Talks Piracy: 'Music Is Art, and Art Should Be Paid For'

"Music industry isn't dying, it's just coming alive," the singer optimistically adds.

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Country star Taylor Swift has recently penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed regarding the current state of music industry, sharing quite an interesting insight.

Touching on the matter of piracy, Taylor stressed that music is art, and should therefore be cherished and paid for, noting that the music industry isn't dying in her eyes, but rather coming to life.

"Where will the music industry be in 20 years, 30 years, 50 years?" she kicked off. "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 dying ... it's just coming alive.

"There are many (many) people who predict the downfall of music sales and the irrelevancy of the album as an economic entity," Swift continued. "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. Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently."

"My hope for the future, not just in the music industry, but in every young girl I meet ... is that they all realize their worth and ask for it.

"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. I hope they don't underestimate themselves or undervalue their art," the vocalist pointed out.

Saying that people still buy albums, Taylor went on to discuss the artists' impact on fans, dividing them to casual trends and lifetime passions, "the ones."

"Some artists will be like finding 'the one,'" she said. "We will cherish every album they put out until they retire and we will play their music for our children and grandchildren. As an artist, this is the dream bond we hope to establish with our fans. I think the future still holds the possibility for this kind of bond, the one my father has with the Beach Boys and the one my mother has with Carly Simon."

Sharing thoughts on the future, Swift added, "I think forming a bond with fans in the future will come in the form of constantly providing them with the element of surprise. No, I did not say 'shock'; I said 'surprise.' 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?

"My generation was raised being able to flip channels if we got bored, and we read the last page of the book when we got impatient. We want to be caught off guard, delighted, left in awe. 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," she continued.

Discussing some of the fan-related changes, the singer noted that "there are a few things I have witnessed becoming obsolete in the past few years, the first being autographs. I haven't been asked for an autograph since the invention of the iPhone with a front-facing camera. The only memento 'kids these days' want is a selfie. It's part of the new currency, which seems to be 'how many followers you have on Instagram.'"

After covering the power of social networks and the lack of genre distinction in today's music, Swift noted that "some things will never change."

"There will always be an increasing fixation on the private lives of musicians, especially the younger ones. Artists who were at their commercial peak in the '70s, '80s and '90s tell me, 'It was never this crazy for us back then!' And I suspect I'll be saying that same thing to younger artists someday (God help them)," she said.

"There continues to be a bad girl vs. good girl/clean-cut vs. sexy debate, and for as long as those labels exist, I just hope there will be contenders on both sides. Everyone needs someone to relate to. And as for me? I'll just be sitting back and growing old, watching all of this happen or not happen, all the while trying to maintain a life rooted in this same optimism. And I'd also like a nice garden," the vocalist concluded.

113 comments sorted by best / new / date

    kcmoon5150
    Art should be shared Get a job
    Floyd Phoenix
    But it shouldn't be stolen..? Which is what piracy does?
    razorback91
    Whoever downvoted my comment clearly has a problem with logic.
    MattHessing
    Redistributing a product that you do not have ownership of is stealing. That is logic.
    Kueller917
    Regardless of the ethical ideas behind it, piracy is not theft in the common form. If you rob a physical album from a store you are taking the money (albeit small amount) that it took to construct it and that the store spent to have it on shelf. Making a copy of a file means the artist never gets that amount, but there was nothing spent to begin with to take. It's like saying me finding a dollar on the ground is stealing from you because you also could have found it first. I'd also say there's a problem with not actually owning what you purchase when it comes to media but that's another topic.
    juanrloaiza
    By that argument, lending CD's to your friends is stealing, since by lending you are distributing (!) a piece which is not yours. You could think that the physical CD is yours, but so is the MP3 file stored in my computer.
    razorback91
    Exactly, or copying tapes for a friend (went out of fashion when i was very young). Trying to equate copyright infringement with the definition of theft is nonsensical.
    twiggy3634
    She sued a small sports bar in Idaho for playing her music on the jukebox without paying for the rights to play it. Fuck her.
    TheSound606
    Making music is a job. You get paid by selling music. Would you not want to get paid for doing your job?
    Shaggy91
    Dude we all play and make music, almost all of us have jobs as well. Making money comes when there is a demand for your music...as played by you. Thats how YOU get paid.
    vikkyvik
    Just because not everyone can make money playing music doesn't mean we should screw over those lucky enough to do so.
    Democrab
    You get paid for playing your music. It's nearly always been a constant fact that most musicians make money mainly from live shows.
    leviadon
    I run a small-town newspaper. I used to charge for my newspaper but I had to reevaluate that business model because people can get their information for free. Now, the newspaper is sustained by advertising alone. Newspapers are folding around the country because they can't charge for news any more. This is the information age. Recorded music is data. Data is dirt cheap. Adapt or die!
    Suitemike
    Art should be paid for. It should not HAVE to be paid for. There's a big difference between being given something and stealing it. I know it sounds redundant the way I worded it but bands like Radiohead that let the fans choose what they wanted to pay was such a leap forward and I'm disappointed that kinda of practice hasn't been repeated. I'm not much of a Radiohead fan but they understand what their music is and whether or not it has value or not is up to the listener not some dude saying "Welp might as well slap a $16.99 sticker on it." Reversely when the new Pearl Jam came out I was so excited for it and when I saw the price for a CD it was almost 20 bucks, because it has some thick ass book in the case, which is cool but why include a little extra amd upcharge the shit out of it.
    Jorge13ruiz
    Tough titties Taylor Swift I'm pretty sure no body on UG even cares about your music let alone to steal it. Its no wonder you can never keep a man around your probably complain to much. Furthermore I'm tired of rich people complaining they're not rich enough if you want to make more money just turn out another shit album about dudes you f**ck*d. That is all.
    xyz66
    I, a 22 year old heterosexual male, love her music. Don't speak for everyone or judge things just because they don't interest you.
    Jorge13ruiz
    Oddly enough I am also a 22 year old and love poontang as well, but I do love her music videos. In fact when I'm watching her music videos i make sure to put them on mute and then a wack off.
    Kueller917
    The internet sure has become a great resource for learning about peoples' masturbatory habits.
    shaunus56
    There's a difference between listening to music (radio, youtube) and owning music (downloading). Music and art in general, shouldn't be taken advantage of, but should be respected. You can say that it should be a 'human right' to listen to music without having to pay, but at the end of the day, what's 10 pounds or dollars for a cd or download that you can then listen to for an unlimited amount?
    Jmoarguitar
    I haven't illegally downloaded an album or song in years. With that said I don't own or get as much new music as I once did, but I really do appreciate owning a new album and I really dig into it. Now I'm not totally against file sharing, but I do think an artist should always be paid for his work.
    Manovvar
    'Music Is Art, and Art Should Be Paid For' i dont mind paying for art...WHEN IT'S GOOD...
    replica_
    [deleted]
    replica_ · Jul 10, 2014 07:52 PM
    HaloDude889
    I Can't Agree More With This Though Even If We Went Back To The Old Days Of Vinyl And Records, People Snuck Out Singles In Their Pockets All The Time. You Can't Stop Thieves Though Thief Has Become So Common Now In The Music Industry, We Can't Even See It Anymore. It's New Name Is Now Called "The Downloading Age."
    raittarian
    Music is art, art is rare. Pop music is opposite of rare, pop music is not art. Equation solved
    TheMattGusta
    Taylor is completely right. If I like music, I buy it. The only reason I don't buy Taylor's music is because I don't like it.
    gregzilla11
    If I can go to google images and download the Mona Lisa, one of the most recognizable pieces of art of all time, and set it to my background and look at it and appreciate it every day for free why should I pay for music that most likely won't be relevant in 10 years
    Mister A.J.
    Pirates are just dissatisfied consumers. If CDs/audio files were priced reasonably and easily available (the internet makes it much easier here), most pirates would be happy to buy them. Not only that, online audio files don't cost nearly as much to make, so selling them for the same price as a CD is absurd.
    ggk
    well I am a metalhead and I don't care about what you say. I buy merch of my favorite bands and go to their concerts. Your argument is valid only for pop music!
    BjarnedeGraaf
    your argument is valid for 12 year olds. For adults it's complete bullshit and there's a lot more to it than that.
    razorback91
    Do go on...
    BjarnedeGraaf
    I think I've made my point clear enough.
    Shaggy91
    Yeah me too, I'm an adult with a 40hr job and I buy merch and go to shows. Please, do go on
    a7xrocker201
    No... you haven't. "For adults it's complete bullshit and there's a lot more to it than that" I can't wait to hear how you will speak for all adults out there.
    ggk
    then try to explain why I am wrong, instead of calling me 12year old..
    BjarnedeGraaf
    Why pirate when you can use Spotify or other stream services that pay artists for their work? What if you didn't get paid for your work. What if you had to do extra work (doing tours that last way longer than they used to back in the day, brainstorming on merch and those shows you have to play), to promote the work you should actually be doing all day long (making music, albums and getting it out there)?
    RiesenRatte
    That is a typical approach for a metalhead, but it's wrong.Trevor Strnad of Black Dahlia murder released a statement about that, wich I find really convincing:The Label only cares about Album Sales (mostly First-week sales). These sales decide in wich way the label will promote the band, the Merch doesn't affect that.If you want Bands to release new Albums, BUY the albums, show the label that there's demand for the band. Guess I also spoke for "BjarnedeGraaf" here
    southernsoulo
    If people like something enough they will pay for it.If the music is perceived just as soundtrack material,well guess what people will probably pirate it and never pay for it.Not all art is created equaly.
    qrEE
    That'd be nice if it were true but even when people like something enough and have more than enough money to pay for it, they'll still take the "free" option out of laziness and selfishness. Not all people will but lots will. We need to come up with a moral model that everyone can agree on that will bring back a sense of support and affection to the bands that are dying off because people don't care about them anymore.
    mtsumusicstuden
    You need to look at stats for Game of Thrones paid ways to watch and pirate rates. When everything goes well with HBO and HBOGO, Game of thrones pirates stay relatively low, but back when HBOGO went down during an episodes release, the amount of people pirating it sky rocketed. That's because paying for something is honestly easier than pirating it.
    Alice2Mudgarden
    art should be free along with education, healthcare, and nourishment
    l0ld4v3
    Haven't you heard? Being against profit in this shithole is a no no.
    qrEE
    if art should be free then government has to pay for it, and if the government has to pay for it then it's not free anymore because taxes pay for it so you're still paying for art. Only difference is now you can't even decide which artists come out because the government controls it. You're just being stupid with this one, sorry.
    matteo cubano
    SocksAndTrees
    Whenever someone posts youtube players I always spend way too long looking at random videos on them, 15 minutes ago I was laughing at South Park's take on piracy, now I'm looking at Jennifer Lawrence pictures.
    matteo cubano
    shaunus56
    There's a difference between just listening to music (radio, youtube) and owning music (CDs. downloads). Music and art in general, shouldn't be taken advantage of, but should be respected. You can say that it's everyone's right to be able to listen to music without having to pay, through things such as radio and youtube which is fair enough, but what's 10 pounds or dollars for a CD or download that you can OWN and listen to/use unlimited times? Respect the music and it's creators for what they provide
    razorback91
    Whilst i'm unmoved by moral blackmail, it has to be said that file sharing is not theft, it's copying ones and zeroes. You're not depriving the artist of their work and no, you're not depriving them of a sale either, i can't afford to buy all the music i enjoy, so if i couldn't download music i would not be able to purchase it, ergo no money for the artist/record label.
    vikkyvik
    So I take it you don't believe in intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, etc.? The "ones and zeroes" argument is a fallacy. The fact is that much of our intellectual property, art - whatever - is digital. I mean, I could make reproductions of the Mona Lisa and claim "it's just paint on paper!" It seems that some people strongly believe that art is not a commodity, and therefore shouldn't be treated as property. And that's fine for you - go ahead and give your music away for free if you want. But respect the fact that there are people out there for whom art is their job. Anyway, I suppose I could go make copies of my company's proprietary drawings to give to our competitors. After all, they're just ink on vellum, or ink on paper, or ones and zeroes. (that was sarcasm, in case anyone from my company reads this!)
    Pierre-Claude
    If you can't afford all the music you want, then you're the one needs to get a job. Period. NEXT!!!!
    juanrloaiza
    I agree with you, at least partially. I think that piracy is not theft, but is not just copying ones and zeroes. That would be just like saying that stealing some one's car is only 'moving atoms'. However, I also think that music industry needs some changes, and piracy is forcing them to do that. Music used to be mainly a live matter, where a recording was just a medium to get people to know your music and go see you perform it. Recordings were secondary, and I think they should still be. That being said, piracy is making the music industry focus on performers that can entertain in a live setup, and not only some one that can sell CD's. In the end, that what music is about, an aesthetic experience, not filling label's pockets.
    razorback91
    Your assessment of the music industry is interesting, i think that the 'industry' part needs to die and artist's need to cut out the middle men. Your car (i assume you meant car) and atom analogy doesn't hold when you consider that if you take my car - i no longer have a car, if you copy a song off of my computer - i still have the song.
    razorback91
    Another downvote... if you disagree with my opinion why not write a rebuttal?
    Alice2Mudgarden
    "moral blackmail" - I agree. She's kissing the money grubbin labels' asses so hard here and making the rest of us feel bad for not doing the same.
    a7xrocker201
    Stealing money out of your bank account is also just copying 1's and 0's. But the money that you steal has a value on it. So the same could be said about music. I do agree with you though that music is way too overpriced these days
    Kueller917
    No one really cares about the bit strings in a bank account hacking though. What is cared about is using the bits to change ownership of existing tangible currency (as tangible as fiat can get at least) so it's not too different from the theft of a car or any other physical item just with another layer of action.
    a7xrocker201
    So like you said, people only care about the tangible value tied to the 1's and 0's in your bank account, not the bit string. So it's the same thing with an mp3 file. It's not that actual file people care about but it's the tangible value associated with it.
    a7xrocker201
    Right! Change of ownership is what pisses people off. So what are we doing with music files or mp3's that don't belong to us? Belong to us meaning we didn't pay for it.
    Kueller917
    But you're not changing the ownership, you're copying a file. My money isn't a file. Even currencies like bitcoin have an abstract but agreed upon limit that can be bartered, exchanged, and of course, stolen. The change in ownership in money means I no longer have that money. If someone copies a file from my computer I still own that file, they can do whatever they want so long as it's not passwords or something (for the same reason as the money example).
    razorback91
    If money is stolen from my bank account, i am being deprived of that money, when you copy a song, the original remains.
    a7xrocker201
    You re-distributing something that isn't yours legally is stealing. You can't deny that. The issue isn't with the original, but with the supply and demand of the product.
    a7xrocker201
    Yeah but if you start supplying a free flow for a product which you don't actually have ownership of, and you have another entity offering the product that belongs to THEM for a price, then you are cutting into their market profit. I mean I download music too. But I think it does do something negative to a certain extent.
    joshuamark
    Art should be appreciated. And Taylor Swift isn't appreciated on UG. Thus Taylor Swift isn't art.
    MrWeatherHead
    If anyone actually read what she said, she's actually right in every way. Did she say that streaming is a bad thing? No, in fact she said it is just the beginning of the music industry. She only said she believes that people don't see the value in the 'art' of what music is and SHE believes its worth paying for.
    l0ld4v3
    The value of art is subjective. I can listen to your songs, and still deem them as not worthy of money.
    mtsumusicstuden
    My way to think about this is that it's almost like buying a car. You can test drive it (listen to the single), you can read reviews, and you can watch advertisement. But most of the time you can do that, spend money, and still get screwed. I listen to music off the album on youtube, on that artist's channel so that they get ad-cents, and if I like enough of the music I buy the album. What I don't like is the fact that if I buy music, I like a song, send a friend the song online, I can be charged legally. If I buy a CD and I want to share it with my friends, that should be my right because I put up money. On true piracy, the mass-distribution of media without paying the artist. Yes it sucks, but think about it like this. Every song ever put out is on some site. It's almost a guarantee, there is some way that you can get it for free. There are risks though. If fans of my band wanted my music so badly that they would risk breaking the law to get it, I would rather them have it free.
    RiesenRatte
    Totally right. Good I'm not the only guy to notice this. I guess people just get butthurt because it's Taylor Swift.
    PoorePlaysBass
    While I don't agree with piracy, it's equally important that "individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album's price point is.", because 15 bucks for a new CD is outrageous. Piracy wouldn't be as much of an issue if they weren't gauging us to buy physical music.
    qrEE
    They should drop it to 10 or 5. I'm sure if CDs were all 5 dollars people would still be making profit and people would buy more CDs.
    PoorePlaysBass
    Word. That's me. I don't look twice at a CD over 10 dollars. I buy a lot of older/used CDs, but simply can't afford to regularly buy newly released for CDs for artists I do want to support.
    RiesenRatte
    While I can understand your situation, you should be aware that buying a used CD does only support the guy you bought it from and not the Band. "Old" CDs don't support the artist either, because the labels most likely don't care anymore anout albums after 1-6 month and I'm not sure how much a band get's out of a sold CD, if they changed the label, they will pretty sure not see a cent of your money
    PoorePlaysBass
    Buying old CDs is less for support and more just because I like CDs, to be honest. It takes a KILLER new CD, or one I can find for a halfway reasonable price, to fall in that within 6 months of release range you mentioned. Which is why I feel CD prices should be cut, when the guy who loves CDs doesn't buy new ones often. As mentioned in original post.
    Kueller917
    I actually qutie liked this despite not being against file sharing. She actually tries to explain where the value of an album comes from rather than just antagonizing the "pirates" or spreading the typical alarmis that current music industry death = death of all music.
    PeterPdeC
    Lol she thinks she has talent.
    K33nbl4d3
    Lol you think you released an album when you were 16 that went gold in 13 weeks. Okay, in fairness, her debut was pretty crap, but her last two albums are sick and you should probably listen to them like, before you make sarky comments about her talent.
    l0ld4v3
    I've seen people worshiping the statue of a naked pregnant Britney Spears. I don't think talent and popularity are the same.
    K33nbl4d3
    I did kind of acknowledge that... The point is don't slag off musicians if you don't know what you're talking about
    Playtodie
    "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". In that case, why are the radio "artists" CDs the most costly?
    gnusica
    Art is not a ****ing industry... get that in your heads already. Can't you see this is why music is so shitty today - it's turned into a product and not art because of the industry.
    Mixloopx
    Music has always been a product and it will always be. It's not just today's music.
    spiff-corgi
    Art should and always will be free. I'm not defending file sharing over paying for an album, but entering an art gallery to view work and turning on the radio are free joys in life.Music is art and art should be paid for is the most unartistic way to look at art, and I think it shows the character of "artists" such as Taylor Swift. If you view your work as that then you are creating a product and not art at all.
    vikkyvik
    Yes, art is free within certain confines stipulated by the artist / production company / licensing bodes / whoever. Frankly, I don't give two sh*ts if people think my music is art or product. But it's amusing that if I were to sell my songs, suddenly they become product, even if yesterday they were art! There are talented people on the planet who can be successful at both creating art and selling it. I say more power to them! Talent, whether it's devoted to music, painting, sculpture, engineering, piloting, acting, lawyering, trash collecting, cleaning floors, or anything else, can ultimately be viewed as a salable commodity. If you have the skill set to be able to make fantastic music and to sell it to people, I see no reason why we should in any way try to undermine that.
    qrEE
    Here's the reality - art is a skill. Artists are people who have that skill. People who aren't artists can ask for it for free or they can pay for it. But artists need money to continue to provide that skill for people. A huge artist like Taylor Swift can survive solely off of playing live shows now because she's so huge that she will make any money she needs to. Her art can now be free because she doesn't need that money. She can still demand money if she wants but she doesn't need to. Smaller bands need to, and I personally think we need to not let the smaller bands die so we need to help them out.
    spiff-corgi
    I'm not arguing about the ethics of paying for the commercial product that is a CD, digital album, merchandise or concert ticket. I'm talking about her attitude in terms of "art is not for free" when art is and always has been available to appreciate for free. I explicitly said this in my comment. I even said the free medium for music is the radio.
    K33nbl4d3
    You've always been able to appreciate art for free, not to own it. You can see the Mona Lisa for about 10€, but you'll have to shell out a few million to own it.
    spiff-corgi
    Which is exactly what I'm talking about. How are people not getting this point. This is literally what I've said.
    lycanomics
    First I would like to say...if art should be paid for then perhaps the music should be art first, yes? Let's say...is "Highway 61 Revisited" art? Yes. Have I paid for it? Yes. Is Swift's music art? No. Should you pay for it? By God, you shouldn't even steal it...do people take the time and effort to steal feces? Excrement aside, Swift is right...from a businessman's perspective. If your goal is to sell records, make money, and have celebrity social status, then you should be concerned over such things. If we can prosecute a guy for stealing cheese, then logic says stealing music should work the same, but ONLY if we treat music as a product. I guess it depends on who you ask, but for me music is not cheese. Art should be free for anyone and everyone, our greatest artists in history often did their labors out of love and to express something they could not explain in words, not for money. Just my opinion but art and business are polar opposites and should never should the twain cross paths.