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Taylor Swift Gets It From Her Perspective… But Not Mine

taylorswift_main

Let me first start off by saying that I’m a fan of Swift’s. Now, before you chastise this 29 year old dude for his music taste, hear me out. I’m a songwriter first and respect her artistic process. I’ve been a DIY musician from the beginning and have been making the majority of my income from music for 6+ years.

However, it’s very difficult to read Swift’s Wall Street Journal op ed and not think that she exists in a vacuum. A bubble, totally absent from the world as it is for thousands of brilliant musicians not blessed with a wealthy father to jumpstart their careers.

But, the fact of the matter is, no matter how much “heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work,” if there isn’t a massive marketing budget behind it, the masses will not hear it. And it definitely will not sell.

I believe Swift puts a heck of a lot of “heart and soul” into her records, but by stating that the only records people buy are “the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart,” belittles every other record that didn’t get a Swiftian marketing campaign.

I just released a new record. I poured every sense of my existence into this album and reached the highs of highs and lows of lows during the creation process. It nearly destroyed my relationship. I spent days upon days depressed in the studio because I was forced to relive some of the worst moments of my life over and over again in the vocal booth. I worked with some of the most respected people in the business creating this piece of art. And I’m damn proud of it.

It didn’t sell a bazillion copies out the door. It didn’t even sell more than a few hundred. But no one can call this record dishonest or inauthentic. But according to Swift, my record isn’t being purchased because I didn’t pour enough “heart and soul” into it.

However, like Swift, I am an optimist. I don’t care about the meager sales my record has procured. Because a modern music career isn’t about record sales any more. This is something that most people within the mainstream don’t understand.

I exist in a world completely foreign to Swift’s. The DIY music world. You may scoff at my relatively insignificant numbers across the various social networks, streaming sites and digital retailers, but I am part of a movement that is bringing change to the music industry much faster than “arrows through the heart.”

DIY artists are connecting with their fans on a deeper, more personal level that encourages true, long-term loyalty. While radio artists live and die by the hit (After his 2013 smash, Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke’s new album has only sold 530 copies in the UK in its first week), DIYers persevere.

hand-left July 10 – The Complete And Total Collapse Of Robin Thicke

With Kickstarter, PledgeMusic, Patreon, BandCamp, BandPage and merch at shows, musicians are able to monetize this connection in more creative ways than ever before. YouTubers are showing the industry how it’s done – from the ground up. DIYers tour with vigor and play anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. Living room concerts are proving more profitable than high profile club shows and while record labels scramble to manufacture the next Summer hit, this subgroup of hardworking, passionate DIYers are learning how to build a career on their own where success is defined by the ability to make a decent living doing something we love.

hand-left June 5 – Why BandPage Is Going To Be The Most Powerful Player In Music

hand-left February 13 – Patreon Just Solved YouTube…And Music

The future will not rely on sales of music. No matter how much Swift preaches the importance of valuing art, technology had different plans. Instead of fighting it, forward minded musicians have learned to embrace it and soldier on.

Did I envision this lifestyle when I dreamed of becoming a rock star? No. I envisioned a life like Swift’s: the ability to ignore the inner workings of the business of music and solely concentrate on my art – while touring stadiums of course.

But the reality is, if you want to make it in music today, it takes a helluva lot more than just pouring “heart and soul” into your art.

Photo is by Jana Zills from Flickr and used with the Creative Commons License

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Listen to his new album on Spotify or support him more by downloading it on BandCamp. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

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Comments (95)
  1. Anonymous

    “Because a modern music career isn’t about record sales any more”

    Well, that’s total nonsense, just look at the numbers… :)

    People who try to tell you it “isn’t about record sales” usually can’t make a living from music. Most of them are bloggers, tech-guys or hobbyists.

    Artists should listen carefully to professionals like Ms. Swift instead, we can all learn so much from her. After all, she’s was one of the first stars to go against the stream and achieve huge success with a Spotify-holdout (Red) which turned windowing into today’s hottest realease strategy.

    Here’s what she said last week:

    Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.

    In recent years, you’ve probably read the articles about major recording artists who have decided to practically give their music away, for this promotion or that exclusive deal. 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. [...] It’s my opinion that music should not be free

    SOURCE: Taylor Swift, The Wall Street Journal, July 7, 2014


    Reply
    1. GGG

      Dude, you missed literally the entire point of his post; that there is not a unified “you will make money this way” across all artist levels anymore. Ari’s, and artists like him, don’t exist in the world of Taylor Swift.

      What do you think Rihanna and Katy Perry and One Direction make more doing; selling music or putting their faces on shit? It’s the latter and you know it. And there’s a reason that the ratio of that is probably 10k dollars of merchandising money to every 1 dollar of record sales. When I brought it up one time you said Rihanna should be proud of her 200K first week sales…you think her label is happy? How much money you think it cost to make that record, let alone promote it? Your continued scoffing at non-record sales methods of making money is ridiculous.


      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        “you missed literally the entire point of his post”

        He didn’t have one, but here’s mine: Why listen to a loser instead of a winner?

        Ari can only teach you how to fail. He’s 29 and still needs to spam blogs like this with his latest release.

        Ms. Swift, on the other hand, knows the business inside out. She tries to teach you how to respect yourself and win the game. You should pay attention.


        Reply
        1. GGG

          What does that make you? You’re like what, 50 year old songwriter, and argue with me, a 28 year old who works lower mid level acts…

          Also, Taylor Swift won the game by being born into an old money banking family. If her music didn’t win fans, her family money buying better songs would have. And look, I know/am friends with people with money trying to make it, so I know there’s still some work to put in and I don’t fault people for having money. But you’re kidding yourself if you don’t realize it puts you halfway to the prize already. I don’t know Ari’s family background, but I don’t see any evidence of Swift extensively touring to win fans. Hell, her dad bought a stake in Big Machine for christ sake. Reading her wikipedia page is like reading a business plan, not reading anything many normal aspiring musicians can use as a how to get ahead guide.


          Reply
          1. Anonymous

            “Taylor Swift won the game by being born into an old money banking family”

            Oh, please…

            She’s absolutely spot on in her “arrow through the heart” comment. That’s what it’s all about. Even Nina could connect with that.


            Reply
            1. GGG

              Never said that statement is false. And fans connect to her music because of that; I’ll never deny that. But “oh please?” Did you miss the part where her dad put up over $100K to buy a stake in the record label that signed her? That’s a normal thing musicians can do? Please wire me my $100K for each band I work with, because I must have missed the day they handed out checks.


              Reply
              1. ELHarbeson

                That gave him 3% of the company. I am not sure how your math is, but that is not even a drop in the bucket, and he bought that 3% after she was signed. He did make some money out of it because Miss Swift made so much money for Big Machine.


                Reply
                1. GGG

                  I didn’t so any math, I read Wikipedia.


                  Reply
                  1. Melorun

                    Seems legit.


                    Reply
                    1. GGG

                      You don’t think the Swift camp would make sure her wiki page is accurate? Yea…ok..


            2. dude

              But dude I think you’re actually the one missing the point here… Im sure theres at least *some* music out there that would hit me “like an arrow through the heart” and that I might even buy if only I had an opportunity to hear it. problem is I never will because it doesnt have the right marketing behind it & it isnt in the places I go to look for new tunes. Even if your music is fantastic people need to find out about it somehow before they can buy it, and thats where T Swift and her family fortune/major label marketing budget/etc have a huge leg up on most musicians

              If she wrote terrible music all the marketing in the world wouldn’t save her sales, but its entirely possible to write great tunes and fly totally under the radar. If you believe T Swift level sales will just come to every T Swift level song by magic you are straight delusional. You need the right song AND the right strategy for getting it out there if you want that


              Reply
          2. ELHarbeson

            After Miss. Swift decided not to re-sign with Universal because they did not want her to sing her own music, she was heard playing a set in a bar by Brochetta, 8 years later they have a lot to show for their work. Their was hardly anyone working at Big Machines at the time so she and her mother put her first single in envelopes and took them to radio stations, Where she would meet DJ and station Managers with fresh baked cookies, They did that for 6 months, after she got home she hand wrote each of them thanking them for seeing her. She has run 13 hour meet and greets. She writes and sings and co-produces her own song. She is the head of her Management team. She does not put 2 or 3 good songs on an album and the rest garbage, her Target album had 22 songs I could enjoy listening to. She did not let Red go to streaming for close to 6 months. I think she knows the music business!


            Reply
            1. GGG

              I’ve never said she didn’t put in any work. The point she had a, comparative to many artists, unlimited bank account. That works wonders in this business.


              Reply
              1. Jughead

                You are such a damn idiot. It must suck to be perpetually jealous and to blame your own lack of success on mythical creatures.

                Leave music and do the world a favor.


                Reply
                1. GGG

                  Dude, you’re obsessed with me…creepy….

                  Also, way to keep avoiding commenting on anything I actually say. You must be great at parties.


                  Reply
        2. Willis

          Please define “loser.”


          Reply
    2. Versus

      Absolutely music should not be free.
      A free single or promo here and there is one thing, but if you give away everything (the “album” or equivalent), my immediate reaction is that you must not believe it’s very good, and therefore why should I even listen to it?

      It’s human nature to devalue what comes too easily.
      Consider this: universities found out that simply raising tuitions, all else being equal, substantially increased the number of applicants. Apparently the applicants assumed the university was better because it was more expensive. What would happen if a university suddenly massively discounted its rates? I would interpret it as a desperate measure of a failing institution, and would probably avoid it.


      Reply
  2. rikki

    let me totally honest with you Ari…i didn’t detect very much soul in your music. This is the Wussie generation and your music reflects that.,quite well, But the rest of us like soul power and meaning, like Belt the damn song out will ya…somebody please learn how to belt out songs today!

    Also you need singing lessons nothing irritates me more then a singer straining to hit a high note and sounding flat and breathless…

    So yes its about Soul and very few artist have it today even black people have very little soul today……so Ari get some excitement in your voice sound like you mean it, hit those guitar strings with a vengeance……..or else just be happy with your well crafted wussie sound and stay within that genre because i would never buy your music sorry man…..

    Maybe this will explain it better:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8P4OKxms8hc
    ———
    I poured every sense of my existence into this album and reached the highs of highs and lows of lows during the creation process


    Reply
    1. Paul Resnikoff

      Dear Ari, your music sucks. Now check out my music it’s better.

      Really?


      Reply
      1. Chadwill Ferrellsmith

        Yeah, how dare you shamelessly plug your own music under the guise of making a point? That’s Ari Herstand’s job!


        Reply
      2. Rikki

        Its not my music just showing an example of people who play with passion ….. i like passion


        Reply
    2. AL

      The link you provided is subpar at best.


      Reply
      1. Rikki

        Cool Al lets see what you think is kick ass music….I am always looking for real musicians to be a part of my radio show….remember real musicians no electronics…..


        Reply
    3. Versus

      I don’t know Ari’s music at all, but your public insulting of him in this way was extremely rude. Critiques are fine and valuable, but it is possible to be civil at the same time.


      Reply
  3. Nina Ulloa

    “the only records people buy are the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart” was the only sentence i identified with in her op ed


    Reply
    1. Versus

      “the only records people buy are “the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart,”…”

      Not true. Some records are “growers”, that work their magic on you only over time and repeated listens.


      Reply
      1. Paul Resnikoff

        It sounds great on paper, but’s not always accurate. I like a ton of crappy pop music, from all sorts of eras, simply because it takes me back to a time and place. Or it just pumps me up. Or gets me up in the morning or through a workout.

        But can I even name the artist in every case?

        No, I can’t.


        Reply
  4. There is something...

    I think she’s 100%, no 200% right ! But that doesn’t say that album not selling millions are all dishonest or inauthentic. Some of those albums just did not get the right exposure (and a lot probably suck of course). So I think both Taylor Swift and your perspective are right and can coexist.


    Reply
  5. Rikki

    Face it Ari you music is not that good. Its dull droning wussie like…..way too soft for me Thats the problem with music today NO SOUL, or its so faint its almost undetectable.

    I


    Reply
    1. Big balls+in+cowtown

      It’s “you’re”. As in you’re a turd.


      Reply
      1. Minneapolis Musician

        Actually, it’s “your” music.


        Reply
      2. Rikki

        You cant edit the post…ok but its still true i’m not a weepy crying type of guy, so its not for me.


        Reply
  6. Jughead

    Wow, Ari, talk about professional jealousy.

    BTW, dad did not “jumpstart” her career with $$$. He and Taylor knocked on doors like any other shmuck in Nashville and whiffed until they met Scott Borchetta. Then, right place, right time—just like many other successful pop acts.

    I have sat with dad,mom, and little brother at high school football games and they are great folks who are incredibly humble and appreciative of her success.

    Pathetic effort, Ari. No surprise that you are struggling.


    Reply
    1. Toofunny

      Spot on!


      Reply
    2. GGG

      Being able to uproot your family to a new city and keep the same job, and invest $100K+ at least in your daughter isn’t jumpstarting with money? Bahaha, ok.


      Reply
      1. Jughead

        “Uproot” your family? Funny, dbag–they all wanted to move here, and Taylor was 14 years old. Kudos to Dad for WORKING HARD and providing for his family. BTW–they did not live like kings, just an average family with Dad going to work everyday (that’s how I met him), and Taylor writing and pounding on doors. She got tons of “no’s” before anyone was interested.

        I have never seen a group of more vindictive and jealous pukes than on this forum. Don’t like her music? Fine. But to complain that she had some unfair advantage is sour grapes from spoiled children who are the authors of their own misfortunes.

        Grow up.


        Reply
        1. GGG

          Jesus, your post is chock full of stupid.

          First of all, not sure why you put uproot in quotes like it’s some extreme word to use. It means move, moron.

          Secondly, I have not said once that she didn’t put in some work, and I’ve actually said a couple times her music is ultimately what got her to where she is today. And yes, good for her dad for working hard; I’ve also stated clearly that I have no problem with using money to advance a career. I know plenty of very nice, very cool, very humble rich people. But to act like that’s not a HUGE help in moving ahead, and can often be a critical deciding factor, is being in extreme denial. Hell, I’ve done freelance stuff with rich people for the sole reason I knew the money would come through. The NYC music scene is filled with them. I’ve written up business plans to get investors for bands for this exact reason. I’ve seen bands buy opening slots for national touring acts. I’ve seen mediocre wannabe pop stars pay absurd amounts of money to well known producers to try and make a hit. This shit doesn’t happen with “average” people. It happens to people with money.

          Third, here’s some quotes from her wikipedia article (all cited, by the way): “Her father, Scott Kingsley Swift, is a Merrill Lynch financial adviser. Scott was raised in Pennsylvania and is the descendant of three generations of bank presidents.” “Swift’s family owned several Quarter horses and a Shetland pony and her first hobby was English horse riding.” If you think those are average things for a family, then you’re either the biggest idiot on this site or you are a sheltered rich kid yourself, which makes your use of the word spoiled even funnier.

          I know you’re an expert on the Swift family because you met them once at a football game, but stop kidding yourself. Yes, her songwriting is what grew her fanbase. But her ability to do half the things she did was because her family pumped a ton of money into her career. And you know what, good for them! My whole point of arguing the money aspect of Taylor Swift is because many musicians don’t have those financial resources to jump start a career. If you don’t think money goes miles and miles in music, you obviously don’t work in this business.


          Reply
          1. Jughead

            OK, dirtball, learn English:
            up·root: verb
            1. to pull (a plant and its root) completely out of the ground
            2. to remove (something) completely
            3. to make (someone) leave home and move to a different place

            Again, I have never seen a more pathetic group of jealous losers, and you lead the charge. BTW–I met Dad while he WORKED, every friggin day, long hours, in Nashville. Maybe you should try that, GGG, and you won’t have all day to come on here and whine like a socialist friggin wannabe. You are a disgusting puke.


            Reply
            1. GGG

              2. move (someone) from their home or a familiar location

              You just leave that one out or something?

              Show me one place where I said nobody in the Swift camp did any work. One place. You’re such a fucking tool hellbent on proving me wrong you make shit up in your tiny little brain. Nowhere have I said her career was handed to her because of money. I’ve said over and over and over that having the kind of money she had pumped into her career is a fucking godsend and makes everything infinitely easier. And it’s not something that most artists on Ari’s level can relate to.


              Reply
              1. Jughead

                Get a job and maybe you will have some money, chump.

                Of course, you’dm rather sit online all day and complain about hardworking people who earn a living and don’t expect someone to give them a free ride.

                Pathetic. Loser. You.


                Reply
                1. GGG

                  I mean, I have a job and live in a pretty decent apt in a very expensive city, so I think I’m doing OK at the moment.

                  Also, can you please explain this sentence to me: “Of course, you’d rather sit online all day and complain about hardworking people who earn a living and don’t expect someone to give them a free ride.”

                  Because if you’re REALLY trying to insinuate that money didn’t play a part in Taylor Swift’s career, I dunno what else to say. You really don’t know how the music business works…

                  And ALSO, the whole fucking point of me bringing that up is because this article was written by Ari, someone who represents the artists who DON’T have a large bank account to push their career (I’m assuming, I don’t know Ari’s family history).


                  Reply
  7. Toofunny

    Lmao DIY
    The fact is Taylor connects with people with her music. They would not have purchased 1.2M first week sales if not. And sure as heck not showed up to the almost every sold out concert.

    Yes Taylor has a rich dad and great label head. I bet you would jump at both.
    Sorry but your story is uninspiring and is based mostly on opinion.

    BTW: heart and soul is everything in GREAT music. Marketing great music is another. Apparently it’s working for Taylor!


    Reply
    1. Big balls in cowtown

      The only thing working for Taylor are pinheads like you who are told by peers and label executives who you should listen to. You go with the flow and jump on the wagon of whatever is socially acceptable. You probably watch Desperate Housewives, Jersey Shore reruns and whatever other shitty shit everyone else is watching because you have no identity of your own, you are frightened to go against the grain, and you have no opinion of your own.


      Reply
      1. hippydog

        Wow, this article REALLY brought out the douchbags..


        Reply
      2. Toofunny

        Cool artists live in apartments, superstars live in mansions!
        Unfortunately u just don’t get it. Total jealous of someone’s success


        Reply
  8. Rokk Lattanzio

    One of the main aspects that lets most DIY releases down is the lack of a truly talented producer on the project. Most DIY projects are self produced or produced by the person that is conveniently sitting behind the mixing console or computer because they own the gear/studio.

    There are always exceptions but most DIY artists don’t have the ability to distance themselves enough from their personal connection to the material and wear both the artist and producers hats successfully.

    Finding the right producer for a project is not easy and it’s not always a money thing either but it’s all too often a part of the process that DIY artists don’t give enough thought or importance to.

    Writing great songs and pouring your heart and soul into the sessions/performances is only part of the process of making great compelling recordings that stand the test of time.


    Reply
    1. hippydog

      ^ makes sense..


      Reply
  9. hippydog

    Quote It didn’t sell a bazillion copies out the door. It didn’t even sell more than a few hundred. But no one can call this record dishonest or inauthentic. But according to Swift, my record isn’t being purchased because I didn’t pour enough “heart and soul” into it.

    I still think she’s relatively correct..
    She just missed one part..
    The Album still needs at least one really really good song on it.. ;-)


    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    When Swift’s career was beginning to take off the know it all Bob Lefsetz said she was a One Hit wonder can’t sing,write songs no talent. Lefsetz couldn’t get a job driving her truck back to Vermont or Connecticut if he tried
    today.
    Give her respect and credit when it’s due , look at the career she and her team have developed, records, tours
    and she has grown as an artist and person a true professional.

    Now for your record and career there are thousands of artist like you through out the world today who are blessed in building a local, loyal following.This may develope into something bigger, be gratefull for your talents you are blessed with and continue working at your craft because sometimes the fruits of success take time to ripen.


    Reply
  11. Stephen craig aristei

    Dear Ari,
    Ok, I admit, you got my “page view”, but where was Taylor’s story to compare anything thing you wrote to? If you are going to be a “writer” then write, but if your going to hold yourself out as a “journalist”, then you have to follow a few rules on “construction, body and substance”…Oh, if being a “blogger” means you don’t have to address or investigate the facts when doing a story then please stop, because you are ruining a long respected profession and ultimately embarrassing yourself.

    I too appreciate Taylor Swift’s writing….Her ability to created a line, build a phrase and execute a song would make any tin-pan-ally – brill building alumni smile with satisfaction. However, don’t go and say that because of her daddy’s money she is a success…..The road to success in music is littered with the bodies of many far richer than Taylor’s daddy who all learned the hard way that money means nothing without talent to back it up every step of the way. In the past money usually meant that you had to be “better”, and Taylor has risen to that occasion.

    The sad thing is that your article was not a comparison or answer or comment to Taylors’ in the Wall Street Journal….And don’t get me wrong, this chick says some pretty messed up stuff. Her entitlement will most likely be her “undoing”, but aside from Taylor’s mental health challenges, you would make us believe that the album you put so much of your “heart, sweat and soul” into was as good as hers……And dude, that’s just plain B.S.

    Do you have any idea how much music comes my way with people begging me to listen. So often the music is so bad that I want to cry. It makes me sad to realize how many people are wasting their lives on endeavors that are so deeply flawed that their music wouldn’t have a snowballs’ chance in hell of ever achieving any form of lower level public or mass success.

    In the old days, before everyone thought that they too could become “rock stars” or hit songwriters, and anyone with enough money and time on their hands could make recordings on their computers, that wall of going into a studio, and spending money to record your “so called” gem, usually slapped everyone upside their heads and woke them up to the fact that maybe being a professional musician or songwriter or “rock star” was not in their future. They went to college or learned a trade and made a life for themselves.

    Above all, after being in this business of music most likely longer than most reading this have been alive, I have learned that great music always has a market….And the greater the music and talent, the greater the market and mass appeal. When people hear something truly great, they want to share it with as many people as they can. This does not mean that by giving your music a way to everyone that you will become a success. This whole idea of marketing by giving it away is flawed and devalues the gift. The same people who told you that you could become a “rock star” are still giving you advice…..And you are still listening to them ! Now how f’ed up is that ?
    Over the years I can attest to that statement from “Field Of Dreams”….”If you build it, they will come” !…..I can’t tell you how many times, someone possessing unimaginable talent would arrive in LA (which has to be the most music and hype saturated market in the world), get a gig in the bar of some local restaurant and within three to six months you can’t even get in the front door, because of all the masses that have come (all through “word of mouth”) to see this act…..Great talent, like cream, has always risen to the top….Sometimes it has taken the perseverance of a dozen or so years….(like CCR), but the great stuff is ultimately found and becomes successful.

    Ari, if you music was as good, or the same level, or as well written as Taylors, you would have every major or at least one, knocking at your door….So stop it. Your comparison of your music and recording process to Taylors is unfair to you both….You really have to stop it !

    Perhaps rather than wasting time making comparisons, you might want to work on improving you songwriting skills….It is truly hard to be self-critical to the point in which you “hone “ greatness….Song writing is a craft, not a talent….if you continue to work at it and embrace the criticism necessary to make your work great, you will great there…Then some ignorant asshole will call you an “Artist”….Now how f’ed up is that !


    Reply
    1. Minneapolis Musician

      Yeah, but define a “great” song.

      It basically means a song that an individual says is great …because they had a strong, pleasant emotional reaction to when they heard it.

      It can vary. My musician Dad did not feel the Beatles songs were great when he heard them in 1964.

      I know what you are saying about the cream thing, but I have my doubts about it after observing for years. I think it is wishful thinking. Yes, some great singers and performers rise fast. What about the others who don’t?

      I think it is called “survivor’s bias”. We know the great ones that were discovered. But not the great ones who were not discovered.


      Reply
  12. Kharukat

    Ah, the myth of meritocracy. DIY’ers can learn from Swift. Dreams are only for those with money. For the rest of us, they just exist to keep us from protesting US style capitalism. A system in which art and music essentially has no value.


    Reply
    1. Jughead

      Go die already.


      Reply
  13. Versus

    “a modern music career isn’t about record sales any more…”

    That’s an over-generalization. For the non-touring musician, it’s very much about record “sales” (including stream income).


    Reply
    1. Paul Resnikoff

      Zoe Keating makes a majority of her revenues from recordings, largely iTunes downloads if I remember correctly. She is less interested in touring, and more interested in bonding with family, being at home, etc. I know this because she shared her revenue statements I think last year with Digital Music News.

      The only question is whether that’s going to be possible in the next 3, 4, 5+ years. Can an artist still make a sustainable wage off of recordings only? CDs, vinyl, downloads… streaming? I think it will be a negligible minority.


      Reply
      1. Versus

        Paul – I share your concerns, and experience the problematic decline firsthand (and have had to compensate by more live work, which takes time away from the creating/composing/producing). The incomes from sales, as we all know, keep declining, and streaming is not compensating. Unless streaming pay-out rates increase substantially (which some optimists in the industry believe will happen), it will become extremely difficult to make a living as a recording artist alone, without a live act.

        This would be a tragedy for many artists. There are countless talented creators who cannot tour their work, either because it is not reproducible in a live context, for practical reasons (health/disability, family obligations or other commitments, etc.), personality (shy or introspective), or because they want to focus on perfecting their creating/composing/producing work. This class of musicians would simply be shut out of the new music “utopia”, founded on the progressive technology which has come to us like a gift from the Gods.


        Reply
  14. JD

    Ari…. write a hit and stop bitching.


    Reply
    1. Versus

      Not helpful.

      Even “hits” generate far less than they did, and that income will presumably keep declining. That decline does not only affect the superstar millionaires, but everyone down the line: labels and radio become increasingly conservative and will not take risks on developing artists; recording budgets shrink; session musicians get replaced with samples; music studios close; the creative process of writing, producing, recording is compromised by the time constraints; etc.


      Reply
  15. Minneapolis Musician

    The pop music business is not primarily about music. It never was.

    Taylor Swift has very good music especially FOR HER DEMOGRAPHIC.

    She sang anthems for young girls. And now for girls her age and younger. They purchase her songs to feel empowered, understood, and they feel like they are Taylor Swift. People like to sing out their feelings. Taylor gives them a way to do that.

    That’s what she is selling. Not music, primarily. Not chords and recording excellence.


    Reply
  16. Duke

    She is under 25.Lives in a very sheltered world of luxury and privilege and has the best of everything available to her. What can she write about except boyfriends screwing her over (there is a reason for that). Now she’s giving us music business advise-Please
    Duke


    Reply
    1. Jughead

      She runs her empire, and knows more about the business than you’ll ever read while bitching about your misery.

      Pathetic jealousy.


      Reply
  17. hartmixer

    I’m forever baffled by artists who equate suffering and agony with great music, although i feel sorry for you about your relationship and the agony you went through during the production process i would venture to say
    that’s why you’re not selling any records, people don’t want to share your self induced pain with you, Don’t think that all that angst doesn’t come through in the recording. Great recordings come from positive places and thats what listeners want to hear and the vibe comes through loud and clear in the recording.
    So lose all that baggage and move on.


    Reply
    1. Naomi

      Lol…this is the EXACT formula Taylor Swift uses to write the majority of her songs. She’s makin the big bucks off her music because of writing about her terrible boyfriends and heart wrenching experiences with them. People are always grabbing music and singing along at the top of their lungs to songs that are about horrible times in the artist’s life because it makes them know that they’re not alone…The artist feels the same way they do and now they can sing about it!


      Reply
      1. hartmixer

        Naomi, I never said a word about the content of the songs, breakup, gangsta
        lost my dog, whatever …….. completely irrelevant. I’ll bet you Taylor Swift doesn’t go
        into the studio all mopey and feeling sorry for herself, crying and destroying her relationships, hoping everyone can share her pain.
        I’ll bet she goes in to kick some ass and sings about some breakup / breakdown does it in a way that people identify with as opposed to a plea for pity. Your hero is a self centered whiner.


        Reply
    2. hippydog

      Quote “I’m forever baffled by artists who equate suffering and agony with great music”

      I just listened to Ari’s new album last night..

      I now know why you posted that ;-)

      Sometimes great art can come from dark places, but as i said below..
      A ‘connection’ with the listener still needs to happen..

      I realize everyone says “write what you know”, which makes a lot of sense..
      but being TOO specific can be a bad thing also..


      Reply
    3. Versus

      What? There are surely as many negative-themed hits as positive-themed great songs, including hits. Heartbreak, loss, tragedy, self-righteous anger at the wrongdoer, and even political and economic hardship are common themes in music.


      Reply
  18. hippydog

    Quote “the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart,”

    I think thats the key.. Doesnt matter how much of YOU is in the music, if it doesnt CONNECT with the listener..

    My view of it is, there is two ways to have great song..
    Have it connect with the listener..
    Or have a hook that is so catchy that the rest doesnt matter..

    Swift is able to do both at the same time..


    Reply
  19. Minneapolis Musician

    Feeling music “like an arrow through the heart” happens to pre-teens and adolescents MUCH easier and more often than with older adults.

    That’s why they spend the most on music recordings and concerts.

    If Taylor were 60 years old now and writing / singing songs for women her age, (who listen to much less music than teens), Taylor would sell about 1/10th of the recordings and concerts for the same writing effort and ability.

    — Glenn

    http://www.reverbnation.com/GlennGalen


    Reply
  20. Quiet Entertainer

    This comment section is brutal. However, the post itself was very inspiring. Thanks. I’m going to continue the fight.

    -Quiet Entertainer
    http://quietentertainer.com


    Reply
    1. Bob

      WTF are you talking about? The Billboard article doesn’t “bodyslam” swift at all.


      Reply
  21. JJ Robins

    Wow. You guys are pretty harsh. I felt inspired by the article. The message I hear is — If you’re not one of the chosen few, it doesn’t mean you suck.

    I have a hard time believing there are enough BIG labels with enough resources to pour into every REALLY GOOD artist that plays his or her cards right. Only the very, very tippy-top tip of the top echelon has the privilege (?) of being inducted into that part of the industry. Luck certainly plays some role in that.

    This argument of artists being winners or losers reminds me of the Jerry Seinfeld bit about photo finishes in Olympic running. The differences between Gold, Silver, Bronze and dead last are microscopic —- yet all of those runners are amazing!

    I think Ari’s point is that the Silvers and Bronzes (and even some of the dead lasts) of the music business are finding their audiences of fans who like what they do. That’s pretty cool for the rest of us!

    Afterall, there are plenty of music lovers who simply don’t care about Taylor Swift or her contemporaries no matter how many poison-tipped arrows of heart and soul she and her team shoot at them.

    .


    Reply
  22. Minneapolis Musician

    Imagine there were 10,000 companies that cook and sell delicious cookies.

    All the buyer wants is access to a good cookie when they are in the mood for a good cookie.

    The buyer does not care if a few bakeries dominate the market and there are actually 9,995 other companies that bake a cookie that tastes just as good.

    Does the pop music market really need all those bands, singers, and songwriters who are trying to gain a following by creating a product that is just as good?

    — Glenn


    Reply
    1. Versus

      “Does the pop music market really need all those bands, singers, and songwriters who are trying to gain a following by creating a product that is just as good?”

      Fundamentally, does anyone need music or art at all? Does anyone need to even be alive? Of course not.

      However, there clearly is a huge demand for all sorts of music, as well as a huge interest on the parts of musicians to have an audience for their work. Why not? There is also the more brutal fact the in a capitalist society people have to make a living, so without a paying customer (i.e. audience), “all you got is one thin dime, one thin dime won’t even shine your shoes …”


      Reply
  23. Jughead

    9 out of 10 of the jealous posters on this forum dine at Taco Bell. Then, they slam music consumers for gorging on the generic.

    Successful people do not dwell on the success of another.


    Reply
    1. GGG

      I actually eat at pretty good places, but nice try.

      And also, while I certainly don’t “dwell” on Taylor Swift, part of learning about her (and others, from a couple lawyers I know who have been involved in MANY superstars) was why a lot of the things I did early on out of college was dealing with people with money.


      Reply
      1. Jughead

        You are obsessed with hating the successful. Sad.


        Reply
        1. GGG

          Hmmm, I guess a secretly hate any of my friends who are successful. Thanks for letting me know!


          Reply
          1. Jughead

            That’s why you do not hate yourself—you are a loser posting stupid diatribe all day.


            Reply
            1. GGG

              Why do you keep coming back? Aren’t you a hardworking Real American? Get back to work.


              Reply
              1. Jughead

                Snnnzzzzz…..snzzzzz……oops–did you say something relevant?

                Did not think so–back to sleep.


                Reply
                1. GGG

                  Wait…you woke up to check DMN and respond to me? And you call me obsessed….


                  Reply
                  1. Jughead

                    No, I called you a pathetic and jealous dirtball. And, I got it right.

                    Now, STFU and go dry clean your panties.


                    Reply
                    1. GGG

                      You can’t get away from me…I think you’re in love.


  24. Naomi

    Holy horse, that article’s comment section was filled with assholes who are probably sitting on their butts with cheeto stained fingers listening to music and making assumptions based on what they think they see happening in the DIY world instead of living it out and experiencing it first hand, like you. (holy run on sentence) Good thing we all have different opinions, otherwise we’d all be stuck listening to the (probably horrible) taste in music that those haters are listening to. (because haters listen to horrible music) ;)


    Reply
  25. stephen craig aristei

    Wow there are so many great comments and stupid ones as well…..I am always amazed at how little people truly understand about the “business of popular music”. The interesting thing about critics/haters is that, though they are passionate about their opinions, they appear to to fail to have any appreciation for any other type of music, other then what they think is “cool” ! The “Business of music” has room for everyone ! I love all kinds of music, even bad music, because it makes it so much easier to identify the “great” ! However, of all the comments here, Naomi, I think you have hit the nail on the head….Thank you !


    Reply
  26. Anonymous

    Not to detract from Swift’s songwriting prowess and spot on business skills. But I also think it should be mentioned, since it hasn’t been yet, that she co-writes 95% (if not all) of her songs with some of the most incredible pop songwriters in the world (ie: Max Martin, Johan Schuster, etc). Which actually only makes her smarter. Songs that good are rarely written solo.


    Reply
    1. Minneapolis Musician

      “Songs that good are rarely written solo”

      Well, who knows. Maybe. But there’s a claim just begging for some tangible numbers, not anecdotal evidence.

      — Glenn

      http://www.reverbnation.com/GlennGalen


      Reply
  27. Justin

    I know people who have signed Major Record Deals with music that sounds very much like Ari’s…

    The big difference? Ari isn’t a model or super hunk which makes him less appealing to corporate sponsors, meaning he wont be able to sell as much product to the convened cattle and likely won’t be able to convene as many cattle… Just the way it is!

    Music Industry blogs are pointless! It becomes nothing more then a War with that artists/teams supporters or members constantly trawling the web to defend and stick up for their team/artist/scheme along with their enemies doing the same. Sadly it isn’t a divide and conquer strategy, its more like babies playing in a sandbox throwing their jello at each-other all while trying to build little sand huts and yelling at the top of their lungs that their little sand huts are better then the others sand huts… Meanwhile the guys in suits are standing around lifting the lunch money from their pockets without them even knowing or caring!

    Really hard to have or get any good honest discussion on anything ever with the way the music game works.

    Heart and soul? i mean, i like Taylor, shes pretty cute, i’d probably date her if we got on well, but overall she is mostly a long legged model who makes music mostly for tweens and business interests. Her package works really well especially in the corporate world and has the right connections and is a very good schmoozer. She also does her job really good, but an abundance of soul and passion? There’s some there for sure, but she is mostly bubble gum tween stuff, and there is nothing wrong with that…

    Most of what she has to say doesn’t so much apply to most people yet she is given the platform to offer that advice and be celebrated for it. Nothing wrong with that, just sayin…

    I will say i do appreciate her standing up against some of the streamers, but most people don’t have the budget, the money, the fame and the connections to get away with that…


    Reply
    1. Minneapolis Musician

      Just noting that once The Beatles were bubblegum tween stuff. Witness the average age and gender of their crowds in 1963 and 1964. All those prepubescent baby boomers with hormones raging, only three TV channels for entertainment, and 45 RPM records to gather around.


      Reply
  28. Justin

    On another note…

    Arrows through the heart?

    I’m like Cupid with a Gatling gun just firing arrows through hearts all over the place!

    What did i get for it? Almost made me homeless!

    She might have to check that statement out before sending that Propaganda to tweens dreaming of being some superstar…


    Reply
  29. Justin

    On a final note, IME, to be successful in the music business, the music is actually about the least important thing.

    My advice to anyone would be to worry about the actual music last! Its important, but maybe only 10% of the overall scheme! Money, schmoozing, connections, looks, marketability, the ability to keep the mouth shut, those sorts of things, are much much much more important then the actual music…

    Taylor knows this and it’s a shame to continually see people in her position perpetuate the same b.s.

    Anyways, if she wants to go out for dinner sometime just let me know, i’ll have to check my skeddy, but i might be able to fit her in somewhere, we will see what i have going on that week before i can commit for certain though!

    :)


    Reply
  30. Justin

    Actually i take that back, my skeddy is jam packed, no room for her!

    She seems to be getting around pretty good lately anyways, time for her to tweak her image to better reflect what she is or has become.

    Messing with superheroes like Orlando Bloom and Ed Sheeran, a simple lowly man like myself cannot compete with megaubersuperstarnovas like those guys. I don’t want to draw them out to start ramming heads like a bunch of big horn sheep thrashing their antlers together in an attempt to position themselves as the dominant de facto alpha male giving them first pick among the lady sheeps, or in cases like those kind of studs, the run of the town, snapping fingers having a plethora of women kneel down hoping to be picked. I’d be lucky to get the scraps they discard to the trash after ravaging a fine cut steak, like all the cuts of meat they seem to be able to scarf down.

    So forgive me Orlando and Ed, i had thought she was single, but i guess she is just testing the market before picking her big horned dominant alpha male ruling the slopes of the sheep… I acquiesce to super males like them, i simply cannot compete and its a waste of my time and energy to ever think i could…

    :)


    Reply
  31. Swiftie

    I actually like a lot of Taylor Swift’s music too, Ari. I think your piece was really well written and insightful. I’m a big fan of female artists in general so I’m looking forward to checking out your music!


    Reply
  32. Swiftie

    I actually like some of Taylor Swift’s music as well, Ari. I think your piece was well written and informative. I’m a big fan of female artists in general so I’m looking forward to checking out your music!


    Reply

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