Before I get to how Taylor Swift interacts with followers, let me provide some background on how I even got the point of writing about her. Taylor Swift made news recently when she removed every one of her songs from the Spotify streaming music service. Although, she has never released any new albums on this service (RED didn't hit Spotify for about 6 months after release), this created somewhat of a controversy.
She also wrote an Op Ed in the WSJ where she expressed her passion for music, her optimism for the future of her industry, and how she feels about her followers. This tells us a lot about her business savvy. She acknowledges that the music industry is changing, or more accurately, how music is consumed is changing. Social media and smart phones/devices have made access to music easier than ever. No longer do we have the need for physical media, like CDs. Here is what she said about devices and how it has changed her industry in a rather unusual way:
"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."
And the internet plays a big role as well. I cannot tell you the last music video I saw on TV, but I have seen many recently online. Taylor had this to say about the influence of YouTube on the industry:
"In the YouTube generation we live in, I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online. To continue to show them something they had never seen before, I brought out dozens of special guest performers to sing their hits with me."
So why not embrace this and make it work? Maybe its just a matter of principle, which is actually reassuring to me and why I like Taylor Swift. Perhaps the real reason an artist at her level would do this is to make a general statement about the industry.
Look, I am a huge fan of the free market. But most folks understand that the market will collapse once people figure out how to get things for nothing, at least on their end. Most free streaming service users are not aware of what artists get per listen or even how that service monetizes their listening experience. All the end user knows is they get something for nothing! And there you have it.
Sure, there are paid subscriptions on Spotify. However, they represent less than half of the free users, which are around 55 million, and growing. Throw into the mix iTunes merging with Beats Audio and XBOX Music (which I have the annual pass subscription) and Amazon music, you can see why Spotify has a high pucker factor after Taylor pulled the plug. She had this to say about taking her music off of Spotify:
“If I had streamed the new album, it’s impossible to try to speculate what would have happened. But all I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment,” Taylor explained to Yahoo! “And I’m not wiling to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”
Don't let that statement fool you. She is not rejecting technology, the internet, etc. outright. Her reliance on social media to connect with her fans and her use of tools like Vine and Twitter is something to be envied! That is what she told me about interacting with followers. The music (product/service) is what it is, it speaks for itself. It is about the interaction with fans (customers), the surprise and delight with every show being different (varying approach), her appearances (PR), charities (outreach), and more that makes the music meaningful.
This tells me (no, she did not actually tell me herself, although that would be pretty cool) that it is about how you interact with your followers, in a meaningful way that makes you a superstar. It cannot be separated from your craft, it is an integral part of the experience followers have with your work. That is what we can take away; interact with and build relationships with your followers. They will buy the "music".
I plan to write more on the impact social media has on our businesses and society and would like to hear followers' views as well.