Dear Ms. Swift,
You have done three things in recent months that have caught my attention, and I wanted to take the time to tell you both what they have meant to me, and what I believe it says about you as a person.
One – Worth
Back in early November 2014, you made the controversial decision to pull all your music from Spotify. The media and your detractors went berserk.
How dare you make a decision about how you are compensated for your own artistic creations?
This was a brilliant business move for many reasons, but that is not why I applaud the decision. It matters not to me (and by my estimates even less to you) the financial upside you saw from that decision. After all, you are already more financially successful than nearly every person on the planet. You don’t need any more money and it does not appear you want for anything.
In fact, when you made the decision it was a huge risk, it could have easily cost you both money and fans. Certainly money was a factor, but it is not why what you did is important.
You see, for decades American society had been devaluing intangible services and creativity, and in one simple move, you told the world that those who create for a living have a right to expect to be fairly paid for what they do.
Back in the 1990’s I worked in the IT consulting business in New York City. My firm specialized in consultants with hard-to-find skills and experience. For one customer, I found a consultant with extraordinarily rare skill set, and we executed a contract that spelled out the terms of the deal.
The customer would pay us a daily rate, from which we paid the individual and kept the difference as profit for our services. The terms also dictated that the client could hire the consultant full time, but there would be a fee equal to 20% of the first year’s salary, minus 1% for every month the consultant worked on the contract. Basically if he contracted for 20 months, they could hire him free of charge.
Six months into the engagement, the customer called and said he’d like to hire the consultant. I said that would be fine, and since we were six months in, the fee would only be 14%. The client got very angry and after ranting a point or two said, “I’m not paying it, you’ve more than made your money already.”
Not wanting to escalate the argument, but still defending our position I replied, “How long have you shopped at your grocery store?” The client said, “What? Um, like fifteen years. What does that have to do with anything?”
I continued, “Well, have you approached the manager of the store to tell him that the store has more than made its money and the time has come for you to get your groceries at cost? The fact is that we provided you with a resource at a time that you couldn’t get it yourself. That is what we do, and that is how we make our living. So you have three options: you can continue to pay the daily rate, hire him and pay the 14%, or dismiss him. I have plenty of other customers who would love to bring him on.”
The customer paid the 14%.
From photographers, to writers to musicians and even the people who know how to help you with a computer problem… just because what they do can’t be held in your hand, or packaged in a box, does not mean it isn’t worth something.
Thank you for showing the world that it is okay to expect fair payment for things of value. I hope others follow your example and do so as publicly.
Two – Dedication
Last week I clicked on a link in my Facebook feed that ultimately led me to a video about your purchasing and delivering holiday gifts to your fans.
A cynical person might watch this, and easily conclude that it was a carefully orchestrated publicity stunt meant to sell more albums and concert tickets. But when you’re already number one on the Billboard Album Chart (for nine weeks and counting as I write this), there really isn’t anywhere to go but down.
Publicity stunts are for people desperate to make news,
not those already atop the mountain.
Watching the video with a critical eye, it is clear to me that you have taken the time to truly get to know and understand some of your loyal fans, and the gifts you purchased reflect that. From the thoughtful handwritten notes, to the fact that you personally packed the boxes, shows me that you are willing to give of yourself on behalf of those who have chosen to spend their hard earned cash on your music. They value you, and you honor them by returning the favor.
Then, just yesterday my daughter Charlotte told me about this video.
To take the time to paint something for a fan is far beyond what anyone in your position would ever do. However, to additionally have the insight (especially given your means) that student loan payments are a source of worry for millions of Americans, it was exceptionally thoughtful for you to send that money along too.
Again, from where I’m sitting you chose to give of yourself
for no reason other than you wanted to.
In the twenty-four-hour-news-cycle-reality-show world in which we live, nearly everything we see and hear has to do with the ME ME ME attitude of the celebrity class.
The “Celebrity Class” is made up of precious few Classy Celebrities. Ms. Swift, as far as I’m concerned you are the new standard bearer for handling fame with love and grace.
Three – Talent
I’m a 46-year old father of four. I had my time as a fan of top-40 music, and radio pop… and that was right around the time of your birth. I still listen to music of all kinds, though I will admit that my tastes today are more contemplative than they are contemporary.
My daughter Charlotte is fourteen, and she has been a dedicated fan of yours for years. When she purchased “1989” on the family iTunes account, it automatically appeared on my phone. One day in November while firing up the snow blower to clean off our driveway, I decided to throw on the headphones and give the album a listen.
Having been a 20-something who moved to New York City after college to find my way in the world, the opening track immediately caught my attention and drew me in to the balance of the album.
Yes, it is a light pop album, but a damn good one,
and worth every penny we paid for it.
So, in closing I would like to thank you for all that you do:
- For standing up for creativity
- For standing by your fans
- For making great music
Taylor Swift you are a class act, something the world desperately needs in volume, but instead has only a whisper in the likes of you. Keep up the good work, I’ll be watching & listening.
Copyright © 2015 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved. (An Open Letter To Taylor Swift)