What Can We Learn from the Taylor Swift vs Apple Streaming incident?

 I was listening to my favorite talk radio show this morning, and it painted a pretty dim picture for the prospects of the independent musician. Taylor Swift recently fired shots at Apple's plans to offer 3 months of free service (in which recording artists would not get paid), ostensibly in service of recording artists. This lead to the kind of maelstrom of recriminations and editorials that we have come to know and love in the social media age.  Now people are talking about how Swift has positioned herself as the champion of the little guy. The only hope of musicians looking to live an honest life without being raped by the evil tech industry. They paint it a gender-bent retelling of David and Goliath. A battle of biblical proportions between the little guy and the corporate bully of the month!

Or nah?

The consensus on the show I was listening to was that Taylor was really just a proxy in the ongoing battle between the Tech Industry and the Record Industry over who gets to get rich pimping the streetwalker we like to call the modern musician.
Who's more shady? Recording companies or Tech giants?

The little guy or gal is gonna have a hard time either way unless he or she learns how to be a smart entrepreneur. Musicians sure enough need to ascertain which strategies will work the best for them and prioritize accordingly. Hopefully, this power move will wake people up to the fact that all artists (in this case, musicians) should think like entrepreneurs instead of thinking like creative employees looking for their institutions (in this case, record companies) to "hire" them.
Entrepreneurs in the music business should not tie their hopes to making hit records, but playing the long game. At Starving Artists Anonymous, we promote what we think is best strategy for musicians, as well as other artists:
  1. Be productive- For musicians, this probably means lots of writing, practicing, recording, and performing.
  2. Make lots of products and/or services available to potential customers. Spend money to produce mp3s, CDs, printed merchandise, videos, and anything else your fans would want to buy. How will you find fans, or know what they want to buy? Simple...
  3. Learn and apply smart and relevant marketing to grow your base of customers/clients, etc. Use social media to build an email list. Keep your fans up to date and excited about your music. Ask them what they want (and on occasion, give it to them), and encourage them to spread the word about your work. Build a community around your passions.
Build a business around your music. Instead of hoping a label will sign you, build a makeshift label around yourself. There's nothing stopping you from working with a label when they come looking for you, but you must be prepared to negotiate from a strong position, not as a beggar looking for a few scraps. The best way to get their attention is to show that you don't need them. Do it yourself, or hire people (gasp!) to do it for you. Either way, you are the boss.

All of this applies to any artist, in any art form. What about you? What do you think about what happened with Taylor and Apple? What have you learned from it?

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