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A letter to Taylor Swift

Ted Gioia wrote an open letter to Taylor Swift, denouncing the current state of the music industry, and asking for a radical initiative.

Simone Silvestroni's avatar

The letter starts with an honest introduction, the common ground between Swift and Gioia. All emphasis are mine:

I’ve devoted my life to music, but mostly jazz, a niche field with niche concerns, but where I get to spend time with other people who deeply love music. In my own small way, I’ve tried to be an honest broker, working to earn trust and promote a fair and healthy music ecosystem. That’s the one thing we have most in common. We both love the music. We want to see it flourish—not just for ourselves, but for the good of all musicians. And for the benefit of the fans. And for our communities.

Until Gioia gets to the point of why he wants to ask a favour — a way to get out the current state of the music industry through a potential intervention by Swift:

For the first time in 500 years, an increasing number of people listen to music, and don’t even know the name of the artist or the song. This is not by chance, but is an intentional move with the goal of shifting control from artists who create to technocrats who merely aggregate.

The streaming platforms prefer a situation where fan loyalty is to their app, not the musician. And they don’t care if this turns music into something bland, interchangeable, and generic—because their power is enhanced, and that is their highest priority.

The major record labels don’t care. They have lost the ability or interest (or both) to launch and nurture new artists. They would rather buy up the rights to old songs than create new ones. Their obsession with the past is scary.

Finally, the idea: asking Taylor Swift to launch a business, a cooperative of musicians that can look after each others and help all artists in the music industry.

For the first time in ages, the superstar musician at the top of the hierarchy is brave, independent, generous, and willing to challenge the system. You stand up for artist rights. You stand up for live music. You stand up for people. And you do all this with a grass roots power base that nobody can match—no politician, no billionaire technocrat, and certainly no other performer.

Musicians have never had that kind of visionary leader. You can create a unifying vision. You can build something that’s fair and transparent and gets people excited about music.

Admittedly, I initially read the post with a distant approach, warming up to this radical idea as long as the post progressed. It’s an interesting proposal, whether or not Gioia was using an hyperbole: I’m not sure one person might be the saviour, but he’s right when he lamented a lack of visionary leadership.

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