I admit: I am not a staunch Taylor Swift fan. To be frank, I have very little respect for her music in general. Numbers, however, are numbers and Taylor Swift swept 2010 like a tornado. An article I read today stated that her album ‘Speak Now’ sold more than 4.4 million albums and her songs were spotted by SoundScan a record 1.128 million times. As if this wasn’t enough, Taylor Swift also holds the distinction of being the most sold artist ever in the digital music world. Although I personally cannot see the reason her music is so popular, the fact that there are so many people out there that are willing to spend money to listen to her music says something about her work and about the industry in general.
Taylor Swift is an integral part of what I like to call the marketplace music movement. I am sure she puts a lot of work into her music and I respect the fact that she writes her own songs; but the fact remains that from the inception of the song to its production to its deployment as albums and digital downloads, the underlying motivation for everything is profit-making. That does not go to say that her music is not well-written or well-produced. It does, however, stay within the boundaries of what music corporate executives feel will sell the most. Going by the numbers alone, I’d say that they’re spot on.
I think music, however, has the potential to do more. It is a canvas on which artists can experiment, push the envelope and excite us. And I think that part of the reason that music like Taylor Swift’s sells so much is because we as consumers demand it. It’s basic economics. My only hope is that some of the break out artists from the world of Indie music and alternative rock whet the public’s appetite for more progressive music. I wish Taylor Swift success, but deeply hope for a day where the best selling hits are of deeper substance.