by Elliot Wessel, Schmitt Music

We’re working in a reputation-based business.  We say that all the time.  So often our success or failure depends on the relationships we’ve built and maintained and hopefully grown over the years.  Reputation is so important.  If you haven’t been following pop culture at all, Taylor Swift’s new album is titled “Reputation.”  The new songbooks will probably be in stores by the time you read this.

I love Taylor Swift.  I really do.  I used to say that all the time in a record-industry-salesman kind of way. She’s a strong brand that sells really well, but I didn’t mean it.  I mean it now.  I love Taylor Swift.  Here’s one reason why:  In the summer of 2014 she wrote an article, an open letter really, to the Wall Street Journal about the future of the music industry.

“Before I tell you my thoughts on the matter, you should know that you’re reading the opinion of an enthusiastic optimist: one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying…it’s just coming alive.”

“There are many (many) people who predict the downfall of music sales and the irrelevancy of the album as an economic entity.  I am not one of them.  In my opinion, the value of an album is and will continue to be based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes in the marketplace.”

“In mentioning album sales, I’d like to point out that people are still buying albums, but now they’re just buying a few of them.  They are buying the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart or have made them feel strong or allowed them to feel like they aren’t really alone in feeling so alone.”

Taylor Swift – The Wall Street Journal – July 7, 2014

To say the responses to her optimism were critical would be an understatement, but then, four months later she released her first “pop” album, “1989” which sold 1.29 million copies in the first week, a good portion of which were physical CD sales.  Then just a few weeks ago, she did it again, with “Reputation” selling 1.22 million copies in the first week, also with a large percentage of physical CD sales.  This article wasn’t a young woman’s naïve wish for an industry that no longer exists, this was a superstar standing at the plate and pointing to the fences and calling her shot.  She’s a hero.  She’s kind of my hero.

I found this whole article not only inspiring but also applicable to our little corner of the music industry, the print music business.  We can have this same attitude and optimism because she was right. She’s proven it.

Print music is not dead, it’s not even dying, the business just changed and is still changing.  People are still buying print music, more physical than digital, even pop music, but they’re more likely to buy only the music that they love, the music that means something to them.  That’s not just an inspiring, hopeful message, it’s a guide to building a successful print music assortment.  It’s a clue on how best to manage inventory.  It’s the key to producing new products.  It’s a direction to follow for increasing sales.

We have the “Reputation” CDs at Schmitt Music.  Why not?  We have the music that people love, that’s our reputation.  I’m on the Swift Life app (@sheetmusicman) talking to “Swifties” about sheet music every day.  Why not?  We share many of the same customers and it’s amazing to see these fans with their guitars and ukuleles and at their pianos being inspired to play Taylor Swift’s songs.  Imagine how our businesses would benefit if any of us could come close to the relationship and reputation Taylor Swift has with her fans.

I believe we can do this.  We are doing it.  I am looking forward to sharing some things again at the RPMDA convention again this year here in Minneapolis.

Also, “New Year’s Day” is a beautiful song.  You can roll your eyes at me if you want to, but she’s a songwriting genius.

I love Taylor Swift.  You should too.