Unlikely it may seem. But it is not. In the second decade of the 21st century leaders emerge from the strangest of places. And in the second decade of the 21st century leaders inhabit the most improbable of bodies – in this case that of a pretty and petit 25 year old, who makes her living singing.
Taylor Swift has chosen to use her platform constructed of fame and fortune to change the way the world works, or has. She has taken on, in quick succession, both Spotify and Apple, to try to oblige them to pay their artists what she thinks, or, more precisely, what they think they deserve. Apple caved virtually immediately, tweeting Taylor, “we hear you,” and agreeing to pay artists for their music even during the three month trial of its new platform, Apple Music.
But the point is not that a single company – even arguably the most powerful in the world – bent to Swift’s will. The point is that she is making a stunningly strong case for artists, insisting that they be paid for their wares just like everyone else.
Swift is as eloquent on the subject as she is forceful. In taking on Spotify she wrote in a 2014 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for….Music should not be free.”
And in 2015, in taking on Apple in a letter posted to her Tumblr page, Swift wrote that Apple’s policy was “shocking, disappointing and completely unlike this historically progressive company.” She went on to assert that she was by no means speaking only for herself – which presumably is why, in a New York minute, Apple reversed itself.
Swift is in a singularly strong position: she is a spectacularly successful singer. What makes her a leader, however, is that she has capitalized on this success. She has used it to create a change that many deeply believe long overdue.