Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tip-Top Taylor... Swift.

Next weekend Taylor Swift comes to Edmonton on her Speak Now World Tour to play TWO sold out shows, and yes, I have my tickets. I was lucky to get them, because both shows sold out literally in MINUTES! She is going to put on an amazing show, and with her coming, I just wanted to share my thoughts on her...
Taylor Swift is one of very few artists who is genuine and real. You don’t have to like her music to like and respect her, and I don't think she gets the recognition she properly deserves.
I became a fan when she released her single Love Story. I saw the video and thought she was an amazing and very attractive singer. As I saw more of her, I realized how different she was from most of the other singers. In Taylor Swift, I saw a real person and not just a “Hollywood cut-out” trying to get rich and famous. I saw someone really no different than you or me.
Unfortunately, with all the scandals, rehab stays, DUIs, or breakdowns other stars are having, artists like Taylor Swift barely get any kind of media coverage. And yet, she has still managed to become one of the most popular and well loved stars around the world... all with one simple trick—truth.
Taylor Swift is who she says she is. She is true to herself, but more importantly, her songs are the story of her life. In fact, she has been quoted many times as saying that when you listen to her songs, it is like you’re reading her diary. It’s her vulnerability and openness in her music (and in herself) that has made her fans more like her friends, and this is what made, and will keep, Taylor Swift popular and respected.
When you see Taylor Swift doing an interview or watch her in a behind-the-scenes clip, she is a normal person—one who hasn’t succumb to the “Hollywood Lifestyle” or changed who she is. You don’t ever see photos of her staggering drunk out of a club, because that’s not who she is. You don’t ever see her posing for provocative or suggesting photos, because that is not who she is. In fact, she was once quoted as saying that she doesn’t wear skimpy or revealing clothing in her real life so she won't just for a photo-shoot. Again... a real person who is not gong to ‘bend over’ for "Hollywood."
I’ve watched interviews with her, and they all go the same way and leave me with the same impression—even if singing didn’t make her famous or wealthy, she would still be do it. True artists don’t do what they do because it makes them rich and famous; they do it because they love what they do and want to share it with others.
It is unfortunate, however, that some artists let the fame and fortune get to them and change them—usually not in a good way, either. There are numerous artists that I’ve really respected and enjoyed only to watch as the corruption and greed take over—destroying all respect I once had. I’ve read stories about artists spending $50000 a month on their hair and make-up, dropping a quarter of a million dollars at a club for a birthday party, or buying a $30 million house. Really? For what possible reason would one need a house that has twenty-two bathrooms?
But then, you have an artist like Taylor Swift. Sure, she has a couple of nice homes but nothing over-the-top. She stays very close with her family, and keeps a very level head. In fact, she just recently bought her parents a new house—a little costly, but not excessive and not wasteful... I mean it's her parents. They have and continue to support her and her dreams, so now she is just giving them a "Thank-You for everything" gift from the heart—that’s what I would do.
The most defining point, however, when talking about Taylor Swift is how she acts towards and interacts with her fans. They are more important to her than the fame or the fortune. Whenever you see her around her fans, she treats them like they REALLY are her best friends, because in her heart, they are. She talks to them (not at them) and honestly listens to and hears them. She respects them and treats them with such. No matter where she is or what she’s doing, she will take time to stop and ‘mingle’ with her admirers. This is what makes an artist truly amazing.
Not only does Taylor Swift respect her fans, but she also deeply respects her peers. It’s sad that quite often, however, this respect is one sided. Taylor Swift may win many ‘fan-voted’ awards, but she doesn’t win that many awards that are voted on or decided by the ‘industry.’ Fortunately, I don’t think this matters to her, though. I mean, it’s the awards that are chosen by the fans that are, or should be, the most important to an artist. No matter, even when you see Taylor Swift lose an award to another artist, you can see she is genuinely happy for the person who won. Not once have I ever seen a look of disgust or displeasure on her face when she didn’t win. Sadly, I can’t say the same for many other artists.
In fact, this past Sunday was the annual Teen Choice Awards. A fan-voted award show in which Taylor Swift won five awards in addition to the Ultimate Choice award, which is basically the top honour for this award’s show. When she accepted the award, you could tell it wasn’t the award itself that mattered to her. It was that the fans chose her, or more importantly her ‘stories,’ to receive the award. She was truly touched and humbled that what she has to share is so loved by those she shares it with.
Another example of Taylor Swift's humility and sincerity was when Selena Gomez performed Love You Like A Love Song, which won "Best Love Song." Taylor Swift lost the award for “Best Love Song” to Selena Gomez, but what did she do while Selena was performing the song live? She was right there in the front row, with a big smile on her face, dancing and singing along with Selena’s performance. Sound like a sore loser to you? Nope.
Many artists roll out songs written by whomever and record the songs they believe will get the most air-play or will sell the most albums. They are in it for the money, and as long as you’re buying their albums, they’re happy. Taylor Swift writes her own songs—songs that tell us about her life (both the good and the bad). Because the songs come from her heart, they are real. And because they are real, her fans easily relate to them and easily relate to her. All in all, a connection is created between Taylor Swift and her fans, and it’s because of this connection that Taylor Swift will remain highly adored and respected by people all over the world. Her fans are her friends, and friends don’t abandon you.
So, you don’t have to like her music, but you can’t help but respect her as an artist, because Taylor Swift is a true artist and sincere person.
But that’s just me...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Consequential Fine Print

Before the Digital Age that we have become accustomed to today, things were simple.
When you wanted to talk to people, you called them—that was it. The person only had one number, and if they were home, you got to talk to them... if they weren’t, well, you tried later. There were no cell numbers, tweets, facebook walls, emails, or voicemails. Simple.
If you wanted to relax and watch television, you would turn it on, set the volume, find a channel you liked (pretty much from a choice of about thirteen), and sit down. Simple.
To keep in contact with distant friends or relatives, you picked up a pen, grabbed some paper, wrote a letter, folded it, stuffed it in an envelope, addressed the envelope, put a stamp on it, and dropped it in the mailbox. Simple.
You had only one choice for your phone company... only one choice for your cable company... and only one choice for mail service. Very simple.
And then the Digital Age was born. Services started opening up to competition. Technology grew faster than most of us could keep up with, and before we knew it, your friends now have a half-dozen different ways for you to get in touch with them; your choice for television channels grew into triple digits; and even something as simple as the mail changed... one street address turned into multiple email addresses.
We quickly grew from a simple system into something way more complex (and confusing) then most people even realize.
In what felt like an overnight explosion, many different companies offering a vast range of phone, television, and internet services surfaced. Each one fighting for your business, and many offering so many choices that the average person becomes overwhelmed and is often blindly fooled into a package that he or she doesn’t really need, want, or can really afford.
My problem is with the companies that advertise every day and in every possible medium. You’ll see full-page ads in the local papers (sometimes multiple adds on different pages), prime-time commercials on all the local channels, billboards, and mail-outs—all on top of the annoying dinner-time solicitations on my home phone or my cellphone (or often both)... “no, I don’t want to switch my long distance provider!”
The ads (in whatever form) are all the same... a special introductory offer of a unnaturally low price for a fixed number of months, plus a free gift if you lock in for a multi-year contract (a gift that is usually something rather costly and appealing but has nothing to do with the services being looked at). I have a few problems with all of this:
1. If you have to advertise that much to get new customers, then you are doing something wrong... word of mouth is worth way more than any ad you could ever buy.
2. If you have to offer free gifts to lure customers to come to you... again, you are doing something wrong... your product or service should be strong enough in itself to draw in new customers.
3. If you have to give very low introductory prices in order for someone to notice you (or consider you)... you guessed it, you are doing something wrong.
If these tactics do manage to get you new customers, but in order to keep these new customers, you have to bind them into a multi-year contract... I think you are doing something very wrong!
Is the business not confident enough with the quality of its products or services that the customer will stay willingly? Obviously not!
Personally, I’ll go with the company that advertises only when it has a new product or service they are introducing; who, on occasion, may offer (reasonably discounted) introductory pricing for new customers; or who may even offer free hardware to new clients that is relevant to the services the clients are wanting (i.e. a free modem for internet service or a free phone for a cellular service).
The biggest difference with the companies I choose... NO contracts are forced on me. If I like its products or services, I stay with the company. If I don’t like what I’m receiving, I leave... no cancelation penalties, no contract payouts, no hassles. With no compulsory contract to trap me for years, this company must have faith in itself and its products and services. Instead of spending a fortune on advertising and free gifts, it puts its money into ensuring it is able to deliver me, the consumer, quality products and excellent services that will keep me as a loyal customer for many years to come... by my own accord.
So, when it comes to companies of ‘Digital Era’ services, if you decide to sign a contract, do some research on the company, ask people who deal or have dealt with the company, and always remember to READ THE FINE PRINT. It also wouldn’t hurt to ask yourself “why are they offering me this to sign up with them?” Is this something I need to use the services? Or is it a bribe? By signing a contract the company could (but not always) be saying “we, as a company, aren’t that good, but once we sucker you in... too bad, you’re stuck!”
I’ve lost count of the amount of people I’ve heard say how much they now regret “taking that deal” and signing that form. Well, sorry... but in two and half more years, you can try something else. Until then, you really should have read the fine print!
The moral of the story...
Be careful... Be smart... Don’t be fooled...
But that’s just me.