The Business of Taylor Swift
Finally satisfying fans’ anticipations, Taylor Swift released her new single “ME!”, featuring Brendon Urie of Panic at the Disco.
Swift has long been known for forming personal relationships with her fans, but the run up to “ME!” created a never-before-seen level of excitement amongst “Swifties,” her most loyal followers.
To alert fans of her upcoming new music, Swift commenced a 12-day countdown on her Instagram. Fans could check in whenever they opened her stories and see exactly how much time they had to wait until the release date, but speculation about Swift’s impending seventh studio album, colloquially known as “TS7,” had already been building far before its launch.
On February 24th, an image featuring seven palm trees appeared on Swift’s Instagram. That post was followed by two additional photos, featuring a new, lighter and brighter color scheme, then one of Swift’s beloved cat Meredith with the caption “She just read all the theories.”
Swift has left fans shaking in their boots before, though. Before releasing her sixth album, Reputation, Swift wiped clean all of her social media accounts, most notably clearing her Instagram page. Fans immediately took note, especially when Swift then began posting dark, segmented videos of a snake.
Not long after, Swift would drop the album’s lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” and its famously coded music video. It was then that Swift first mastered the use of social media as a promotional tool.
Now, fans hang on her every post. Along with the 12-day countdown to “ME!”, a picture of a scene from the song’s music video appeared on Swift’s Instagram. With this release, Swift has also created a merchandise store with items that match the video’s pastel colors and the song’s upbeat theme.
Over the course of her career, Swift and her team have proved to be business masterminds. She’s long had a routine of releasing new albums in November, which is ideal for Grammy Award consideration. The Recording Academy that votes on the awards has specific requirements for what music can be nominated in a given year. For example, music honored at the 60th Grammy Awards held in January 2018 had to have been released between October 1st, 2016 and September 30th, 2017.
But with Swift’s album release schedule, three singles typically proceed the full record. Oftentimes, they come out before October 1st. “Look What You Made Me Do” arrived in August 2017, prior to Reputation on November 10th. That means music from just one of Swift’s albums could be nominated in two separate years, keeping her music on the radio and in front of listeners, all the while driving extra press and extra profit.
It’s no wonder then that Swift was just named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2019. The announcement was made on April 17th, just days before “ME!” was released. Shawn Mendes, who opened at a handful of Swift’s shows during her 1989 World Tour, wrote about “her belief in magic and love, and her ability to be as honest and raw as possible.” Mendes said that was what made him a fan, and it’s why he and millions of others keep coming back.
Indeed, the magic of it all is that she has managed to use her fame to manipulate market outcomes. Having music available for nomination for two separate years while increasing revenues through her merchandising, Taylor is able to top charts and awards. By doing so, her business model strengthens and, in a self-perpetuating flow, her marketing strategies have allowed her to remain relevant for six albums.
Swifties now anxiously await the release of “TS7” prior to Swift’s 30th birthday in December.