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ARLINGTON, TX – OCTOBER 05: Taylor Swift performs onstage during the reputation Stadium Tour at … [+] AT&T Stadium on October 5, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/TAS18/Getty Images for TAS)
Just when you think Taylor Swift can’t possibly surprise, she does it again, twice. Every live entertainment company could learn from the strategies that Taylor and her team are using to build affinity with fans and sales of tickets, merchandise and music.
First, during the Covid pandemic while many of us were wrestling the choice of Peloton versus Pilsner, Taylor went to work and dashed off Folklore, a beautiful mature collection of songs. Folklore’s songs have intertwining stories written in collaboration with Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. It received rave reviews, with which I concur. I really like it, something I’ve never before said about a Taylor Swift album, although I do like many of her songs. She’s a very gifted songwriter, but her prior history has been songs with big hooks rather than careful craftsmanship.
The album was a surprise release and it stormed the internet. According to Variety, Folklore sold 1.3 million copies the first day and over 2 million copies the first week with 80.6 million streams in its first day on Spotify.
Taylor Swift having a massive hit is no surprise. It’s her normal. But, to create such a work quickly and hold it secret is something different. Still, Team Taylor has always been on point with how they market. Earlier albums involved fans invited to listening parties in which Taylor appeared to delight and massive social media reaction, or invitations to listen at her home. Mastery of social media is what separates the good from the untouchable and it’s Swift’s forte.
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Last week some independent record shops around the country received a case of Folklore CDs autographed by Taylor Swift. No one expected this. The stores were asked to sell the CDs locally rather than online. As you might expect, social media lit up with pictures and posts of those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. So, after a surprise release and millions of copies sold online, Taylor and team lit up the demand for hard copies of her album.
That’s par for the course for someone who managed to intertwine access to tickets to her Reputation tour with social media interaction. No one had ever before considered asking fans to post on social media, take pictures of albums or billboards and pre-purchase merchandise all five months in advance of the date show tickets went on sale. This program’s design was brilliant. Each fan had an account through which their social media interactivity and merchandise purchasing was tracked. The more activity, the more points earned. When tickets went on sale, the first windows were opened to those with the highest point totals. As it turned out, because there were so many multiple nights scheduled at huge venues, tickets were readily available as the additional nights went on sale and the true fans actually paid more for tickets than those who waited as demand softened. Either way, participating fans got better seats and social media posts regarding Taylor and the tour were steady for half a year as a result of the promotion.
Marketing is creating engagement with your customer base
The Swift team doesn’t overlook attention to any detail. The album logo on a guitar played by Taylor on an awards show. The color coordination of every single album in relation to all the others. The piano played at the Grammys with each prior album’s name inscribed and the endless Easter eggs planted to keep the Swiftie community talking about what the clues could mean. The old days of just getting a photograph for an album cover and shipping product to a store are over. Success comes from building community within the fan base and between the fan and the artist. Taylor Swift’s approach will someday be a case study in business schools. She’s transitioning her teenage fans into adult fans something almost never accomplished. Even Justin Timberlake is fading.
Go watch the 60 minutes story on Taylor Swift.
She’s running a business, paying attention to the trucks which carry her stage and equipment and the crews which handle every element of making the shows possible. Taylor Swift is not a pop princess, she’s an engaged entrepreneur driven to succeed. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is the first one to truly figure out how to create and deliver individualized on-demand custom concerts via the internet. That’s the last frontier to monetize and I wouldn’t bet against her. Meanwhile, pay attention to how she’s keeping her fans active, engaged and transacting. It’s a real masterclass.
I love going to see shows. Most nights you’ll find me in a crowd with the people. Come join me as we analyze the live entertainment industry.…I love going to see shows. Most nights you’ll find me in a crowd with the people. Come join me as we analyze the live entertainment industry. I’ve spent my life advising people and companies about business strategy & negotiation. I focus on every aspect of entertainment. The stories I write cover how the events industry works and the tickets are sold. The business model for all things live is changing. I’ll keep you informed about what it used to be, what it is now, and what it will become. We’ll talk about what I see, who I meet and the companies who bring us the shows, games and concerts.