MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

The Taylor Swift Effect
Slim, Creative Consultant, Miami Beach

December 17, 2014

Over a month ago, I made some statements on social media regarding the business of Taylor Swift and its play on the music industry. I’ve had several formal conversations with some of my colleagues about the matter and my predictions have proved true. “Taylor Swift will have the highest selling album of 2014 for 1989.”  In it’s opening week, 1989 sold over 1.29 million albums according to Nielsen Soundscan.
There have not been not one album selling over one million copies for the year of 2014.  I mentioned these tidbits last month but they still prove its importance. ITunes sales are down 15% from last year. The top 200 albums sold prior to Taylor equal 1.5 million copies total. With sales declining what makes Taylor Swift so special? How can she sell in this market while other artists struggle? I’ll explain this further in what I call the Taylor Swift Effect. 

Taylor Swift. (2014)

Photograph by Billboard

When Taylor Swift released Fearless in 2008, she was categorized as country artist. However, the album was reviewed by the likes of Rolling Stone, Billboard, and the New York Times, as a pop album with country elements sprinkled in it. In 2010 her third LP, Speak Now was classified as “Country Pop.” Taylor’s latest album 1989 is labeled a Pop album. Has Taylor Swift’s sound changed that much? Not really, she has only grown in the multitudes of celebrity.

Taylor Swift never crossed over into Pop music. She is a pop singer-writer that crossover into Country.

Taylor has honed in as America’s Pop music princess. It happened right before our eyes. In the genres of music, country music has the most fan loyalty. Despite financial woes in music, country music still sells. Country music fans go to concerts, buy albums, and apparel. If you can win the hearts of die-hard country music lovers, you are winning. Taylor Swift never crossed over into Pop music. She is a pop singer-writer that crossover into Country.

2008 CMA Awards.

Photograph by  PopSugar

The brilliance exists in the management and marketing of her team. Taylor Swift was young and the level of competition of female pop stars was large. We already had Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and young Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana. There wasn’t a big break lane for young Taylor in Pop music. However, in Country she potentially possessed less competition for entry with her skill set and age according to the market. Her team labels her a country artist, moves to Nashville, which solidifies the claim. Mixing influences of Country music greats like Shania Twain, Stevie Nicks and the Dixie Chicks builds industry support. Who wouldn’t embrace a young beautiful teen with aspirations to become like them?

Taylor’s team looked at what was prominent and found the best solution to get their artist the most exposure and support available. The rest was up to Taylor Swift. She had to do the work. Taylor has molded herself to be anti-pop in perception. She doesn’t dress like a pop artist, maintains a quirky personality, and very centered. Innocence is her greatest attribute. Songwriting is her best skill. Put out decent music and you can’t lose. As long as she maintains a significant distance in aura from her Pop music counterparts she will have success. The plan was calculated, concrete, and it worked. That’s good artist management.

The brilliance exists in the management and marketing of her team. Taylor Swift was young and the level of competition of female pop stars was large. We already had Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and young Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana. There wasn’t a big break lane for young Taylor in Pop music. However, in Country she potentially possessed less competition for entry with her skill set and age according to the market. Her team labels her a country artist, moves to Nashville, which solidifies the claim. Mixing influences of Country music greats like Shania Twain, Stevie Nicks and the Dixie Chicks builds industry support. Who wouldn’t embrace a young beautiful teen with aspirations to become like them?

Taylor’s team looked at what was prominent and found the best solution to get their artist the most exposure and support available. The rest was up to Taylor Swift. She had to do the work. Taylor has molded herself to be anti-pop in perception. She doesn’t dress like a pop artist, maintains a quirky personality, and very centered. Innocence is her greatest attribute. Songwriting is her best skill. Put out decent music and you can’t lose. As long as she maintains a significant distance in aura from her Pop music counterparts she will have success. The plan was calculated, concrete, and it worked. That’s good artist management.

This sort of thing happens all the time in music. Kid Rock was a rapper from 1990-1997 before crossing over to Rap-Rock and then Country music. He was a well-noted local Detroit rapper with no major breaks. Kid Rock was totally against the conversion but eventually took management’s advice. The Rock-Country crossover made him a musical standout and 5-time Grammy nominee since 1998. Kid Rock has sold over 24 million records thus far. Superproducer and artist Will.i.am was a gangsta rapper on Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records prior to his Black Eyed Peas stardom.

Country music is “American” as apple pie, lemonade, and the old stars & stripes. That’s subject to debate but not today. Good artist management is surveying the playing field and positioning your artist for the best opportunity for success. It may not be a part of their vision but the plan must be clear. This can be difficult because you never want to jeopardize the integrity of the artist. However, seek all options from the beginning and craft the artist accordingly. This created allure is the Taylor Swift Effect. There are millions of artists trying to make it in music everyday. As an artist, producer, manager, or agent these are the types of things you should be considering. You are only as good as the team around you. I salute the Taylor Swift team. They know what they are doing. As a result, Taylor is the number one artist in the U.S. today. Who’s next to climb the charts?

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