Thoughts On Taylor Swift’s Master Plan, Part I

Your Professor David Kirk Philp was requested to answer a number of questions for what turned out to be an excellent article in BuzzFeed called Taylor Swift’s Master Plan To Dominate Until 2019.  The article’s author, Kelsey McKinney, supplied questions through email.  Not all of the responses made it into the article, but I thought it would be interesting to post everything, so you can understand how the interview process (sometimes) works and so you can understand more background about the music industry as it relates to superstar artists like Swift.  

I over-answered most questions, mainly to make sure Ms. McKinney had sufficient background on the topic; from my responses, she could ask more questions or do further research about the industry.  I’ve had experiences where the person doing the interview didn’t understand the full complexity of the industry, and the subsequent reporting showed.  

In the end, the article was very good.  It went in a couple of different, but related, directions.  I read it and learned as well. In this series, I’ll post the initial question and then my response.  I’ve kept both unedited so you can again see how this really worked.  Make sure you read the final article too!  

Thoughts On Taylor Swift’s Master Plan, Part I

Your Knowledge Presented By:

Question:

-Traditionally, it seemed like album release promotional cycles were 3-4 months long and followed the same patterns. When do you think this started to shift? What caused it?

Answer:   

Once the Internet really kicked in, and then once Napster changed the landscape of how music was distributed, and then once music was able to be leaked more easily before release dates (good source for this, although you’re on deadline, is Stephen Witt’s book “How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy”), the release dates and marketing plans dictated by the major labels were no longer as relevant. 

With easier access – that’s the key word: ACCESS – to music by fans, the industry shifted. 

The biggest recent shift was when Beyoncé released her self-titled album as a surprise in December, 2013 on iTunes.  That changed the game.  For mega-artists like her, it was proven that a single released months in advance didn’t have to take place.  Fans didn’t need a tease, or a taste, of the music before release to convince them to buy the album. 

Where Did This Land In The Article?

Nothing signified that the era of the long lead album release was coming to a close quite like Beyoncé’s 2013 surprise self-titled album, which sold 617,000 copies in the three days that counted toward its first week sales. Beyoncé broke the previous first-week record held by, of course, Swift’s 2012 album Red, which sold 456,000 units. “It was proven that a single released months in advance didn’t have to take place,” Philp said. “Fans didn’t need a tease, or a taste, of the music before release to convince them to buy the album.” But very few artists move more than 100,000 copies in their first week. And, of course, most artists can’t pull off a surprise drop. Beyoncé and Swift are in a totally different league, and their release cycles prove that: Swift’s PR plan is longer than any other artist’s, and Beyoncé’s is shorter.

What do you think?  

Comment below to add to the discussion.  C’mon.  Give us what you got!

To read Part II, click HERE.

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For full details about the WP Music & Entertainment Industries Program, including courses, the minor, and our MBA, click HERE.

For full details about the WP Pop Music Studies Program, including courses and audition requirements, click HERE.

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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music Management & Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too).  Your favorite professor is also co-author (with Dr. Steve Marcone) of Managing Your Band – 6th Edition.  Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.

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