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!
To read Part I, click HERE.
Thoughts On Taylor Swift’s Master Plan, Part II
Your Knowledge Presented By:
– Obviously massive stars can get away with more, so what do you think the benefit of a star like Taylor Swift gets from abiding by this traditional system of single releases, and album hype?
You’d like to think artists like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé and Jay Z are thinking about their fans first and foremost. But in reality, it isn’t just the artist making these decisions. Artist management is involved. Label presidents are involved. Agents and promoters may be involved because a tour may be tied to it all and everyone wants to sell tickets, which is where the real money is made these days. Unless it’s a surprise, radio is also involved (yes, people still listen to radio and it still breaks hits). An artist like Jay Z will get Tidal (the streaming service in which he is a principal owner) involved as well. So there are a lot of people involved in the decision of how to release something new and when.
The massive artists benefit because they can still control the hype, to a degree. Taylor Swift and Beyoncé are in their own league (above Katy Perry and Rihanna). Adele would be up there too. These artists still have the wide fan base on which they can rely to spend money on the music. People who subscribe to a streaming service don’t need to spend additional money on these artists – because of the access these fans now have, compared to 10 years ago. So Swift and Beyonce and Adele will try to follow the old system in order to sell physical units (CDs) and digital downloads.
The key now is “windowing,” where these bigger artists won’t make their new music available on a streaming service for a week or two (or months, depending upon the service). They’ll only make the music available in physical or digital formats.
The whole purpose is monetization. How can they make as much money as possible in the beginning when the hype is at its peak? This thinking still exists today. And the old model can still benefit the massive artists.
Now U2 is a massive artist, but only in the live end. Their new music is niche now. The masses don’t care about new U2 songs. But the masses will see them live. Bon Jovi is another artist like that. And Paul McCartney. And the Rolling Stones. So we have to make sure we’re clear that we’re talking mainly Pop artists, not the Classic Rock artists who can sell lots of tickets at very high prices.
Where Did This Land In The Article?
Silverman guessed Swift’s approach “has to do with some big money thing: sponsorship, show, commercial, event. Philp put it more succinctly: “The whole purpose is monetization. How can they make as much money as possible in the beginning when the hype is at its peak? … The old model can still benefit the massive artists.”
What do you think?
Comment below to add to the discussion. C’mon. Give us what you got!
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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.