5 Business Lessons From Taylor Swift
There are few pop cultural figures quite so polarizing as Taylor Swift. But in an industry that is increasingly fractured, the singer-songwriter regularly breaks records to the tune of millions in every arena she finds herself in.
Even though the critical response to her latest album, Reputation, was somewhat muted compared to her previous efforts, Swift still managed to sell a whopping 1.05 million copies in the U.S. during the first four days after its release. Since Nielsen started electronically tracking music sales in 1991, Swift is the only person to have four albums sell in the millions during their first week after release -- Speak Now with 1.05 million in 2010, Red with 1.21 million in 2012, 1989 with 1.29 million in 2014 and the aforementioned Reputation.
Related: 3 Millennial Marketing Tips From Taylor Swift
Not only that, but Swift's 2015 1989 tour -- 83 shows in 53 cities around the world -- brought in $250 million in ticket sales and broke a record for North American ticket sales that was set by the Rolling Stones in 2005 with a figure of $162 million.
On social media, Swift has 85.8 million followers on Twitter, 73 million people like her page on Facebook and she has 104 million Instagram followers.
Whatever your opinion about Swift, numbers don't lie. Behind the crafted pop songs and highly constructed persona, there clearly lies a savvy business acumen. So in honor of the pop star's 28th birthday on Dec. 13, read on for some lessons from Swift's ascent to the top that any entrepreneur can be inspired by.
Regularly connect with fans.Even as Swift has gotten more successful, she still makes a point to consistently connect with her fans. She leaves comments and likes on the Instagram and Tumblr accounts of her fans, holds listening parties at her home, was invited to an Ohio fan's bridal shower and actually showed up, sent money to a fan to help her with student loans and the list goes on. As you grow your business, never forget what got you there in the first place and make sure that your customers and fans remain a priority.
Be both original and consistent.
From the beginning of her career, Swift has had a significant hand in the creative direction of her work, writing or co-writing all of her songs. With Reputation as an exception, since her first album in 2006, she has put out a record every two years. Even as she shifted from country to pop-country to 100 percent pop, fans could count on the consistency of the album release cycle. Show your customers that they can rely on you as things evolve.
Remember that details are important.
Swift's intent to copyright phrases from her recent albums, from the song title "Look What You Made Me Do" and lyric "The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now," and the song title "Blank Space" and lyric from said single "and I'll write your name," as well as the slightly regrettable line "this sick beat" -- in order to apply them to various merchandise items might seem over the top, but you have to respect the attention to detail. That kind of mindset is important as your business gets bigger.
Find partnerships in unexpected places.
In 2015, Swift posted an open letter to Tumblr before Apple Music's launch to bring attention to the fact that during the streaming services initial free trial period, the artists wouldn't be compensated for their work. In response to Swift's complaints, the company revised its policy, paving the way for a lucrative exclusive streaming deal with the pop star that was announced a few months later.
Until that point, Swift's relationship with streaming platforms had been contentious. In 2014, she removed her catalog from Spotify entirely only to return in June of 2017, the same day as the release of Katy Perry's album Witness, a move which only served to exacerbate the musicians rivalry in the media. Regardless, Swift's actions show why it's important to always keep your eyes peeled for partnerships with unlikely sources.
Use your platform to effect change.
Swift was among the women on Time Magazine's Person of the Year cover as one of "the silence breakers." The issue interviewed the many women and men who have spoken out about sexual harassment and assault this year. In 2013, Swift accused a radio DJ named David Mueller of sexual assault. After she reported the incident, Mueller was fired from his job. In 2015, he sued Swift for $3 million in damages, saying that the assault didn't occur. In response, Swift countersued for $1 and after an unflinching testimony, won her case.
As you gain influence, remember to use your platform to speak truth to power and empower others to use their voices.