Music has often paved the way for innovations in marketing for a few key reasons. Getting people to buy product (i.e. albums, tickets) is a real challenge; you need to revive the interest of fans with every album; interest is based on subjective quality and reviews; and rankings are incredibly volatile. You can move from number 1 to number 16 overnight. Fortunately, the trend for experiential marketing and multi-platform narratives suit the storytelling structure of musicians perfectly. Music is a creative product that allows artistes to exploit the concept in different ways.
Making the news recently is the release of Taylor Swift’s latest album 1989. I have never listened to an entire Taylor Swift album (not my genre) but I have followed what she has done to market her albums with interest. She has a much more subtle touch compared to Beyoncé and has managed to avoid confining her brand like Lady Gaga. She doesn’t need loud statements like Miley Cyrus, and seems more accessible than Katy Perry even though her status shines as much, if not more, brightly. Upon reading The Atlantic article “The Business of Being Taylor Swift”, three things stand out for me from the Taylor Swift School of Marketing:
1. To keep the aesthetic fresh and authentic, you need to give it time.
Over the years, Taylor Swift has evolved her look to match the overall aesthetic of her albums. She’s moved from country, to a more retro-bohemian, to pop. It is almost as if the transformation is so well thought out that the moment the overall feeling of the next album is clear, she starts making changes. By launch day of her next album her image will be perfectly aligned with her music. Fans will eventually want something new, and they’ll want it to feel real too. They won’t know that now, but they’ll be ready for a change by the time her next release date is announced.
2. You launch with one option, then quickly provide many options.
With Red, Taylor Swift went to No.1 on iTunes with a digital release then quickly (next day) made available a deluxe 22-track edition. Then came the Keds sneakers and Papa John’s pizza tie-in (so her fans can eat pizza and listen to her music, naturally). If you want to own something badly, you’ll buy the first product that matches your needs. In this case, a pre-purchase or immediate download via iTunes. However, once you have access to the songs, you’ll be so caught up with the music (best song ever, listening to it 22x in a row!) that it is the perfect time to roll out additional merchandise. Quoted in Billboard magazine, Scott Borchetta, the President/CEO of Taylor’s record company, Big Machine Label Group, said “We’re always looking at, ‘How can we create more doors? How can we make it as easy as possible to get this?'”
3. Fans want sincerity, not science.
Technology has spoiled things for some musicians as they have tried to promote themselves through apps and other digital means. Taylor Swift? She just invited some of her fans to her apartment to watch the live stream of her introducing the new album. That live stream on Yahoo was the chance for fans to get a Q&A with the star and hear her new song. She leaves nice comments for her fans on Instagram. At the end of her new music video ‘Shake It Off’, 100 Taylor Swift fans picked from the internet are featured. There are few brands that constantly court consumers and fans like friends. It’s not rocket science, but it feels sincere, and that’s often enough.