Taylor Swift’s next move could change the music business

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This October will mark three years since Taylor Swift last released an album. 1989 was a massive hit that furthered Swift’s already massive popularity, and it produced enough singles that most people don’t realize the album came out nearly three years ago.

In the time since 1989’s release, Swift has toured the world repeatedly, recorded a song for a Fifty Shades movie, and very publicly battled with Spotify and the world of streaming services over the poor revenue-sharing deals they force upon artists.

This week, TMZ reported that Swift filed documents to trademark a ‘Swifties’, what they described as a streaming service “featuring non-downloadable multi-media content in the nature of audio recordings”. Her camp later denied the story, telling Billboard the star “would not be launching a streaming service,” but instead was planning a project that would  be more “like a personalized fan club app complete with exclusive merchandise, audio/video/live performances and the possibility of a mobile game of some sort.”

The reason Taylor’s new project is not a competitor for Spotify or Apple Music is because she’s not concerning herself with anyone’s career other than her own. ‘Swifties’ makes perfect sense. Why should Taylor Swift help another company make money with her brand when she can go directly to her fans and ask them to subscribe to her a site/service that offers exclusive access to all things Taylor for a price well below anything a streaming platform could offer? Her fans already pay for Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Red, among others, so why not Taylor Swift?

In the United States alone, 1989 sold 1.27 million copies during its first week of release. If even half of those people signed up for ‘Swifties’ at a cost of $5 each Swift could generate $2.5 million per month. Add to this her countless fans around the world, most of whom would jump at the promise of exclusive access to music, merch, and/or tour pre-sale codes, and Swift could very easily generate millions a month without anyone’s help. She could keep her catalog on streaming services for the sake of the royalties they would generate, but that money would likely be pennies in comparison.

The idea of ‘Swifties’ is the modern day equivalent to Radiohead choosing to sell Hail To The Thief exclusive through their website. The idea seemed crazy at the time, but it became the new normal overnight. For artists as big as Taylor, who have millions of fans, why not create what is essentially a fan club for the digital era? If it works for Taylor it could easily work for Drake, Adele, Beyonce, Pitbull, and a slew of other entertainers.

Mid-level talents and those still on the come up, however, should not be quick to follow T. Swift’s lead. As we learned from the failed self-released record’s the followed Radiohead there is still something to be said for making artists making their music as easy to find as possible while they are still raising awareness for their brand.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.