In the previous month, USA Today/Gannett published a job advertisement for a reporter dedicated to covering Taylor Swift. They were looking for a skilled journalist and content producer to document the musical and cultural influence of Taylor Swift.
Swift has been the subject of both professional and academic projects in the past. In 2022, the Clive Davis Institute at New York University revealed a course centered on Swift, led by Brittany Spanos from Rolling Stone. Additionally, they awarded Swift an honorary fine arts doctorate for being “one of the most successful and acclaimed artists of her time.”
Universities worldwide soon offered their own specialized classes, such as “The Psychology of Taylor Swift” and “The Taylor Swift Songbook.”
“Also known as ‘Literature: Taylor’s Version’.”
Although musicians and celebrities have captured our interest for many years, it is not common for them to receive such personalized focus. Swift’s remarkable success can be analyzed from various angles, such as marketing, fan base, entrepreneurship, and songwriting, just to mention a few.
Why Taylor Swift, you may ask?
From a musical standpoint, Swift has achieved numerous milestones. In August, she became the initial female artist on Spotify to garner 100 million monthly listeners.
Earlier this year, Swift surpassed Barbra Streisand as the woman artist with the most number one albums on Billboard, reaching a total of 12.
Taylor Swift is the only female solo artist to receive the Album Of The Year Grammy three times, for her albums Fearless (2009), 1989 (2015), and Folklore (2020), each representing a different musical genre. This achievement showcases Swift’s talent for songwriting and her versatility in catering to diverse audiences.
Female artists are often expected to constantly re-invent themselves, a topic that Taylor Swift discussed in her Netflix documentary Miss Americana. She stated, “The female artists I know have to reinvent themselves much more frequently than male artists, otherwise they risk losing their job.”
Throughout her professional journey, Swift has transformed from a renowned country music vocalist to a global sensation in the pop industry. Each of her 10 original albums showcases a unique concept and style, which have been praised during her highly successful Eras Tour.
The recently concluded first leg of the tour in the US is projected to be the most profitable ever, leading to an increase in local travel and tourism earnings. According to a recent study, the tour could potentially contribute a staggering $5 billion to the global economy.
I constantly make an effort, over and over again.
However, solely assessing the impact of Swift through her music would be restrictive.
Swift has played a crucial role in revolutionizing the music industry. She has confronted record labels and streaming platforms, pushing for improved agreements for musicians.
In 2015, Apple Music altered its payment rules following Swift’s public letter advocating for fairer compensation.
She made a bold move against her previous record company, Big Machine Records, when they denied her the chance to purchase her original master recordings. Eventually, her past music was bought by music mogul Scooter Braun, sparking a highly publicized conflict.
Although she is not the initial artist to pursue her master recordings, she has brought significant awareness to a commonly disregarded issue. Swift, being in a position of advantage, is able to take risks that other artists may not be able to. However, she is using her influence to spark discussions about contracts and the worth of music, ultimately paving the way for up-and-coming artists.
In an attempt to take back ownership of her previous music, Swift declared her plan to re-record her initial six albums. Each reworked album contains extra vault tracks, which are songs that were not included in the original recordings.
Each of these releases has been accompanied by a strong advertising campaign, which includes new merchandise and various limited-edition versions of the records for fans to add to their collections.
The release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) marked the halfway point of this process, which has paid off big time. Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Red (Taylor’s Version) and Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) have all performed better than the originals.
The unwavering support from Taylor Swift’s fans, also known as “Swifties,” has played a significant role in this. They have fully embraced the new recordings and called out anyone who listens to the original “stolen” versions.
The influence of Swifties is immense.
The devoted followers of Swift are renowned for their enthusiastic involvement and inventiveness. They have dedicated considerable effort to crafting outfits for concerts and engaging in complex discussions online.
Swift is known for incorporating hidden messages, also called Easter eggs, into her song lyrics, music videos, social media posts, and interviews. Dedicated fans have even created accounts solely for the purpose of deciphering these clues, carefully examining number sequences and phrases to try and predict Swift’s future actions.
Swift and Taylor Nation, a division of her management team, incentivize fans for engaging in these actions.
Taylor Swift has revealed a set of puzzles on Google for the upcoming release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version). Fans must work together to solve them and discover the titles of the upcoming vault tracks.
The Swiftie community successfully completed 33 million puzzles in under 24 hours. These games served a dual purpose – not only did Swift reveal the titles of her vault tracks, but she also regained her top spot in Google searches.
Swift’s fan base spans across different generations. She is seen as a defining figure among millennials, and a large number of her fans have been following her for the past 20 years. In fact, some of them have even begun to introduce their own children to Swift’s music, sharing videos of their kids singing along to her song “Long Live.”
She’s also found a younger audience on TikTok, a platform predominantly used by Gen Z. Affectionately dubbed “SwiftTok” by fans (and now Swift herself), users post videos to engage with other Swifties and participate in the community.
Swift’s songs are often used in popular trends. The release of Midnights last year had many dancing to “Bejeweled”
In addition to her latest hits “Cardigan” and “Karma,” Taylor Swift’s past songs have also gained popularity. A remixed version of “Love Story” went viral last year, introducing a new audience to her earlier music. Most recently, her track “August” has been featured in videos of people running on the beach and playing with their pets.
She’s also closely aligned with young adult shows like The Summer I Turned Pretty, which has featured 13 of her songs throughout the show’s first two seasons. Swift’s music is so central to the story that author Jenny Han nearly dedicated the second book to her.
Swift’s influence remains prevalent in the public discourse due to her music, strategic choices in business, and loyal following.
At this moment, Swift is extremely popular and some may think it’s just a temporary trend. However, based on the last 17 years, Swift has shown that she is here to stay and deserves our attention.
Kate Pattison is a PhD Candidate, RMIT University.