Case Study: Taylor Swift’s Midnights
November 8, 2022
By: Kevin Choi
What defines a pop star? What traits constitute the archetype? Icons like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Britney Spears set a precedent for catchy tunes and world tours. In that group of quintessential artists, Taylor Swift is a staple.
As of October 2022, her tenth album, “Midnights,” has broken the record for an album’s highest number of streams in a single day. Beating Drake’s record of 153 million global streams with her 184.6 million streams. Regardless of an individual’s enjoyment of the content she creates, she is unquestionably an apt businesswoman; some might even say a “Mastermind.”
Courtesy of Taylor Swift
The Importance of Fans: Swifties
BTS has their ARMY, Justin Bieber has his Beliebers, and Taylor Swift has her Swifties. In essence, having die-hard fans is analogous to having repeat customers: no matter the product, there will be a consumer. Spanning over a decade, Swift’s career is akin to a genre-bending chameleon. Starting with her fans from her country days of albums like “Taylor Swift” to “Speak Now,” to her pop fans from her albums “Red” to “Lover,” and folk fans from her latest projects “folklore” and “evermore.” Taylor has swiftly changed from genre to genre while keeping a vast following.
Courtesy of ABC News
In addition to her diverse catalog, her interactions with her fans are nothing short of exemplary. During a couple of album cycles—notably, “1989” and “Reputation”—she was able to handpick some of her favorite fans and invite them to her house to play the upcoming record. Imagine being in a room with your favorite artist listening to their unreleased music; it is a die-hard fan’s dream come true! Various videos on YouTube show individuals expressing their delight and how it was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” These devout fans will stream her future projects regardless of whether it is inherently “good” or “bad.”
Moreover, the response to the "Midnights" leaking incident illustrated the loyalty of her faithful fans. A couple of days before the album's release, there were leaked songs all over Twitter. Swift's Fans began defending her and tried their best to remove all the illegal files, minimizing the damage and allowing most people to hear the album the day Swift intended for it to be released.
Hints & Easter Eggs
Furthermore, during the Midnights’ release, Taylor began posting on TikTok. She began with a game show-like presentation of the track titles. Interestingly, the release of the videos was done sporadically and not in any single pattern, such as every other day. These videos created continued interest in the album itself and kept people on their toes whenever she posted.
Courtesy of Capital FM
Taylor is also famously known for dropping hints at any chance possible. An example is when she subtly hinted at a couple of lyrics from the Midnights’ song “Labyrinth” at her NYU speech. She proclaimed, “As long as we are fortunate enough to be breathing, we will breathe through, breathe deep and breathe out. And I am a doctor now, so I know how breathing works.” referencing the lyrics “It only hurts this much right now / Was what I was thinking the whole time / Breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out / I’ll be getting over you my whole life.”
Courtesy of New York University’s YouTube
Swift’s casual references keep fans vigilant of every single piece of content that she produces. Not only does this keep high levels of interest, but it also forces people to repeatedly rewatch and analyze her tactical strategies to see if they are missing out on easter eggs.
TikTok Trends of Songs
Courtesy of Mashable
Another asset pivotal to Midnights’ success was the fan engagement and response on TikTok. Shockingly, tracks like Anti-Hero, Midnight Rain, You’re on Your Own Kid, Bejeweled, Mastermind, Karma, Question…?, Labyrinth, and Vigilante Sh*t all had their respective trend. Each of these song-based trends having over millions of likes and views. The videos allowed nine out of Midnights’ thirteen tracks to be played multiple times. The Swifties have created a place for them on TikTok and a dedicated community. Marketing-wise, by making Swift’s songs trend on TikTok, other individuals who have not actively chosen to listen to the album might listen in and add it to one of their playlists.
Courtesy of CBS News
With an army of consistently engaged Swifties to stream her music, Taylor Swift epitomizes the strength of a community as a musician. In addition to her achievements, she was even the first artist in history to have her songs in the top ten spots on the Billboard Hot 100. These historical milestones that she keeps attaining demonstrate that her business acumen is equal to the level of her artistry.
Kevin Choi is a Fall '22 Content Committee member and a Sophomore at NYU CAS majoring in Computer Science and Psychology. Stay on the lookout for more of Kevin's content!