Taylor Swift’s new album sold more than a million copies in its first week — a rare feat these days. She did it partly by answering a surprisingly complicated question: What’s the best way to sell an album?
There are so many ways to release your music these days. Itunes. Amazon. Radio. Walmart. Starbucks. Concerts. Streaming sites— like Spotify, Rdio. Each artist picks from this toolbox in pursuit of one thing: making money. Something that is very hard to do when it’s so easy to get music for free right now. And Taylor Swift picked expertly. As Paul Resnikoff, editor and founder of Digital Music News points out, she has picked off the shelf only the outlets that would give her the most money for every album sold: outlets that pushed a full album purchase. That first week, you could only get the record in a few key places: i-tunes, Walgreens, Walmart, Target. You could order a Papa Johns pizza and receive the CD— at the sticker price of around 14 bucks.
But the tools Taylor DIDN’T choose are almost savvier than the ones she did. Because Taylor Swift did not release her singles on Spotify— or any other streaming site. In order to be the first one in school with the album, as Taylor Swift’s fans were wont to be, you had to pay full price for the privilege. Spotify pays the artist pennies on the dollar. Taylor Swift skipped it.
“Taylor already has so many fans, that she doesn’t need to have that, like, incentive,” superfan Lindsey Feinstein says. “Like, oh, listen to this, and then you’ll buy it. She’s past that level. People will literally just buy it.”
Streaming music is more like an advertisement for the artist. It’s a process of music discovery— not necessarily music fandom. You build brand loyalty to the artist through streaming. Taylor Swift does not have a problem with brand loyalty. As Lindsey says— she’s past that.