Taylor Swift’s multi award winning career, has made her one of the most successful singer-songwriters before the age of 21. In January 2010 Nielsen SoundScan reported Swift as the most successful digital artist in music to date with over 34.3 million digital tracks sold*.
I must admit, I have never given a minutes attention to the music of Taylor Swift. I was pretty much put off by the hordes of screaming 12 year old girls, and had written her off as another manufactured pop princess. But this 60 minutes interview changed my thinking. It seems, there’s quite a lot that can be learned from her story, for ANY artist currently making or wanting to make a living from music.
Here are a messages that are worth listening to from this video segment.
Know your audience and create the message for your audience
Swift’s music is for an audience of pre and early teen girls. The bright melodic arrangements and carefully chosen wise words come almost like a loving big sister. Whether your audience is 12-16 year old girls or baby boomers who love their classic rock, make sure that your music, and how your music is packaged (This also comes down to stage presence) is audience appropriate. For Swift, it comes quite naturally, as she was once that 12 year old girl, struggling with new emotions and feelings.
Success needs great songs
In the words of Bill Werde – Editorial Director for Billboard Magazine, Taylor Swift is responsible for ‘really credible song writing’, even though it can be overlooked in the screams of tens of thousands of 12 year old girls.
Over the years, I’ve heard many amazing vocalists, who can interpret amazing cover songs, only to be let down with songs they have recorded that really aren’t that good. Sometimes an artist can be obsessed with being recognised as a singer songwriter, when really, they should focus on either working with some good songwriters or finding some pre-written material.
Work the rebellious message
The smash hit ‘Love Story’, was inspired by a rebellious act of seeing a boy that her family did not approve of. She channeled this emotion into her song and it’s as if you can hear the emotion punching through her chord progression and melody. The song used the Romeo and Juliet theme to communicate conflict in loyalties that love can bring, and rebelling against authority. Music is about love and rebellion, and that’s nothing new. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and many other acts have worked the rebel’s message.
Learn how to speak to your audience
Swift speaks to her audience, not only on stage, but through her actions before, during and after her concerts. Fans are treated with respect and she ensures that time is always allotted to direct, personal and human contact… which brings on the next point.
Social media message
Swift has found her way of using social media to connect with her fans. The key things to note, are that her messages and videos have a personal and genuine tone. No one likes it when a celebrity hires a publicist to manage their social media, and it’s fairly easy to spot when this does happen. With social media, sincerity and transparency go hand in hand.
Swift has found her secret formula very early in life, and had the support of a family to chase the dream. Not every artist will have this head start or support from family, but a producer has the opportunity to take some of this burden, for the acts and artists that they believe in.
Of course, only a small handful of artists will repeat the magnitude of this type of success, however, precious lessons can be taken from Swift’s story, lessons that can improve the success of any performing artist or act.
Click here to view the 60 Minutes interview