Swift Sales

Can’t say I care for Taylor Swift’s music, but her marketing skills have me tapping my toes.

News broke that her latest album sold more copies in four days that Ed Sheehan’s latest album sold in seven months. Swift has, over time, amassed a large and borderline rabid fan base, who would likely buy her album in droves. Many musicians have loyal followings. Songwriter Tom Waits, who in his experimental phase was nearly unlistenable, still sold records to his very loyal fans (I have a complete collection).

But Swift, understanding better than most how social media and the streaming music markets work, leveraged them all to sell over a million albums in less than a week. Some of it was traditional marketing strategy and some was exploiting new channels to drive demand.

Stream not my love

Swift’s fans stream music. It is the first, and often only mode in which millennials consume music.

Artists both love and hate streaming services. You can reach millions of people who would have never otherwise encountered your songs. This works well for people going up the ladder of success. For people at the top, it isn’t such a good deal. Due to the aged structure of the music business, streamed songs are profitable for songwriters and record labels, but not so much for performers. Since many people who stream music do not buy albums, the artist suffers. One famous rap singer claims he doesn’t make enough off of streaming to buy a sandwich.

Playing hard to get

This is where Swift used old fashioned loss-leader marketing and her fan base to exploit the new rules of the game.

After a series of threats about not allowing her songs to be streamed, she put four tunes from the new album onto the streaming services. This let her fan base taste the new music … but only some of it. When the full album was released for purchase (but not streaming) her fans grabbed over a million copies instantly. Swift got the performance share of the album sales, and a lot of associated media buzz.


Swift created leverage (fan base) over time, seeded the market (four songs for streaming) and generated a false sense of scarcity (which elevated demand). All classic marketing strategies, and all executed in the new world of streaming media to sell old-fashioned albums.

Can’t say I care for Taylor Swift’s music, but her marketing skills have me snapping my fingers.

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