Two of my most-downloaded episodes to this day are episodes 13: 13 Marketing Lessons To Be Learned From Taylor Swift and episode 39: 4 Marketing Lessons to be Learned from Taylor Swift’s Surprise Album Drop (referring to folklore, her first of TWO surprise releases).
For this reason (and also my sheer excitement) I figured I would give you MY take on business and marketing lessons we can all take away from Taylor swifts album re records, her second of which is coming TONIGHT (if you’re me, and will be staying awake until midnight to listen to all 2 hours and 10 minutes).
But first, why am I doing this? You know, other than excitement and because you seem to like it...
Well in addition to being an obvious fan of her music, I also have always felt very aligned with Taylor because we are the same age and her music really paralleled a lot of my own experiences. When Taylor released Fearless for the first time, I was deep in the grips of my first love and when Red came out, which is the re-record being released this week, I was going through the worst heartache of my life-- just as she seemed to be doing at the time (what’s up, Jake?).
And NOW, as she goes up against some prominent men in the music industry and fights for her right to her own work, it feels very reminiscent of a lot of what business owners including myself face in terms of bad contracts, collaborations that go awry, and copycats stealing our intellectual property, calling it their own, and profiting from it.
Now speaking for myself...my issues in this space are obviously on a MUCH smaller scale than what Taylor is facing, but it affects my day to day and every decision I make in my business nonetheless.
So before I get into the marketing and business lessons, I wanted to give you a super brief explanation of WHY Taylor is re-recording and re-releasing all of her first 6 albums, in case you’re a little lost or think she’s just in it to profit from releasing her work a second time.
It all comes down to Taylor’s right to own her own music.
She doesn’t own the masters to her first six albums due to a contract she signed when she was just fifteen years old. Master recordings are the original recordings of musical works and typically labels own them as part of an artist’s contract.
Because Swift doesn’t own the masters it means that every time someone streams her first six albums, any profits from them don’t go to her. They go to the owner of the masters. And while this is pretty standard of the music industry, Taylor wants that to change. She believes in a creator's right to own their work.
Swift is re-recording those albums and releasing them as her own, and calling them ‘Taylor’s Version’ to create new versions that she owns. They feature new cover art, newly recorded and refined vocals, and previously unreleased songs from her ‘Vault’. Otherwise, these versions aren’t all that different from the originals. They mainly exist to reclaim her music.
Why is this so personal and important to her, you ask? Well, Taylor Swift’s contract with Big Machine records expired in 2018 and she wasn’t able to buy back her own masters despite her explicit wishes.
Then, Big Machine was sold off to Ithaca Holdings, owned by Scooter Braun and her masters and subsequently her videos and artworks were sold again in October 2020-- all against Taylor’s wishes. And again, this is an industry standard Taylor feels passionate about breaking-- and she has a LOT of artists and creators on her side.
Not having ownership of her masters means that Swift doesn’t have full control over her works.
To give just one example, in November 2019, Swift accused Braun and the CEO of Big Machine Records of blocking her from performing her older songs at the 2019 American Music Awards and from using her old material in her 2020 documentary Miss Americana.
So this isn’t just about profiting from streams of her old work-- it’s about having creative freedom moving forward as she continues to tour and would like very much to perform and use the songs she not only sung, but also wrote.
OK now that we got that little history lesson out of the way let’s talk about marketing and business lessons we can all learn from Ms. Swift.
This one I’m sure is obvious based on what I just described about a contract Taylor swift signed when she was just 15 years old. But what does this lesson mean for US as business owners?
Well, I don’t know about you but I have certainly made mistakes with both entering contracts that had hidden clauses and weren’t very favorable to me in the end, AND made mistakes with who I’ve associated myself with.
Back when I opened my brick and mortar indoor playground for example, I signed a lease that was not only WAY too expensive, but had hidden clauses in it that I simply glossed over, some that even our attorney missed. And here’s something many people don’t realize-- even GOOD contracts, entered into with bad people, are still BAD.
For example, one of the clauses in my lease was that any maintenance issue MUST be fixed by the landlord (at their expense) AND it had to be dealt with within 24 hours.
However, in practice, this never happened.
We went weeks with broken toilets or other serious business-halting issues-- often having to spend our own money just to get the issue resolved and our business back up and running.
Our landlord would kind of always say, what are you going to do? Take me to small claims court? And honestly, he was right.
It cost me much less, even though the number was well into the thousands, to spend my OWN money taking care of HIS contractual obligations than spend the money trying to fight him in court-- especially when that legal process takes months or years.
For more examples of mistakes I’ve made and horror stories I’ve collected over the years on this topic, check out my YouTube video on this topic.
Now, before I do ANY sort of collaboration or partnership, which I honestly almost never do anymore because of my negative experiences, I spend the time and money making sure I am protected-- both financially, legally, and mentally.
I did a youtube video with Braden Dake and he shared some similar nightmare experiences he’s had with partnerships, and being a lawyer he is someone I really respect when it comes to this topic.
So the takeaway here is be VERY careful who you partner with and be very careful what you sign, especially if you’re just getting started in your career or business and especially when these contracts have long-term obligations-- like Taylor swift NEVER having creative control or ownership over her first 6 albums, for example.
A lot of people, when Taylor Swift announced her re-records, were pretty skeptical. They were wondering what her plan was in terms of getting her audience re-interested in the same songs they already have access to now on every streaming platform.
And as business owners, a lot of us will face this same conundrum.
I know, for myself, for example, I have hundreds and hundreds of combined blogs, youtube videos, podcasts, etc-- all with really valuable content inside that has really resonated with my audience.
One of my favorite strategies right now, and this was inspired in part by my friend Meg at Love at First Search, is refreshing and repurposing old content.
Not only does this serve the purpose of updating some old blog articles or videos, it also saves you a ton of time from creating brand new, from-scratch content.
So what does this look like in real life?
I talk in-depth about exactly how I am executing this process (and what benefits it has) in my latest podcast episode on this topic here.
So here are two pages you can take from Taylor’s book on this topic of re-purposing and re-releasing old content.
Alright, moving onto marketing and business lesson number 3 that I have taken away from Taylor Swift re-recording her original 6 albums.
Now there are so many lyrical and visual references to Taylor’s disdain for Big Machine records and their CEO-- from the stolen lullabies in My tears ricochet to her being trapped in a cage-- but I want to share few lines from an Evermore bonus track called, “It’s Time To Go”, because I think it really drives this point and this lesson home.
15 years, 15 million tears
Begging 'til my knees bled
I gave it my all, he gave me nothing at all
Then wondered why I left
Now he sits on his throne in his palace of bones
Praying to his greed
He's got my past frozen behind glass
But I've got me.
So here Taylor is basically saying, yeah-- I made a mistake with that contract.
I signed something I shouldn’t have.
She acknowledged that mistake, but she played by the rules of her contract and she fulfilled the duties she agreed to on her end.
And YEAH-- her past is frozen behind that glass of her contract. She does not own her first 6 original albums and it does not look like she ever will.
But the important thing she calls to attention here is that they don’t and can’t own HER.
They don’t own her mind. They don’t and can’t own her voice ( and by the way-- side note-- another clever little seed I think Taylor planted while she was in the throes of the original legal battle with Big Machine records is she was actually the little mermaid for halloween-- someone who quite literally had her voice stolen out of greed and jealousy-- but-- I digress).
But anyway-- She wrote those songs… she came up with those words and those chords-- and as soon as she was contractually allowed to-- she used that power to simply recreate her old classics HER way. The way she wasn’t able to under her contract.
The lesson here is that even if you get roped into a bad partnership and may be facing some losses-- or even if someone rips off your work or “mimics” what you do-- they aren’t YOU.
Your audience wants YOU.
That’s the great thing especially about being a consultant or a content creator-- we are all so different and we all bring different styles, different perspectives, and different experiences to the table. SO even if someone is teaching or providing services for your exact same topic-- you can’t and won’t teach the same topics the same way.
I have to remind myself of this ALL the time-- that even if there are other people already doing what you want to do-- there is still room for you because you are UNIQUE.
And Taylor knew that.
She knew if she admitted her mistake to her fans and let them in on the situation-- they would re-download and rebuy her new, refreshed and updated content because her fans are HERS. She has spent so many years building a relationship with them that they will quite literally follow her anywhere.
So work on building that same relationship with YOUR audience, and no one will ever be able to copy or steal your work.
Now I just wanted to end with one final tip I have taken away from this whole re-record saga. And that brings us to #4.
A lot of times as content creators or business owners we hear “you MUST do this or you MUST do that to be successful”. You HAVE to have a webinar, or you HAVE to be on YouTube or you HAVE to create instagram reels.
But something I always try to remember is that every business and every creator is unique. It’s OK to go against the grain of what the gurus are saying. And if something works for you, or if you find a new approach… don’t be afraid to teach it or do it even if someone you admire and look up to says to do the opposite.
But I try to never dictate or preach strategies to you or give advice in black and white. I try to give you the information so you can take what you want from the episodes and make it your own.
Because if we were all doing the same things, how terribly BORING would the world be?
P.S. To hear about the time I filmed for Say Yes To The Dress, got personally stood up by Taylor, then sent flowers from her... tune into my YouTube video linked below (pictures for preview).
For all my Facebook Ad tips, courses, and consulting services head over to www.michelecaruana.com!