“Surprise,” wrote Taylor Swift in a social post yesterday. “Tonight at midnight I’ll be releasing my entire brand new album of songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into.”
The album – ‘Folklore’ – was written and recorded in Covid-19 isolation. “Before this year I probably would’ve overthought when to release this music at the ‘perfect’ time, but the times we’re living in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed. My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world,” wrote Swift.
Cue predictable excitement for Swifties on social media, but also keen interest from the music industry: this is probably the most high-profile ‘quarantine’ album so far from a major artist, so the release and marketing strategy around it will be watched closely.
That strategy includes releasing ‘Folklore’ to all streaming services and download stores, of course, and a comprehensive video strategy. There are 16 official lyric videos for the album’s tracks all published to YouTube a few hours ago; an official video for the track ‘Cardigan’ that’s raced to more than 1.5m views in four hours; and pretty much all Swift’s videos from the last year have been given new ‘Folklore: available now’ thumbnails.
And then there’s the D2C strategy. Fans can buy the new album from Swift’s store in CD, vinyl and cassette formats – each including digital downloads – but there are also eight separate collectors’ CD and vinyl editions with different artwork and lyric booklets, retailing for $13 and $26 apiece respectively. They’ll only be available for a week, until 30 July, with a flash-sale merchandise collection (a $15 keychain, $20 mug, $25 lithograph and $30 cap) available until the end of tomorrow (25 July), also including downloads.
It’s a very J-Pop/Idol move, and it costs a fair old wedge for any fan who wants to buy the lot ($194 for all eight deluxe CDs plus the merch). That said, nobody’s being forced to spend their money – fans will be streaming the hell out of ‘Folklore’ too, while the album is already getting heavy playlist support on the big streaming services to get it in front of casual listeners as well.
As a show of strength from Swift and her new-ish label partner UMG it’s fascinating. But today we’ll be able to digest how fans respond to the music and the D2C strategy alike, and in the coming months we’ll see whether other major artists take some of these ideas on themselves too.