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Making Sense of Taylor Swift

Nov 18, 2014

Credit npr.org

Taylor Swift used to be just a considerable blip on the American media landscape -- country music star and tweener heroine.

Not anymore, though. With the release of her first all-pop music album "1989," Swift is changing the way music is being enjoyed, marketed and shared.

Swift's album is heading past two million in sales. That alone is bigger than any other release since 2002.

That kind of performance has landed Swift on the cover of Time magazine.

Those sales, plus clever marketing, are helping Swift change the music distribution model -- again.

First, Swift's latest video for the song "Blank Space" -- accidently released early by Yahoo.com -- comes complete with it's own app.

"That's something we should be paying attention to," said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense-Making Project. "That's totally free.  You can download it and it takes you inside the video set. You can explore around in there and unlock all these cute little Taylor Swift bonuses. I expect we'll see more apps with music videos in the future."

In the midst of the Taylor Swift explosion, the singer picked a fight with one of the big music distribution websites, Spotify.

"Taylor Smith pulled all of her music off Spotify and her manager said, basically, we just don't make enough money off of Spotify," McBride explained. "Spotify, in turn, said are you crazy. We've paid Taylor Swift two million dollars. The reality is Taylor Swift was making money from Spotify, she didn't think it was enough money so she pulled her music off of there. This sort of hints at this tension in the music industry because now that you can stream everything not everybody buys songs anymore.  And so artists are facing the same kind of economy that every other business that's been disrupted by internet is facing -- which is declining dollars and returning pennies, instead."

So, still not a Taylor Swift fan? What does all her marketing a power moves in the industry mean to you?

"We are going to be getting our music in lots of different way," said McBride. "You know, YouTube just announced a new beta product called Music Key which you'll be able to subscribe to. $7.99 a month, no commercials, you get all of Google Play's music available to you. This a continuing dance between artists like Taylor Swift and consumers like you and me who want to spend less money and have more access to music."