Maya at Swift’s concert
Swift performing at the Eras Tour in Nashville on May 5.
Photo credits: Maya Harpaz
5 Lessons from a Soon to Be Unicorn Entertainer
Taylor Swift is on track to being a billionaire on account of her innovation strategies. Read our new blog by Axis Innovation’s Analyst and Swiftie Maya Harpaz to learn 5 business lessons from Taylor Swift about innovation.
Beyond her unforgettable melodies and captivating on-stage productions, Taylor Swift has mastered being an innovator. Throughout her career, Swift has switched music genres, directed her business strategy, and broken her own records, one after the other. Now, she is on the US leg of her stadium show “The Eras Tour” which is predicted to be the biggest concert of all time with profits of $1 billion. Simultaneously, she is re-recording her first six albums to regain the rights to her own music. Absent making numerous brand deals or endorsements, Swift’s music is her main source of income and has made her one of the top self-made women in the world. Swift offers invaluable lessons for the business world that can revolutionize how to approach entrepreneurship, leadership, and strategic thinking.
Here are five lessons businesses can learn from Taylor Swift about innovation:
Loyal and personal customer base
In the music industry, a singer’s employment depends on their fans' willingness to listen to their music, buy tickets to their shows, and support their overall brand. Swift’s loyal customers, known as Swifties, have followed her throughout her career and grown up with her. Her fan retention rate is a vital reason for her success. Swift's ability to maintain a loyal fan base is a testament to her innovative approach to fan engagement. She encourages involvement with her brand by rewarding the most active with gifts, chances to meet her, and better tickets to her shows.
Prior to the pandemic, Swift would invite her most dedicated fans to her homes across the United States for secret listening sessions of her albums before they were released. For the 1989 Secret Sessions in 2014 she baked her fans cookies, talked them through every song on the album, and had a dance party in her living room. Trusting her fans not to leak her music before its release exemplifies the personal connection she has created with them.
Swift with fans at her home at the 1989 Secret Sessions.
Photo credits: Taylor Swift’s Instagram
Swift is known for obsession with incorporating easter eggs in everything she does, innovating the way her fans listen to her music, watch her music videos and talk show appearances, and read her lyrics. In her first four albums, she created secret messages in her CD booklets by capitalizing certain letters of her lyrics. These cryptic phrases would give insights about who the songs were about, the motivation behind the song, or how the story ended. Through this game, she encouraged fans to buy real CDs and examine her lyrics carefully. Now in her self-directed music videos, Swift teases back to her old eras, when her next album may be, or what her next re-release will be. Swift has mastered how to maintain a passionate and engaged audience, allowing her to keep creating successful and record-breaking music.
While Swift has her own strategy, Israeli startup Totango offers a software driven approach to help companies achieve customer retention. They are a Composable Customer Success platform that is flexible and scalable to meet business needs to drive customer retention, renewal, and expansion. Their core platform capabilities enable companies to create customer experiences that quickly and continuously deliver value. Built on a modular foundation with embedded best practices, the Totango Composable Customer Success platform is designed and built to meet companies where they are at and grow as the business needs change.
Me at Swift’s concerts 2013-2023
2. Trusted team
Who you work with is indeed a key factor in achieving success and fostering innovative ideas, and Taylor Swift understands that this motivation comes from the top. As a CEO, she places great value on having a team that challenges her to accomplish her business goals. Throughout her career, Swift has maintained a small inner circle of employees and a trusted management team known as 13 Management. This close-knit group forms the backbone of her operation, providing invaluable guidance, expertise, and unwavering support. By keeping a tight-knit team, Swift has been able to cultivate strong relationships that extend beyond mere professional collaboration. The team challenges her to think differently, push boundaries, and explore new creative avenues in her music and business. Swift always shows gratitude for her business partners and collaborators, while also promoting that as a leader, you cannot let people undermine your successes or take credit for your accomplishments. Nowhere is the importance of a solid team more evident than in Swift's re-recording journey. As she reclaims control over her music catalog, Swift has sought to replicate the production of her original records, maintaining the authenticity of her artistry. The ability to collaborate with the same individuals who worked on the initial recordings a decade ago is a testament to the enduring relationships she has built within her team. On the other hand, Swift also works with new collaborators on her “From the Vault” tracks, which are songs on her re-recordings that were written for the original recording but did not make the final cut. In this vein, she adds her current style and new production techniques to tracks that were written many years ago. By surrounding herself with a dedicated and talented team, Swift motivates her team to be innovative and creative.
Swift with her longtime bassist Amos Heller performing at the Eras Tour.
Photo credits: Maya Harpaz
3. Control the Supply Chain
Taylor Swift's relentless ability to manage her supply chain with drive and self-motivation have played a significant role in her exceptional success. Swift distinguishes herself from other singers by writing her own music and utilizing storytelling to paint a picture of her life. She keeps herself involved in all aspects of her business whether it be directing her own music videos, negotiating deals with her record label, or discussing with her management team about how to handle her public image. She doesn’t let people behind the scenes make decisions for her and trusts her gut. One powerful example of Taylor Swift's self-driven and motivated nature can be seen in her decision to re-record her entire music catalog. Following the controversial acquisition of her master recordings by a music executive, Swift took matters into her own hands to regain control over her art. Swift's commitment to preserving the integrity of her work and ensuring that her fans have access to the authentic versions of her songs is a testament to her self-driven nature. Just this month, Swift released Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) which was her third studio album that she wrote entirely by herself and was originally released in 2010. Besides her title of a singer-songwriter, Swift holds the accolades of an actress, director and businesswoman.
Swift on set for her music video Bejeweled with actress Laura Dern.
Source: Taylor Swift’s Instagram
4. Utilization of technology
Taylor Swift's innovation extends to her adept utilization of technology, which has played a pivotal role in shaping her career and connecting with fans on a global scale. Swift has harnessed the power of digital platforms and technology-driven strategies to engage with her audience in unprecedented ways. Swift leverages platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to share updates, market her new music, and interact with fans. Swift's ability to navigate the digital landscape showcases her innovative mindset and serves as a powerful lesson in leveraging technology to cultivate meaningful relationships with a vast fan base.
At her shows, Swift has been praised for her use of innovative technology on stage taking her fans through an immersive experience. Starting at the 1989 World Tour and throughout the Reputation Stadium Tour and Eras Tour, every audience member gets handed an LED wristband when they walk into the venue manufactured by PixMob. Based in Canada, PixMob was founded in 2010 to manufacture and engineer innovative sustainable LED Wristbands enhancing live performances. Their infrared transmitters sync the wristband to the music and lights, and use spatialized lighting effects. At each show, Swift makes remarks about how these bracelets allow her to see everyone in the crowd regardless of how far they are. The bracelets change colors and create different patterns in the crowd to match the song playing.
Birds eye view of the Reputation Stadium Tour 2018
Photo credits: PixMob
5. Stick to your values
A great innovator embraces change while holding onto their values. Taylor Swift's career is a testament to the power of embracing change. Throughout her artistic journey, she has fearlessly ventured into new musical genres, evolving her style and sound with each album. Swift's willingness to adapt and explore uncharted territories showcases her ability to embrace change as a catalyst for growth and innovation. Her open-mindedness and willingness to experiment with new styles while holding onto her captivating storytelling has enabled Swift to continuously captivate audiences and remain relevant in an ever-evolving industry. She made her initial major transition from country music to pop music with the release of her 2014 album 1989. In her business approach, Swift has also showcased a willingness to adapt to the changing landscape of the music industry. She has been an early advocate for artist’s rights to be compensated for their music in the digital streaming era with subscriptions apps like Apple Music and Spotify. In 2015, she wrote a letter to Apple proclaiming she would be holding 1989 off Apple Music until changes were made to allow for all artists, specifically new entrants to the music industry to rightfully be paid for their work. Swift's astute understanding of the evolving market dynamics and her ability to adapt her strategies accordingly have allowed her to navigate the shifting industry landscape successfully.
Swift performing at the 1989 World Tour in Philadelphia.
Photo credits: Maya Harpaz
At Axis Innovation, we employ Swift’s lessons to help some of the world’s largest companies innovate by bringing them solutions to their pressing issues that are often addressed by startups. Our client Ford first came to us in 2014 looking for startups and we organized their startup challenge Make It Driveable in 2021 to find startups with innovative apps for the driving experience. As evident by her widely successful career, Taylor Swift provides tips and inspiration for innovation that Axis will continue to follow in our business endeavors.
Maya Harpaz, Analyst at Axis Innovation