Taylor Swift raises the bar with a savvy ‘Red’ marketing campaign

RANDY LEWIS
The Associated Press
Modified: October 31, 2012 at 2:55 pm •  Published: October 31, 2012
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Not only has Swift repeated that feat despite continuing shrinkage of traditional album sales, but “Red” has topped the first-week figure of 1.05 million for its 2010 predecessor, “Speak Now,” extending her against-the-grain trend of improved first week sales with each album she has released since her 2006 debut, “Taylor Swift.”

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It’s also a sign that at least some players in the beleaguered music business are finding ways to reboot in an age in which consumers have become less inclined to buy the music they listen to.

“Big Machine isn’t commenting on the marketing of the album,” a label spokesman told the Times on Monday via email. “Some of the new components with this release included Papa John’s and Walgreens, but when we see the final numbers, I think we will see record-breaking numbers from Target and iTunes, meaning most of the albums were purchased through normal sources.”

Last week, iTunes reported that first-day downloads of “Red” set a new single-day record for the digital retailer, with 262,000 copies. That’s more sales in one day than the majority of No. 1 albums have posted in a full week in recent years. Target officials have indicated that they are expecting new sales highs from “Red.”

Leading up to last week’s worldwide release of “Red,” Swift kept busy on her Twitter account reminding followers — she now has more than 20 million — how many days remained until it would be available. On Oct. 21, she shifted to an hourly countdown. (Her spokeswoman insists that all tweets are sent by Swift herself and that no one else has access to her @TaylorSwift13 account.)

The day after “Red” was released she began a strategically organized blitz of national TV appearances, starting with a concert in New York City’s Times Square as part of her visit to ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

She used a “20/20” appearance to unveil plans for a 2013 “Red” concert tour of sports arenas and nine stadiums in the U.S.

The efforts weren’t restricted to TV. While the previously taped “Ellen” and “20/20” TV appearances aired Friday, Swift herself was locked down all day in Nashville giving a barrage of interviews to 72 radio stations, mostly in the U.S., and a few international outlets in regions as far-flung as South Africa, New Zealand, Spain, Germany and Mexico.

Adding to the campaign’s radio front, last week Swift messaged her Twitter followers to phone radio stations and “ask nicely BUT repetitively” to play her latest single, “Begin Again.”

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The overall strategy also hasn’t simply been a matter of putting Swift and her album anywhere and everywhere possible.

Big Machine chief Scott Borchetta opted out of releasing the album to Amazon’s MP3 store out of concern the online retailing giant might do what it had done with Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album last year, slashing the price for the full album to 99 cents as part of a promotion (in that case, for Amazon’s new cloud music service).

That quickly pumped up sales: “Born This Way” edged past “Speak Now” and logged 1,108,000 copies, nearly half of which came from the 99-cent sale. Billboard subsequently changed its policy regarding album sales figures, and now refuses to count albums toward its national sales chart tabulations if they are sold for $3.49 or less during the first four weeks of release.

Big Machine is also bypassing streaming services including Spotify and Rhapsody in the belief that many fans who stream music as part of a monthly subscription fee are less inclined to buy CDs or album downloads.

“I don’t think it should be free,” Borchetta said at a music business conference in Las Vegas last month. “I don’t have thousands and thousands of albums and hundreds and hundreds of artists, I have a finite artist roster and finite number of releases. If you’re a big battleship like Sony or Universal and have tens of thousands of masters, that income stream makes sense at a big corporation. It doesn’t make sense to a small record company.”

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