This article originally appeared on the American Institute for Economic Research website.
There’s an economic lesson we can learn from how pop superstar Taylor Swift sells her music: she hypes it up, then makes it scarce.
Swift fans started getting antsy in 2017 since the singer had kept a low profile for most of the year and was overdue to release an album.
In October, however, Swift blacked out her social-media accounts, prompting devoted fans to speculate that a new album was coming.
After keeping her fans on the edge of their seats for a few days, Swift tweeted a series of tweets confirming new music, causing a social-media frenzy.
Released on November 10, Swift’s sixth studio album, Reputation, sold more than a million copies in its first four days of availability, easily passing the biggest title of the year before this week, Ed Sheeran’s ÷ (Divide).
This figure doesn’t even include streaming. Swift isn’t putting her new music on services like Apple Music or Spotify and is urging fans to buy the album in either physical format or as an iTunes download.
Swift learned earlier in her career that although streaming services are the future of music, there is a lot of value in avoiding mainstream audiences in order to gain in the long-term. Selling music the “old-fashioned” way generates more interest and larger sales; physical CDs and CD downloads bring in more money than streaming.
She’s even stood up to media giants over her business practices, and won.
In 2015, she penned an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, taking the company to task for its decision not to pay artists during an initial three-month free trial of Apple Music.
I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.
Swift’s letter and its public support got Apple to change its mind, creating a win-win situation for herself and other artists to have an outlet to showcase and sell their art.
She’s making access to her upcoming tour scarce, too.
According to Ticketmaster, Swift is making sure tickets to her massive tour only get into the hands of fans, not scalpers or bots. Fans can register to get “in line” to buy tickets, and they can earn a better chance to get the tickets they want by participating in “boost” activities. These include everything from tweeting about the album to buying official merchandise, to taking pictures of official Taylor Swift UPS delivery trucks.
Some fans are enraged about the process to get tickets while others are playing along in order to better their chances.
Who knows if Swift will continue to sell concert tickets this way, but we’re sure she’ll let the market decide.