Centre Stage: Mark Davyd

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd’s monthly deep dive into live music’s biggest issues… One thing I am often asked about, or challenged with, is the idea that the downturn in the grassroots music venue circuit is representative of changes ...

Taylor Made: Crunching the numbers behind Taylor Swift's all-conquering 2023

As Taylor Swift releases new album The Tortured Poets Department, here's a chance to revisit our feature on her huge success in the past year... With multiple No.1s, massive sales and a blockbuster tour, Taylor Swift was the undisputed champion of 2023. Such is her huge popularity, she might even deliver a shot in the arm for the UK economy. Here, Music Week drills down into the superstar’s numbers over the last 12 months, including the all-conquering 1989 (Taylor’s Version)… Words: Andre Paine Photo: Javier Vicencio/Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images Is the UK economy set for a Taylor Swift boost in 2024?  Globally, The Eras tour has earned over $1 billion in ticket sales even before reaching Europe in 2024, putting Swift ahead of current record holder Elton John for his mammoth Farewell Yellow Brick Road trek. But that’s just the start of the Swift effect… Amid all of her achievements, the superstar’s run of shows in 2024, including eight dates at Wembley Stadium – the most at the venue for an international act on a single tour – could also deliver some much-needed economic stimulus. In the US alone, there were estimates that the tour generated $4.6 billion in consumer spending. The American Federal Reserve’s economic analysis even noted the huge surge in hotel bookings when Swift played three nights in Philadelphia to more than 200,000 fans. While the UK is bracing itself for a (Cruel) summer of Swift in 2024, Music Week’s end-of-year issue is a chance to reflect on her huge achievements in the past 12 months, a period in which Bloomberg reported she attained billionaire status. If 2022 was a triumph for Swift, the past year has felt like a victory lap with her blockbuster The Eras tour in the US, a cinema box-office smash with the concert film and a record-breaking seventh nomination in the Grammys’ Song Of The Year category (for Anti-Hero). If Swift collects the Album Of The Year trophy for Midnights – her sixth nomination in the category – she will be the first to win that Grammy award four times in total. For Swift, 2023 was ending as it began – at No.1. As Music Week went to press, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) had just spent a third consecutive week at the summit in late November. It follows the fortnight that Midnights spent at No.1 in the UK at the beginning of the year (out of a total of five weeks at the top). Indeed, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) had the biggest opening week since Swift’s Midnights just over a year earlier.  The latest album reworking – part of an ongoing masterplan to regain control of her catalogue up to 2019’s Lover – sold a staggering 184,965 units over seven days in November to become her 11th No.1. Incredibly, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) outsold the rest of the top 32 albums.  “Over the past decade, Taylor Swift has continued to sit in the very top rank of massive-selling artists alongside Adele, Ed Sheeran, The Beatles and Michael Bublé, so she is definitely a good friend of music retail,” says Kim Bayley, CEO of the Digital Entertainment and Retail Association (ERA). Swift’s UK chart assault included the double with a No.1 single for Is It Over Now? (Taylor’s Version). She also narrowly missed No.1 with Cruel Summer, the fan favourite from Lover, which went viral on TikTok following its inclusion in the Eras Tour. In fact, Swift’s spectacular three-hour setlist is also reflected in the year’s album charts with nine entries in the Top 100 to the end of Q3. In July, she became the first woman in UK chart history to have four simultaneous Top 10 LPs. And that was all before the huge release that capped off a stunning year. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) opened with more than 1.6 million units in the US and 3.5m globally. In her home market, Swift became the first artist to score six No.1 album debuts each with more than a million units. It also claimed the biggest album debut on Spotify in 2023 with 176 million first-day streams, which was the second biggest ever behind Midnights’ 186m.  Originally released back in 2014, 1989 was already Swift’s biggest-selling album in the UK with 1,733,302 units up to the point the remake charted. The Taylor’s Version edition improved on the week one result of the original, which reached No.1 with 90,336 sales nine years ago. It was also her second No.1 of 2023, following the success of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), which opened with 67,112 sales. “A significant development is the way streaming has challenged the traditional ideas of ‘old’ and ‘new’ music,” suggests Bayley. “All music is now contemporary, and if you can come up with a compelling reason – in this case a re-record – you can persuade people to buy again.” The result extended Swift’s own record as the woman with the most UK No.1 albums this century. It means that she is in hot pursuit of Madonna (12) for the title of female artist with most No.1 albums, and The Beatles as overall leaders on 16. In fact, Swift helped her own record-breaking prospects by denying the Fab Four a No.1 with their Blue Album 1967-70 compilation at the end of last month. In the US, Swift is the first female artist to earn 13 No.1 debuts on the albums chart, and she has extended her record as the female artist with the most weeks at No.1 (65 at the time of writing). As Music Week went to press, she was tied with Drake on 13 for most US No.1 albums this century. Crucially, Swift’s success is across both physical and digital formats – the key to stellar success for artists in the 2020s. Banquet’s Jon Tolley says the Kingston-Upon-Thames record store has become a very popular destination for Swift fans buying vinyl in recent years. “There’s huge demand,” he tells Music Week. “The kids are coming in excited, parents are coming in excited to get presents for the kids. At some point, Taylor brought in new customers the same way that Harry Styles brought in new customers, but they’re now a staple customer; it’s a common part of what we do. It’s our world as much as the Arctic Monkeys.” There were multiple collectible physical formats of 1989 (Taylor’s Version), including five colour vinyl variants. Record shops such as Banquet got an exclusive tangerine edition of the double LP, though Tolley admits he has a preference for the crystal skies blue edition.  With supply issues now less of a problem for vinyl, the numbers have been staggering for Swift on her recent campaigns. The LP sold 693,000 copies on vinyl in its first week in the US, the largest sales week for a vinyl album since Luminate began tracking sales in 1991. Midnights was the previous record holder with 575,000 copies on vinyl in week one last year in the US. In the UK, the new iteration of 1989 had the year’s biggest weekly vinyl sale – 61,791 – although it was narrowly behind the 61,948 that gave Midnights a 21st-century sales record for the format.  Tolley says artists like Swift have brought a younger audience to vinyl. Her role as Record Store Day ambassador in 2022 was also highlighted as significant. “In terms of that [RSD] event as a showcase for indie stores, it was a game-changer,” adds Bayley. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) also had the biggest weekly UK streams for an album in 2023 (42,150 sales-equivalent streams).  Perhaps unsurprisingly, in late November, Spotify confirmed Swift as the platform’s most-streamed artist globally, amassing more than 26.1 billion global streams since January. She also took the top spot as the most streamed artist in the UK. Apple Music named Swift as its Artist Of The Year. In the first 10 months, Swift had 65 songs reach Apple Music’s Global Daily Top 100 – more than any other act. She was Apple’s No.1 most-streamed female artist. “Taylor Swift’s impact on music is absolutely undeniable – not just this record-breaking year, but throughout her entire career,” said Oliver Schusser, VP, Apple Music and Beats, in November. “She is a generation-defining artist and a true change agent in the music industry, and there is no doubt that her impact and influence will be felt for years to come.” Ten studio albums and four Taylor’s Version re-recordings into her career, she is seemingly in complete control both creatively and commercially. With the Eras Tour heading here next summer, 2024 could well be peak Taylor Swift for the UK...

Digital Discourse: Sammy Andrews on new opportunities in the age of the superfan

There’s been a lot more talk about nurturing ‘superfans’ of late, which has both amused and interested me because that’s part of what we have all been doing for a living for a while now, surely?  At my agency (and for years before that, at labels), we’ve long mastered the art of understanding the various stages of fandom, especially in the digital age. And although UMG and Warner have announced that nurturing superfans is an aim of theirs this year, with UMG even buying a superstore to serve superfans in Japan, this is not a new objective. Superfans have always existed, but in a time when I had far fewer wrinkles, they could be measured in album sales. You bought a £10 album and went to a show? That’s a superfan investment right there.  The emergence of online platforms has eroded that easy mode of monetisation, with much of the superfan [action] moving away from recorded music towards the live business. Plus, with fan interactions fairly non-existent in DSPs and now taking place on online platforms, you often have to pay to open up those routes of monetisation with fanbases.  The industry also often makes the mistake of assuming a campaign is done once an album is out, something we advise our clients at Deviate against.  Let’s say you’ve just released a deluxe version of an album in beautiful fluorescent vinyl, and you’ve run loads of adverts pre-release and in the week of release to try to get a chart position. That’s not really nurturing the superfan relationship in the longer term, it’s just taking advantage of it.  The value exchange for superfans we offer as an industry must be re-examined.  Fundamentally, we are talking about the difference between an audience and a fan. Whilst nothing about this is new, an approach and offerings overhaul for the industry is needed now more than ever. As we see the rise of short-form content, AI-generated tracks, the closure of grassroots music venues and prevalent passive listening on DSPs, it has never been more important that the business nurtures, retains and embraces fandom, or we run the risk of letting our artists merely become more noise in a sea of distraction. So, let me re-introduce you to ‘the funnel’: the process and the steps needed at each stage of a fan’s journey. When the funnel structure is analysed and followed, it can lead you to the right offerings needed to truly grow a fandom. So, here are the typical stages of the marketing funnel and how they can be used in building a sustainable musical fanbase... AWARENESSIntroducing listeners to an artist is the main objective during this stage. Think passive playlist inclusion, TikTok take-offs, sync, radio play and ads. Compelling content can play a pivotal role in creating a strong initial impression and capturing the attention of prospective fans.  INTEREST/CONSIDERATIONAs awareness grows, the focus needs to shift to nurturing attention. This involves providing more content and opportunities to newer listeners or fans. Social media offers valuable avenues for artists to engage with their audience, but there are also paid media options on some DSPs that can aid this stage. DECISIONAt this stage, fans decide to delve deeper into an artist’s catalogue or attend live gigs. Encouraging this decision could involve offering incentivised or exclusive content that encourages engagement, conversion, listening or sign-ups.ACTION/CONVERSIONDriving actions like streams, purchases, merch sales and attendance at gigs should be the focus at this stage. It’s something you should be able to achieve fairly easily if you’ve done the previous steps properly.RETENTIONThe industry widely falls down at the retention stage, much to the detriment of fandom and monetisation. Building on the foundation of dedicated fans, this stage centres on keeping them engaged. Updates on upcoming releases, newsletters, content, opportunities or monetised offerings for loyal fans, foster a sense of community, and artists can experimentwith membership programs to reward and retain their supporters. I suspect we’ll see more of these kind of collaborative incentives this year, with AI as well as real life and online activations.ADVOCACYThis involves turning fans into advocates promoting the artist in their own social circles. Word of mouth, online or off, is a potent tool, as fans can amplify an artist’s reach in the right places. Proudly wearing an artist’s or band’s merch also aids this. Analysing data at each stage of the music funnel provides insights into audience demographics and promotional channels, and helps guide your offerings to superfans. Tailoring content and experiences based on preferences is also key to help an artist strengthen their bond with the audience. This is something I really hope to see the industry striving for more of.  So, in summary, embracing a funnel approach encourages fanbases to evolve and grow. By staying attuned to fan feedback and adapting strategies long past release date, you can navigate the dynamic road to superfandom more effectively.

Measuring progress: UK Music Diversity Taskforce chair Ammo Talwar on driving the inclusion agenda

Digital Discourse: Sammy Andrews on the road ahead for TikTok

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Centre Stage: Mark Davyd

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