We don’t really cover Taylor Swift that much here on Country Music Life.
I have to apologize for that because Taylor Swift is an artist I really respect.
She makes music that people really care about and that’s often the most important thing for an artist. I know I’m not her core target audience, but when I look back on her career it’s really remarkable what she’s been able to accomplish.
I thought it would be interesting to look back on her career and really analyze the impact she’s had on country music.
Taylor Swift: The Beginning
Some of this will come from memory so you’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong on anything.
Think back to the Summer of 2006.
There was a hugely popular social networking website people were using and it wasn’t Facebook. The social network was MySpace. It started out as a place for independent singers and bands to find an audience. It kind of grew from there, but the roots were always in music.
Taylor was actually one of the first and most prominent artists to really cut her teeth from MySpace. She built her audience one fan at a time on the network. She would share her music there and comment and message fans.
You don’t get to a million fans over night. Taylor worked hard to earn every one of those fans in the early days. I think it’s true when people talk about building an audience and they say it’s hard to go from oen to hundred. It’s probably harder to go from one fan to a hundred fans than it is to go from 100,000 to 1,000,000.
Taylor was signed to a brand new label sometime around the beginning of 2006. That label was Big Machine Records. The label was actually a collaboration between industry veteran Scott Borchetta and Toby Keith. The setup was to have two labels that shared resources while remaining separate entities.
Initial success went to Toby Keith. He has been one of the few artists to maintain his superstar success on his own label. He’s just had trouble finding new artists to launch through his label.
Scott’s label was able to do just this and their first megastar was Taylor Swift. Scott somehow saw the huge potential in Taylor Swift. He has mentioned in interviews that it was her determination and hard work that really made him take notice. She did not create excuses. When things went wrong she simply worked to get to where to wanted to go.
That’s a rare quality in the world.
By the summer of 2006 there was this song on the radio called Tim McGraw. The singer was 15 year old Taylor Swift and slowly that song crept into the top ten on the charts.
The one thing Taylor has always seemed to understand is that people don’t just connect with a song. They connect with a story. Tim McGraw was a song with multiple layers of stories. The first was that it was about a huge country superstar. It’s true that if you align yourself with famous people you’ll probably become famous yourself.
Great strategy for a new artist.
Taylor herself was also a story. Here is this 15 year old kid with a great song. People wanted to read that story and the press wrote about her all the time. Things just kept getting bigger as she released successful followup singles.
By the time Taylor Swift released Fearless in 2008 she was the biggest star in country music. There is no other way to say it. She had become the biggest star in country music and she was still a teenager.
Taylor Swift made her career along with some help and a little bit of luck. She was perfect to usher in the new era of the music industry. Her singles sell like crazy. Her young fans need songs for their iPods and iPhones. Taylor is one of the biggest selling digital artists of all time.
She’s turned those sales into big numbers, but today she’s also one of the biggest touring acts in the world and endorsers of other products. When the money isn’t there from sales of things like CDs, Taylor hasn’t cried about it. She’s found other ways to make revenue while other artists have clung to the past.
Taylor Swift is everywhere these days. She’s on TV shows. She’s touring and even making appearances with her label mates in concert.
She’s still giving people stories to connect with and that’s one of the reasons she’s going into her seventh year as a star. That’s a long time for an artist in the music industry.
Beyond Country Music
Throughout country’s history there have been times when an artist has branched out into other genres. Those artists have usually been criticized and it’s really for no good reason.
People always want to keep the family together and when artists like Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Taylor Swift start branching out they get a little brushback from country fans.
The reality is that these artists and others are doing favors to country music by expanding the fanbase. When an artist like Taylor has a huge single on the pop charts it brings more attention to country music.
Fans that otherwise wouldn’t turn on a country song to save their life will hear a Taylor Swift song and will think, hey this is really good I bet there are more songs like this from other country artists.
That is the real impact of Taylor Swift. She’s been able to bring young people into country music again.
I remember being a kid riding the school bus to school every morning. The driver would listen to the local country station. Songs from artists like John Michael Montgomery, Diamond Rio and George Strait left a real impact on me and I became hooked on country music.
Taylor Swift is doing that same thing to kids riding the school bus today. She’s bringing in lifelong fans to country music.
That is the type of impact she’s having.
Taylor Swift’s Legacy
She’s still in her early 20s so there is no reason to think Taylor is even close to the end of her career.
It’s pretty amazing she’s been able to ride her success to the top. Some artists will come out with a great first album and they’ll kind of struggle to keep the momentum going. I can’t imagine the pressure to succeed. It would make a normal person self implode, but somehow Taylor has been able to do it.
Taylor Swift is not some artist that has been able to sell millions of records. She’s had a deeper impact than that. She’s on the level of Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and others that have had lasting impact.
We won’t even begin to see her true impact for about five or ten years from now when new artists come on the scene and say that they were introduced to country music by Taylor Swift.
Taylor Swift and Song Melody
Before we close out this article I have to mention that Taylor Swift is a great songwriter. She might not be the best singer in the world, but she is a really great songwriter (and a really good singer).
Melody seems to be a really difficult thing to master. Artists might find it once in a while, but to find it consistently seems really difficult.
Taylor is a master.
It seems like every song she puts out is catchy. Even people that rarely listen to a Taylor Swift song can sing along.
I have no idea what the future holds for Taylor Swift. She’s proven up to to this point that she’s driven to change herself and the music industry. If history is an indicator of the future then we can expect great things from Taylor Swift.
She’s still in her twenties and most people don’t reach their prime until their thirties.
If the fire keeps burning she should have even more in store for us in the coming years.
It’s exciting and country music is better for it.
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