In the Instagram story, the blonde woman in the coat picks up the receiver of an old-fashioned phone and mysteriously says to the camera, “Meet you at midnight.” At the appointed time, a new music video would come out. The blonde, of course, is Taylor Swift and this ‘Lavender Haze’ video teaser was just the latest in her promotional campaign for her latest album ‘Midnights’. By all accounts, it was a resounding success.
Stand or jump: Swift is keeping fans on their toes.
This album’s rollout has been, as Vulture describes, more mainstream than the star’s other fare of late. For “Midnights”, there was a long preparation, a social media teaser of the track names. “The plan would be to unveil one per night drawn from a cage of bingo balls,” writes Vulture. Compare this lavish rollout to how Swift unveiled her previous two albums, which were . . . not really at all. They were right there, “folklore” and “evermore,” announced by Swift less than 24 hours before their respective releases, with barely enough time for younger fans to save enough money for childcare. Stand or jump: Swift is keeping fans on their toes.
The sudden announcement of his earlier albums as well as the slower, belated reveals of “Midnights” are part of the same pattern: the extremes we now demand of fans. A true fan doesn’t need to sleep. A true fan is ready to deposit money at any time, whether for new songs or concert tickets. In a world of easy access to videos, streaming music, even once obscure articles about musicians now available online, anyone can be an expert. Be a fan, you have to be hardcore and push things to the extreme. Who needs sleep when there’s Swift, or a healthy bank account when there’s Beyoncé?
As Swift teased the song titles like a siren calling in the bingo hall, fans expressed amazement, bordering on exasperation, at the late-night “Midnights” reveals. “Can someone say @taylorswift13 to please get a normal sleep schedule. I’m 32 years old. How am I supposed to stay up till midnight on a work night?” one wrote on Twitter. “Taylor never wants us to sleep again” is the title of a YouTube video where the fan begins by yawning. “Taylor Swift made me sleep through the night last night,” she says, addressing the camera in her bathrobe.
Yes, Swift chose to burn the midnight oil to unveil her album’s secrets, night after night, in keeping with its theme – but fans didn’t have to choose to stay awake. They could have learned the information the next morning when it was all over the internet. But that’s not what a fan is do more. A fan immediately knows the info. A fan is there to hear it live, to witness it.
You’re now stuck in the dreaded Ticketmaster waiting room, number 2000, just hours after learning that a performance was even scheduled.
Although her fandom is considered extreme, Swift certainly isn’t the only artist to command instant allegiance. To land concert tickets these days, you have to be terminally ill online or you’ll miss them. As I write this, I will still be high on adrenalization after scoring tickets for Tori Amos for a performance announced less than 24 hours ago. Gone are the days of seeing an announcement for a show, marking your calendar, and waiting intently at the appointed time outside a box office. You’re now stuck in the dreaded Ticketmaster waiting room, number 2000, just hours after learning that a performance was even scheduled. No time to coordinate with friends, barely time to check your bank account balance. The frenetic nature of modern fandom can lead to impulse and panic buying. NBCNews, in an article on the “chaos surrounding ticket sales”, describes the current purchase of concert tickets as “competitive and expensive”, while the Wall Street Journal declares: “The purchase of concert tickets looks like more and more to a losing game”.
After years of being pulled from performances due to COVID, live shows have come back strong, for better or for worse. And one of the ways is the presale, a special advance sale of tickets. Getting those coveted presale codes isn’t always easy or fair (witness: Swift’s Ticketmaster debacle). The social media announcement of Amos’ upcoming tour made no mention of pre-sale codes; these must have been discovered through internet searches (a noble reddit thread also came to the rescue). Within minutes of the announcement of Beyoncé’s upcoming tour, article after article was published trying to explain how the hell to get tickets. Are you a fan enough to understand it?
Like Swift, Beyoncé will use a presale program called Verified Fan. Verified Fan is rather a meaningless term, the one you sign up to and hope for the best. It’s more designed to prove that people looking for tickets are actually people and not bots. But even after proving themselves, fans are usually randomly selected for the chance to purchase tickets. Example: I was approved as a verified fan for Swift’s pre-sale and while I’m not a hater, I’m not the most devoted either. Meanwhile, a friend of mine who knows every lyric by heart was not approved, kicked out of tickets.
Keeping fans guessing is keeping them.
Programs like Verified Fan only fuel the frenzy even more. Other presales are only available to holders of certain credit cards. Do you have to be a special credit card user to be a fan? Where do all these stipulations come from?
The limited supply of course increases demand – but Swift in particular is also adept at what AdNews calls her “little-known secret weapon: brand refresh.” From “Fearless” to “reputation”, “folklore” to “Midnights”, Swift is a magician when it comes to shapeshifting. Its image, its aesthetics, even its musical style vary from one project to another, often in an extravagant way. And above all, it does it, as AdNews says, proactively. Before things got stale, she already moved on – did you follow? Keeping fans guessing is keeping them.
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Nobody wants to be the last to know about a concert, a new album, a new band or the new era of a beloved musician. We want to know and know First of all, be there when it happens, even if it’s well after bedtime. And the exclusion makes things even more appealing. As Swift herself sings, “I’m yours to keep. And I’m yours to lose.”
About Taylor Swift