Swift Super-Serves Radio and the Fans

This week at MusicRow The Taylor Tribune, we have the understanding that Big Machine Label Group doesn’t do anything halfway. Case in point: no-stone-unturned, full-throttle launch of Taylor Swift’s fourth album Red, which hit stores Oct. 22 and will undoubtedly shift a mind-boggling number of units in the process.

To aid Red’s launch on the radio side, Big Machine hosted a unique remote broadcast event on Friday (10/26) that was designed to super-serve Swift-friendly markets with a whole batch of exclusive content and prize giveaways (guitars, food, etc). Surrounded by a gorgeous panorama of downtown Nashville on the 21st floor of the Pinnacle Building, a total of 72 radio outlets were selected for the broadcast. Many of the usual suspects were present, including Mike Hammond from Knoxville and Captain Jack from Las Vegas, but there were also stations present from such far flung locales as South Africa, India, New Zealand, and Germany.

During the afternoon session (half the stations did their remote broadcasts in the morning), 36 stations operated out of makeshift cubicle studios appointed with red accent lighting. The lounge furniture was also red, as were the floral decorations in the catering area. Brand partner Papa John’s had its wares out on the tables, and company founder John H. Schnatter was milling around. Moving from station to station to give five minute interviews were Swift, Borchetta, Papa, and Swift band member Grant Mickelson.

At every turn there was a video screen or plaque celebrating Taylor’s many successes, and in the corners of the Pinnacle building were some of the elaborate costumes from her stage show. Visiting stations had access to a row of net-ready computers for show prep. Nearby, BMLG staffers were uploading the recordings of every station’s interviews so they could be used immediately. It was a whole turnkey experience for those stations lucky enough to participate.

Whether or not Red will be Swift’s second consecutive first week million-seller will bear out soon enough (all signs point to yes, and then some), but the masterfully executed marketing campaign is worthy of mention. Look at the timing: one week prior to the CMA Awards (where she is nominated for Entertainer of the Year), primed for holiday shopping season, and almost six years to the day since her 5x-Platinum self-titled debut album was released. These things don’t happen by accident.

One interesting facet of this gigantic rollout and promotion is that the first news of Red’s release happened on August 13, followed by single debut of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” That’s a very short time ago, and yet there was virtually no chatter leading up to the announcement. According to Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta, Swift had been working on the music for several months and felt it was important she make the announcement herself.

“We try to stay quiet between records as much as we can,” says Borchetta. “With someone who’s so dynamic it’s really hard, but it’s a lot more fun for all of us [having] the moment where she announces when the record is coming. That way she’s talking directly, with all due respect, to who’s most important: the fans.”

On the retail side, Swift and team carefully assembled brand partnerships that fit her personality and image. Cover Girl, Target, Keds, Papa John’s, and an innovative “store within a store” concept for Walgreens are all key components of the campaign, and representative of the Taylor brand. “You won’t see her name and likeness on hundreds of items,” notes Borchetta. “She only puts her mark on things she really believes in and likes.”

Borchetta feels confident that Red’s first week sales will eclipse those of Speak Now, which set the bar with a lofty 1.047 million debut week units in 2010. That didn’t deter the Big Machine team in the slightest, if anything it probably encouraged them, and the release has been delivered with gusto. Swift will also embark on a huge tour to support it, and co-host the Grammy Nominations Concert in Nashville.

“You have to understand what the market is, what it will bear, and where is she right now. Last time around with Speak Now, to some extent, it was like, ‘Oh you guys again,’ and it’s like, ‘Yeah, us again.’ This time it’s like, ‘Let’s get out of the way and let Taylor have her moment.’ The fact that everybody understands the magnitude of her and the brilliant record she’s made to back it up, we almost have an open lane right now.”

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