Factors That Set Up Taylor Swift’s Blockbuster Week

By Louis Hau/ Billboard 11/03/10

The million-plus first-week sales of Taylor Swift’s album “Speak Now” benefited from a combination of savvy planning and media exposure. Here are five things that helped.

1. Going Away For A While
As sales of her second album “Fearless” snowballed, Swift popped up everywhere in 2009 — hosting “Saturday Night Live,” portraying a murdered teen on CBS’ “CSI,” appearing on “Oprah” twice, making a fun video with T-Pain, gracefully handling Kanye West’s interruption at the MTV VMAs and cleaning up at the CMAs. By the time Swift hit a few bum notes at the Grammy Awards on Jan. 31, it was time for a time-out. Aside from a small role in the movie “Valentine’s Day” and appearing on the cover of Elle, Swift spent most of the first half of 2010 out of the spotlight.

2. Announcing Her New Album on Ustream
When the time arrived to get the word out about “Speak Now,” Swift turned to live webcasting service Ustream in July to reveal the name and street date of her new album. It was the perfect forum to re-engage with her fans beyond her regularly updated Twitter feed — less showy than a TV appearance, more personal than a press release. “Through the past two years, I’ve been through a lot of things that I have been dying to write about and talk about,” she told her fans. “There were a lot of things that I wanted to say in the moment but couldn’t, and this album is my opportunity to do that.”

3. Selecting “Mine” As The First Single
Although Swift has become a full-fledged pop star, “Mine” demonstrated that the 20-year-old singer has also absorbed some of the timeless verities of country songwriting. “Braced myself for the goodbye/’cause that’s all I’ve ever known/Then you took me by surprise/You said, ‘I’ll never leave you alone,'” she sings, while the accompanying music video fleshes out the storyline to portray her getting married, having kids and achieving domestic bliss. It was the kind of sentiment that helped broaden her appeal to older listeners who couldn’t relate to teen melodramas like “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me,” even as the song’s knockout pop hooks pleased her young fanbase.

4. Getting In Front Of Would-Be Album Buyers
During the week before the Oct. 25 release of “Speak Now,” virtually every American standing in a supermarket checkout line saw Swift on the cover of People magazine, Glamour and the all-Taylor special edition of Us Weekly. Then came a rush of TV coverage. The Hub, the new kids-oriented cable TV channel, aired a three-part documentary about Swift’s “Fearless” concert tour over the weekend preceding the release of the new album. That was followed by appearances on the “Today” show, the “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Regis & Kelly.”

5. Giving The Tabloids Reason To Spill Ink Over You
A new album is interesting, but a new Hollywood flame? OMG! Swift may or may not be dating actor Jake Gyllenhaal, but breathless accounts about the alleged couple holding hands or getting ice cream have generated additional reams of copy in the celebrity press. While the hunky Gyllenhaal is nearly a decade older than her, his wholesome image means he probably won’t cause any unwanted distractions as the Swift juggernaut gears up again for another extended run.



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