Taylor Swift didn’t just release a new single this week; she kicked off a meticulous campaign to get die-hard fans involved in the collective experience of buying things from Taylor Swift.
When Swift dropped “Look What You Made Me Do” at midnight on August 24, another video appeared on her YouTube page to announce a new partnership between the singer and Ticketmaster in preparation for the tour she’ll embark on in support of her upcoming album Reputation, which will be available November 10. The basic idea is, as the peppy voiceover declares, to “beat the bots” to the business of buying the best seats, an ongoing frustration for fans of Swift and/or anyone else who routinely sells out shows.
In theory, this sounds like an altruistic idea. In practice, it’s basically Josie and the Pussycats’ satire of product placement and subliminal corporate messaging come to life.
“Taylor wants you at the show!” the voiceover continues, as adorable cartoon cats bop to some unheard beat and shake their tiny paws at the nefarious bots trying to steal their Taylor Swift experience from right under their whiskered noses. To get these fans to the show, the video says, Swift is partnering with Ticketmaster to help “verified fans” find “a new way to buy tickets. A better way. A fun way!”
That “fun way,” as it turns out, involves spending even more money.
To get ahead in the line for presale concert tickets, you have to register at Swift’s website, where you’ll get “the opportunity to participate in unique activities that advance your spot in line.” And what are those activities, you ask?
“Watch a video!” “Shop the store!” “Buy the album!”
As culture analyst Myles McNutt laid out in exhaustive detail after the site launched, the hierarchy of activities — a.k.a. the ones that will get a fan furthest ahead in the line — involve preordering the album (limited to 13 copies per person) and buying merch like bedazzled snake rings and Reputation hoodies from Swift’s website (unlimited).
“The better your spot in line, the better your opportunity to access tickets,” the video voiceover concludes, as a unicorn cat eyes its chances with something akin to hope lighting up her giant eyes.
Aside from the Ticketmaster partnership, Swift also announced on her Instagram that she will be releasing two Reputation-themed zines concurrently with the album, each 16 pages of “poetry & paintings,” “handwritten lyrics,” and “behind the scenes” photography.
Oh, and those zines will be available exclusively at Target.
It seems likely at this point that other corporate tie-ins will continue to reveal themselves closer to the album’s release date. To wit: UPS announced today via its Twitter account that it will be the “Official Delivery Partner” for Reputation, giving fans the chance for their own exclusive #TaylorSwiftDelivery by — wait for it — preordering the album.
On the one hand, Swift’s most die-hard fans would no doubt preorder the album and buy “REP” sweatshirts anyway, not to mention that corporate sponsorships aren’t exactly new territory for Swift or pop stars in general. (Remember Swift’s promotion with Papa John’s for 2012’s Red? Or that Apple commercial with Swift falling flat on her face, after publicly coming out against Apple Music and streaming services like it?)
On the other, it’s worth pointing out that the premise of Swift’s new album seems to center on her snarling at those who obsess over her reputation; meanwhile, she keeps finding new ways to cash in on said reputation, which she has carefully crafted and exploited for maximum impact. So while this wave of corporate tie-ins might be a cynical move, it’s not exactly a surprising one either.