Taylor Swift 'Era's Tour' Film Will Be a Lesson for All Music Artists – Northeastern University

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Taylor Swift will soon extend her pop culture dominating reach to the big screen, with the release of a concert film of her record-shattering Eras tour set to hit theaters on Oct. 13. 
At this point it’s almost impossible to get out of Swift’s gravitational pull. Her most recent tour, which is on track to become the biggest tour of all time, has had a measurable impact on the U.S. economy. The Eras tour movie hit $65 million in pre-sale tickets a month out from its release, besting pre-sale numbers for major Hollywood fare like “The Batman” and “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.” A recent post from the singer on Instagram encouraging people to register to vote resulted in a spike in voter registration
It is Taylor Swift’s world –– we’re all just living in it.
Given all the success she’s already had, why does the theatrical release of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” matter? Andrew Mall, an associate professor of music at Northeastern University and a music industry scholar, says that watching Swift’s songcraft and business savvy coalesce on stage or on screen is a lesson in how to navigate the music industry. And it’s one that other artists might try to learn from.
​​“I can see other artists saying, ‘Well, that worked for Taylor Swift. How can we do something similar? Maybe not at the same scale, but how can we use this concept?’” Mall says. “Even if you don’t like Taylor Swift, if you see her as a rival, if you’re not in her circle of friends, you still look at the decisions and the way she conducts her business … and see that success and think, ‘What else can we learn from this?’”
With Beyonce set to release her own concert film about her Renaissance World Tour on Dec. 1, two of music’s biggest stars are finding value in a medium that has recently been more about direct-to-streaming than the theatrical experience.
But in order to see the value in Swift’s next jump to the big screen, it helps to understand what makes Taylor Swift the world dominating pop singer she is. It starts with the songs.
“One of the reasons why that is, is that she and her music are tapping into people personally,” says Melissa Ferrick, professor of the practice at Northeastern and a singer-songwriter with a career that spans 30 years and 18 albums. “The lyrics are personal and driven by fears and love and uncertainty and insecurity. They’re personal, but they’re set to extremely well produced and accessible melodies and production.”
Swift’s ability to portray personal details with just enough vagueness that they can be relatable to anyone is the reason fans like Sydney Christensen, vice president of artist development at independent record label Kill Rock Stars, connect so strongly with Swift’s music. 
Christensen was an early Swiftie, falling in love with the singer’s work on albums like “Speak Now” but fell out of touch with the singer’s work later in her career. Then, two years ago, Christensen’s older brother, Parker, died and it changed Christensen’s relationship to music. 
“All of my favorite bands were his favorite bands, all of his were mine,” Christensen says. “I didn’t listen to music for a year and a half, so it was a really big deal to listen to a song on the radio and actually be able to tolerate it.” 
However, during a trip to Utah, Christensen heard Swift’s “Anti-Hero” from her most recent album, “Midnights,” on the radio. Then, Christensen heard it again and again. Before long Christensen hoped it would come on the radio.
“It resparked my ability to listen to music because I had no affiliation with Parker, my older brother, and Taylor Swift,” Christensen says. “She was my gateway back into pop culture and pop music mostly because of the presence she had everywhere.”
However, Swift’s success isn’t just about her ability to craft hit song after hit song and form an authentic connection with her fans. It also comes down to the business-savvy way with which she has approached her career. 
From rerecording songs to recapture the rights to her own music to releasing a film companion to the biggest concert of all time to bring in more people –– and money –– at a time when people are going to the movies again, Swift has shown an unparalleled ability to navigate the industry and avoid its many pitfalls. Christensen says it’s particularly empowering for women inside and outside the industry to see a female artist who is so successful but whose success hasn’t come at the cost of her own authorship and voice.
“She has absolutely no problem using her voice and barking back and even calling out hands that have bitten her,” Christensen says.
Swift’s concert film will likely do well financially, and it helps show Swift’s blend of authentic care for her fans and savvy understanding of the world her work exists in. But when “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” hits theaters, it won’t just be another chance for Swifties to celebrate their favorite artist. 
Ferrick says the theatrical Swift experience is a reminder of one under-discussed element of Swift’s success: her ability to create a safe space for women to be themselves. Whether you’re a Swiftie or not, there’s value in that, Ferrick says.
“With the ‘Barbie’ thing and the Taylor thing and Beyonce, we can see that women are allowed to be believed,” Ferrick says. “We just don’t get spaces like that very often where we can really feel safe, move our bodies and walk through a parking lot at night,” Ferrick says. “It really is about where I feel I can be myself and be comfortable, and that’s a huge part of what Taylor brings.”
Cody Mello-Klein is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Proelectioneer.
© 2024 Northeastern University

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