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Culture Shock

Easter Eggs and Taylor Swift: Marketing in the Music Industry

Some artists release music, and that’s it. On the other hand, some artists make the process of releasing music an entire rollercoaster for their fans.

Recently, the process of music rollout has been built up by the concept of Easter eggs: hidden messages that artists implement to hint at secret meanings or foreshadow future events. They can be found in content such as lyrics, social media posts, interviews, and music videos. Easter eggs do marketing wonders for artists, starting with the idea that consumers love the feeling of accomplishment when they figure out a puzzle. As a result, people try their luck at deciphering secret meanings and predicting future events, commonly on social media platforms. To find answers, they search for clues in artists’ past works, which increases streams and sales for older releases, marketing them to the public in a new light. This leads to the growth of an artist’s fanbase. As fans work together to sort out clues, excitement about the artist spreads to people who were originally unfamiliar. In addition to drawing fans closer together, Easter eggs connect fans more closely with the artist, because they feel like they play a part in the music release. Easter eggs also help artists’ fans understand them more, as secret messages provide insight into the artist’s feelings that they may not clearly communicate. In addition to empathy, this causes fans to feel like they know the artist more personally, as well as fascination and appreciation of the artist’s cleverness for inserting hidden messages. These things build anticipation for the new release, acting as a creative, low-budget marketing tool.

Singer Taylor Swift is arguably the artist most well-known for clever messages that she inserts in her work. For years, she has verbalized both her intentions and enjoyment at seeing fans decipher messages. During a The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon interview on November 12, 2021, Swift said, “It’s sort of a tradition that we started a very long time ago … I wanted to do something that incentivized fans to read the lyrics, because my lyrics are what I’m most proud of ... When it got out of control was when I started to realize that it wasn’t just me that had fun with this, that they had fun with it too.” This quote shows how the concept of Easter eggs has developed Swift’s relationship with her fans, making them both feel closer to each other.

Swift has applied her Easter egg strategy to many releases, such as her ninth studio album, Evermore. As she released the album only five months after Folklore and did not officially promote it, fans were shocked when it dropped. However, after looking through Swift’s past actions, fans found multiple Easter eggs foreshadowing the release. For example, in October 2020 when Swift virtually presented the CMT Music Award for Breakthrough Video of the Year, she wore a French braid. Two months later, she released Evermore, whose album cover featured her hair in the same style. Three days before the album’s release, Swift Tweeted photoshoot pictures captioned, “This outfit really screams ‘TIS THE DAMN SEASON’.” We now know that this was a clue to the album, as “’tis the damn season” is its fourth track. Only one day before the album dropped, Swift posted a Tweet with nine tree emojis, which signified both the existence of her looming ninth album and its earthy, cottagecore aesthetic.

As Swift is now re-recording her past albums, fans love to try their hand at which will come out next. Red, Swift’s fan-favorite fourth studio album, was met with off-the-charts anticipation due to Easter eggs. For example, at the 2021 Brit Awards in May, Swift wore her hair long with bangs and red lipstick, which was her signature look in 2012, the year that Red came out. She also posted Instagram photos from the event with filters reminiscent of the album art. In addition, in June, Swift Tweeted Billboard about her gratitude for Evermore’s success, including four red heart emojis at the end. When fans sifted through clues after the release of Red (Taylor’s Version), they realized that this Tweet was a hint that this album would be next, as Red was Swift’s fourth studio album.

There are many examples proving the victory of Easter eggs as marketing tools. For instance, the success of Evermore can be compared to Halsey’s album, Manic, another album released in 2020 by an American female artist. Halsey did not drop Easter eggs preceding her album’s release, while Swift did. Manic debuted at #2 on the US Billboard 200 chart with 239,000 album-equivalent units, making it Halsey’s third top-two album. On the other hand, Evermore debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and topped it for four weeks, opening with 329,000 units and becoming Swift’s second #1 album in 2020. While Halsey’s album was a win, Swift’s album had more successful statistics, which can be attributed to the anticipation build-up and marketing from Easter eggs.

Looking to the future, fans are now predicting which album Swift will re-release next. On the day that Swift dropped Red (Taylor’s Version), she Tweeted, “Red is about to be mine again, but it has always been ours.” This sentence has led to the guess that the next re-release will be Speak Now, as “Mine” and “Ours” are two of the album’s track titles. Fans are also making this prediction based on a signed Red (Taylor’s Version) CD sold on her merchandise store. The item was priced at $20.10 in purple font, which fans linked to Speak Now, as the album was released in 2010 and had a matching purple color scheme.

Swift has definitely layered another element to her career with her use of Easter eggs. Until it all becomes clear, we’ll just have to hang on tight and wait to see what’s up ahead.

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