Swift had been dropping hints about new music leading up to the Feb. 4 ceremony, but using an awards show to announce a new project isn’t an industry standard, said one Northeastern music expert.
When Taylor Swift announced a new album while accepting a Grammy on Sunday, fans were not exactly surprised.
Swift’s fans were expecting some announcement, given Swift dropped little “Easter eggs” on social media hinting that something might be coming leading up to the ceremony.
What was perhaps more unusual was the timing. Swift announced her upcoming album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” during her acceptance speech after winning the best pop vocal album award for “Midnights,” which she released in 2022.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift)
A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift)
This is the second time Swift has announced a new album during an acceptance speech; she also announced “Midnights,” when accepting an MTV Video Music Award in 2022.
Despite this not being Swift’s first time using this method for announcing an album, it’s not common practice, said Andrew Mall, an associate professor of music at Northeastern University.
“Many artists tease new music,” Mall said. “Very few of them use the public broadcast of an award ceremony as their own press release. … I can’t remember this ever happening at the Grammys (before). … I don’t think anyone’s contractually prohibited from doing that, but the fact it doesn’t happen often tells you enough.”
As was the case with “Midnights,” the album announcement was clearly preplanned. Swift released the cover on Instagram during the ceremony after receiving her award and presales opened up on her website, prompting some fans to raise an eyebrow online about her announcement taking away from the other winners of the evening.
“(The Grammys) are supposed to be about celebrating the community and celebrating the music that is being performed and recognized,” Mall said. “It’s not supposed to be about ‘Oh, here’s my new project.’”
Sign up for NGN’s daily newsletter for news, discovery and analysis from around the world.
While the announcement was clearly part of a strategy, Mall said, there was an element of surprise to it.
Fans had suspected that Swift would be announcing the rerecording of her album “reputation,” based on her social media activity. She changed her profile pictures on social media to black and white photos to match “reputation’s” color scheme, she added the original album announcement from 2017 back onto her Instagram, and her website was down with a mysterious error message.
“There’s no longer room for surprises with Taylor Swift,” Mall said. “It seems like every few months there’s something that either she has launched or that her fans have discovered through numerology or pseudoscience, some deep, intense reading of the new content she’s releasing. So there are times when she leans into that. It’s a brilliant strategy because it creates excitement among her most dedicated fans, but it also really rewards fans who lean into that fandom.”
Mall said that in creating a “puzzle” that they can solve, fans get not only a sense of satisfaction when they pick up on Swift’s hidden message, it also deepens their connection.
“It’s not only about listening and watching over and over and over again,” Mall said. “They’re working with other fans to essentially solve a mystery. And that’s actually really fun. That’s a fun aspect of fandom that most artists can’t do or don’t do or don’t have a large enough fan base to benefit from that. It’s effective marketing, but in addition to selling the product, it’s creating a much stronger engagement and a rewarding experience for her brands.”
Mall said that because of the devotion of her fan base, it’s unlikely Swift will face any real consequences for her untimely announcement. If anything, all eyes will be on her again on Sunday when her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, plays in the Super Bowl.
“It’s building excitement and her fandom is at an all-time high because of the Eras tour, because of the nature of the Eras tour and exploring her past discography,” Mall added. “So it’s not going to turn at all. She’s not going to be uninvited from the Grammys. If anything, it might encourage other artists to use platforms like that for personal gain.”