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TikTok makes major play for ‘Eras’ of Taylor Swift fans

3 weeks ago 21

You already knew Taylor Swift was a generational megastar whose shows can swell local economies and literally shake the earth. But now Swift’s gravitational force is set to change the face of another cultural phenomenon: TikTok.

The ubiquitous social platform has built an entire in-app experience to celebrate Swift’s Eras Tour, offering users the opportunity to add digital profile frames and create their own in-app friendship bracelets by completing Swift-themed challenges. TikTok users who complete 11 weeks of tasks will receive a limited edition Swift-themed profile frame.

The announcement Thursday makes TikTok the latest platform to build custom features for the pop star as part of an intense competition to leverage her hyper-online fandom. In April, Instagram added a new feature to Swift’s account, allowing users who swipe down on her profile to access a secret countdown for her latest album, “The Tortured Poets Department.” And last September, Elon Musk implored the star to begin sharing content on his social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.

“I recommend posting some music or concert videos directly on the X platform,” Musk tweeted at Swift.

Swift, too, has fanned the digital flames, joining YouTube Shorts in 2022 to launch a challenge that invited fans to share reaction videos to her then-new album, “Midnights.” With 550 million followers across all social platforms, according to the San Francisco analytics firm Exploding Topics, Swift is one of the five most-followed people in the world.

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“Taylor Swift, I would argue, is the most famous person and the biggest name in the entire world right now. It makes 100 percent sense for apps and brands to associate with Taylor, because Taylor brings eyes to everything she touches,” said Ari Elkins, a Gen Z music curator and online culture expert with more than 2.2 million followers on TikTok.

Even the mighty NFL benefited from Swift’s presence at football games featuring her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Elkins noted, with viewership and sales of Kelce’s jersey rocketing skyward. TikTok, too, stands to benefit from the association, he said.

“Taylor Swift is a major driver of internet culture,” added Freddie Morris, a digital music marketer in Los Angeles, who has worked with artists such as Maroon 5, A$AP Rocky and Miguel.

Others in the music business also hailed the move — though Josh Epple, vice president of streaming and promotions at Hopeless Records and co-founder of Version III, an independent record label, said he hopes TikTok continues to boost up-and-comers in addition to major artists like Swift.

“It’s very cool that apps like TikTok are willing to lean in and serve superfans, but I’d hope it wouldn’t be at the expense of smaller artists,” said Epple, who recently released “Austin,” a hit song by the artist Dasha, which amassed billions of views on TikTok and hundreds of millions of streams.

“My hope would be that TikTok continues to be a platform where emerging artists can be discovered,” Epple said. “It’s so great right now that, on TikTok, no matter what size artist you are, you can reach a ton of people.”

Swift, who has more than 32 million followers on her TikTok account, launched an earlier TikTok campaign aimed at encouraging fans to promote the “Tortured Poets” album. More than 3.1 million videos have used the #TheTorturedPoetsDepartment hashtag, while other tags related to Swift also have seen skyrocketing engagement, according to the company. More than 2.6 million videos have been posted bearing the #SwiftTok hashtag and more than 2.1 million videos have used the hashtag #TaylorsVersion.

Swift’s music was briefly pulled from TikTok earlier this year amid a heated dispute between the platform and Universal Music Group, which halted music licensing to TikTok after the company’s contract with the platform expired in January. The day before the contract was set to end, Universal Music published a scathing open letter accusing TikTok of proposing “paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay.”

Unlike many other artists, Swift owns the copyright to her music, which allowed her to push her work back onto the platform ahead of the “Tortured Poets” release on April 19, contributing to the album’s success online.

In May, Universal Music’s catalogue returned to the app after the dispute was settled. At the time, TikTok CEO Shou Chew said in a statement that “music is an integral part of the TikTok ecosystem.”

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