Music Business

How Taylor Swift’s direct to fan engagement embraces Web3 principles

Anyone involved in music can learn from Taylor Swift’s success including how she and her team have embraced the principles driving the shift to Web3 and netting spectacular results.

by Sandy Carter, COO at Unstoppable Domains via Forbes

I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift for a few years now, but some of the savvy business moves she’s made in more recent times have caught my attention more than her music. You might remember that she was voraciously opposed to her old record label selling the recordings of her first six albums to a private equity firm. So, when she switched labels, she negotiated to own the master rights of all music going forward. Then, she went and re-recorded all of her music, as she was legally empowered to do.

Taylor 1, The Corporate Machine 0.

Recently, she scored another victory by cutting out the middlemen as she broke into the movie industry. “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” a concert film produced by her own team, and which bypassed film distributors to go straight to cinema, has been a roaring success. The movie tallied approximately $123m in global box office takings on the opening weekend, with millions of fans around the world dressing up as Taylor to attend the epic sing-a-long shows. She negotiated a 57% cut of the revenue that would otherwise have gone to a distributor, and then she sold the tickets at $19.89 each.

Taylor 2, The Corporate Machine 0.

Disrupting the Status Quo

Anyone who can ruffle major corporate feathers, disrupt the norm, and claw back control and self-ownership has my attention and respect. Considering everything she’s overcome in legal battles with greedy execs, Swift deserves enormous praise.

Now, you might be wondering how any of this relates to my work, Web3, or the blockchain. Well, she didn’t sell NFTNFT 0.0% tickets and she doesn’t have a Web3 loyalty program (yet), but what she did do is mirror the ethos of Web3.

  1. Disrupt
  2. Empower content creators
  3. Own your relationship with your audience

I want to reiterate the point that Web3 is not just here to enhance and upgrade existing entertainment models and platforms. It’s about disrupting how traditional business is done and who benefits from it. It’s about placing teamwork, synergy, and innovation at the core of Web3 startups and giving them the backing to succeed.

Web3 is a Golden Moment for Content Creators

Taylor Swift felt that she had lost control because she didn’t own her music. She had pleaded repeatedly with her label for a chance to own her own work but instead was asked to sign a manipulative new contract. Within the terms, it said that she would “earn” one album back for each new one she finished.

She disrupted. She rebelled. She stood up for herself. In doing so, she created a new generation of independent artists who don’t want to get caught in the same trap and who have the belief that community support is a genuine alternative to powerful labels. She knew that ticket prices had spun out of control and she wanted to be the one to discover what was reasonable and accessible for her fans. Then, for those fans who still couldn’t afford it, she turned the tour into a movie that you could watch with other fans for less than $20. Taylor Swift is in her golden hour. No wonder her fans, better known as Swifties, are obsessed with every move she makes.

Web3’s golden hour is just as imminent as it develops a revolutionary path to community engagement, active participation, and genuine connections and experiences. Novel ways for fans to get involved will be complemented by fractional ownership of assets and opportunities, immense reward schemes that thank you and excite you in equal measure, and new ways to support your favorite content creators so that they can remain independent.

Web3 is not just relevant for content creators — it’s imperative.

Saving the Relationship

I fear that if we don’t redefine our roles as both content creators and as audience members (fans, enthusiasts, consumers all fit into this), we will see more and more boring, reductive, and beige content. Much like all smartphones start to look the same, following the same algorithms and patterns of the same major platforms is forcing brands and creators into boxes. Web3 can undo that.

Web3 will allow creators to be themselves, at their creative best, and elevate fan engagement in the process. Dramatic activations, revelations, and gated experiences are just the start. Think about how token-based reward systems give enthusiasts quantifiable data for their fandom, NFTs can unlock unforgettable interactions, and collectibles that are yours digitally until the of time all create an inseparable bond between creator and audience.

Gigi Skarlett, CEO and founder of Crypto Tech Women and a member of Unstoppable WOW3, knows all about the value of using Web3 and NFTs to enter a new era of community. “Embracing Web3 is an opportunity to escape the monotony of repetitive content — enabling both the creator and their consumers to become more engaged and connected in the process,” explains Gigi. “It also allows creators to differentiate between passive content viewers and those who are genuinely willing to support your content.”

That’s why I’m happy to see some of the biggest platforms open their arms and acknowledge that Web3 is the future and that they need to adapt, immediately. Their models are being disrupted, and it’s sink or swim time.

Spotify: Playlists Unlocked by NFT Holders

Spotify has been building the world’s biggest digital music library for over 15 years now, making and distributing billions in the process, while also empowering independent artists to ditch record labels. Their model appears robust, but Web3 has found a way to integrate with Spotify for some very exciting activations.

The new feature, called “Token-enabled Playlists” allows users with certain NFTs to unlock exclusive playlists. To access the gated content, users need to link their crypto wallets to their Spotify accounts. This is exciting, but it’s still being piloted in a few select regions. Fortunately, I think the idea has legs and will open up even more opportunities for music and Web3 to harmonize.

The implementation of gated NFT playlists is being handled by Overlord, which is also tasked with finding other exciting ways to integrate digital assets into music streaming services and provide additional value to NFT holders. What I see, however, is another novel and brilliant way for content creators to engage with their fans. Should the trial be a success, I believe more Swift-esque empowered musicians will be looking at Web3 as a launchpad for their careers and self-ownership.

Ticketmaster: NFT Ticketing and Gated Content

It’s not just Spotify integrating NFTs, but Ticketmaster, the world’s largest ticket marketplace and the global leader in live event ticketing products and services. There are dozens of startups in Web3 who have been trying to build “The Ticketmaster of Web3”, but it’s hard to say if there’s truly a standout. Now, whilst they aren’t going to rebuild the foundations of their successful business, their BD team has clearly recognized the potential for Web3 integrations.


Avenged Sevenfold, which attracts a very different audience to Taylor Swift, is already well-established in Web3 with a popular NFT fan club (The Deathbats Club). Back in March, they collaborated with Ticketmaster and their NFT token gating integration to pre-sell tickets to their tour. This was an outstanding chess move that eliminated everything that is wrong with Web2 ticket sales – bots, scalpers, long waiting times, and ticket touts. As well as an improved ticket sale process, the Deathbats Club will have a special area reserved at every event on the tour to improve the real-life experience and exclusivity.

Direct-to-Fan Engagement Set To Take Center-Stage

I’m inspired by what Taylor, Avenged Sevenfold, and many other artists are doing to champion creators and their communities, and I’m proud of the building blocks already in place in Web3 that have encouraged Spotify and Ticketmaster to get involved. The next step, in order for Web3 communities to get to the next level, is to find even more novel ways for genuine and meaningful interactions and experiences. Keep an eye out, as it might be your favourite band who enters this space next and launches an activation that inspires you.

Sandy Carter is COO at Unstoppable Domains, and Alumni of AWS and IBM. I’m also a chairwoman on the board of the nonprofit Girls in Tech, a former member of the Diversity Committee at the World Economic Forum, and currently a founding member of the Blockchain Friends Forever social movement for women in Web3. I hold and trade modest amounts of ETH and BTC. These days I’m passionate about enterprise use cases for decentralized technologies. My latest book “The Tiger and the Rabbit” is shipping on 8/30! It’s. Business Fable about AI, Web3 and the Metaverse! 

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