Taylor Swift at BBMAS: What are the keys to her enduring success?

Taylor Swift at BBMAs: Swift dominated the 2015 Billboard Music Awards, again. What makes her such a success year after year? 

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
Taylor Swift accepts the award for Top Artist during the 2015 Billboard Music Awards.

Taylor Swift won multiple prizes at the Billboard Music Awards on May 17, including such major awards as Top Artist, the Billboard Chart Achievement Award, and Top Female Artist.

In addition to those prizes, Swift also took the Top Billboard 200 Album prize for her work “1989,” the Top Billboard 200 Artist award, the Top Hot 100 Artist prize, the Top Digital Songs Artist, and the Top Streaming Song (video) for her track “Shake It Off.” In addition, the star-studded music video for Swift’s new song “Bad Blood” played at the Billboard Music Awards ceremony. 

How has Swift continued to dominate music? Various factors have contributed to her success. According to the New York Times, country music, the genre in which Swift’s first albums were officially released, became the most popular genre over top 40 music as of early 2014. “Country’s audience has grown stronger, wider, and younger,” NYT writer Ben Sisario wrote. 

In addition, Swift has been praised by many for her songwriting and knowing how to win over an audience from the beginning. Her debut album, “Taylor Swift,” wasn’t reviewed by many, but after the release of her 2008 album, “Fearless,” Guardian critic Alexis Petridis wrote that “she is fantastically good at regarding teenage life with a kind of wistful, sepia-toned nostalgia,” while Rolling Stone critic Jody Rosen wrote of “Fearless,” “Swift is a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture… It's hard not to be won over by the guilelessness of Swift's high-school-romance narratives.” And things got even better after that – for her second-newest album “Red,” Boston Globe writer James Reed wrote that “the songwriting is leagues ahead of where Swift was as recently as two years ago.”

Her announcement that her newest album, “1989,” would be a pop album was also a smart move. Just four months after the NYT article about the popularity of country that called Swift “its biggest star,” Swift said that “1989,” the album released in October, would be her “first, documented, official pop album.” It was a better move to simply acknowledge that her recent work was far from traditional country. “Does anyone still think of Taylor Swift as a country artist anymore?" Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis asked USA Today in an interview. "She's very career-savvy, and I'm sure she and her handlers are convinced she can withstand any potential blowback. And I would agree.” It certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt her if those recent Billboard wins are any indication. 

And Swift knows how to market herself. Forbes writer Rob Schwartz wrote of Swift’s “1989” campaign that “her dexterity with the marketing maze of today is only rivaled by her facile way with words and chords,” praising her partnerships with companies and how she engages with fans, including question-and-answer sessions on Twitter and Skype. Huffington Post writer Eddy Badrina pointed to Swift as a marketing example for companies to follow and agreed that her treatment of fans is one of the most successful factors. “Taylor Swift has built her brand around doing personal things for her fans,” Badrina wrote. “She engages with them on a variety of social networks. She gives them the freedom to create their own content about her (she even admitted to doing weird things on purpose so her fans can make GIFs). She trusts that this personal engagement will help ensure her shows sell out in 15 minutes for years to come.” 

With “1989” still ranked at number nine on the Billboard 200 months after its release and Swift currently involved in a world tour, it’s obvious the singer isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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