10 Programming Lessons From Taylor Swift

Radio can learn a lot from Taylor Swift. As broadcasters, we are always looking for fresh ideas. Her live entertainment events and marketing tactics can update radio’s playbook. Many factors contributing to Taylor Swift’s success and popularity can be applied to stations.

1. Versatility: This is one of the key takeaways from Taylor Swift’s career. She’s successfully transitioned between different music genres, from country to pop. This adaptability is a lesson that radio stations can apply to their programming. While staying within your format, you can still diversify your content to cater to a broader audience.

2. Interaction with Fans: Swift actively engages with her fans through social media, exclusive content releases, and fan events. Radio stations can similarly engage with their listeners through interactive contests, social media polls, and listener-requested song segments.

3. Adapting to Digital and Internet Radio: Taylor Swift and the live entertainment industry have successfully adapted to digital platforms, streaming services, and online ticket sales. Similarly, radio stations invest in their digital presence via streaming apps and podcasts.

4. Entertainment: Taylor Swift ensures that every performance is not merely playing her songs live. She injects “showmanship” into every performance, steeped in influences from musicals on Broadway. Often, she includes local celebrities in her performances to give them a “local feel.”

5. Storytelling: Unlike many current artists driven by music producers, Taylor Swift’s lyrics are her own stories and emotions. When you ask a Swiftie about Taylor’s appeal, they reply that it’s her lyrics. They resonate with her fans. Stations should invest in talented personalities who create engaging narratives and incorporate storytelling elements into their programming, such as artist interviews, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and themed music hours.

6. Consistent Quality: Throughout her career, Swift has maintained high quality in her music production and performances. Radio stations can strive for consistency in their programming by carefully curating playlists, conducting music and audience research, selecting high-quality content, and investing in professional production values and fascinating imaging.

7. Interactive Experiences: Live entertainment thrives on audience participation, whether through applause, social media engagement, or live polls during events. Radio stations can incorporate interactive elements, such as listener call-ins, contests, and social media shout-outs. Engaging with the audience in real-time fosters a sense of community.

8. Engage Your Core Audience. While radio stations have had loyal listener clubs for years, Taylor Swift has taken the concept to a new level. Taylor Swift’s marketing savvy is illustrated in her special treatment of her loyal (and official) fan base, the “Swifties.” This includes special concert sections where Taylor will wear a wireless microphone, go directly to the Swiftie section, and perform. Personalization and on-demand content are key attractions. Radio stations can learn from this by providing tailored content to individual listeners. They create on-demand shows, podcasts, or playlists that cater to specific interests.

9. Community Building. Swift has built a strong sense of community among her fans, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment, according to Dave Van Dyke of Bridge Ratings. Radio stations can foster a similar sense of community among listeners by organizing local events and supporting charitable initiatives like the Children’s Miracle Network.

10. Format Enthusiasm. During awards shows like the Grammys, Taylor Swift’s appreciation of the work of other recording artists is obvious—from being in awe of Celine Dion to encouraging Lana Del Rey to go on stage with her to accept the “Song of the Year” Grammy. Her embrace of fellow artists is heartwarming. Personalities showing passion for the music and interests of the radio station’s target audience are necessary to engage and maintain a connection.

If your radio station practices these Taylor Swift directives, you will be head and shoulders above the competition as she is in popular music.

Photo credit Republic Records and Universal Music Group.

John Lund is President of the Lund Media Group, a radio programming, broadcast consulting, and research firm with specialists in all mainstream radio formats.  Leave a comment below or email him at John@Lundradio.com.

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