There is an expectation for female artists to constantly re-invent themselves, something Swift reflected on in her Netflix documentary Miss Americana:
“The female artists I know of have to remake themselves like 20 times more than the male artists, or you’re out of a job.”
Over the course of her career, Swift has evolved from an award-winning country music singer to one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Each of her ten original studio albums has a distinct theme and aesthetic, which have been celebrated on Swift’s juggernaut Eras Tour.
The tour, which has just wrapped up its first US leg, is set to be the highest-grossing of all time, boosting local travel and tourism revenue along the way. A recent report estimates the tour could help add a monumental US$5 billion (A$7.8 billion) to the worldwide economy.
‘All I do is try, try, try’
But to measure Swift’s impact by her music alone would be limiting.
Swift has been instrumental in changing the business game for musicians. She’s taken on record labels and streaming services, advocating for better deals for artists.
In 2015, Apple Music changed its payment policies after Swift wrote an open letter campaigning for better compensation.
Most notably, she took a stand against her former record label, Big Machine Records, after it wouldn’t give her an opportunity to buy back her original master recordings. Her back catalogue was eventually sold to music executive Scooter Braun, kicking off a very public feud.
While she’s not the first artist to go after her masters, she’s generated an enormous amount of attention to an issue that’s often overlooked. Of course, Swift is in a position of privilege – she can take risks many other artists can’t afford to. But with this power she’s driving conversations around contracts and the value of music, paving the way for emerging artists.