Superstar Taylor Swift may have exceptional musical talent and a legion of devoted fans, but, a UConn scholar argues, it is her nearly flawless business strategy that has fueled her path to superstardom.
“Talent only gets you so far,’’ says Sami Ghaddar, a School of Business professor who specializes in business strategy. “I would say that Taylor Swift is a very savvy businessperson.
“In an industry where rivalry is intense, it requires well thought-out and prudent decisions to reap the rewards that she has. Taylor Swift is a person; but Taylor Swift is also a business.’’
Ghaddar will be the guest speaker at UConn’s Club (Taylor) Swift event at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1 in Room 215 at the School of Business. The program is titled “Taylor’s Turnaround: An Anti-Hero in the Music Industry.” The club, named the 2022 Program of the Year by the Undergraduate Student Government, has 300 members. Non-members are also welcome.
Ghaddar will discuss the timeline of Swift’s success, from her first No. 1 song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’’ to ongoing drama with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, to the frenzy over her Eras Tour ticket sales that crashed the Ticketmaster website and led to a Congressional inquiry. All will be examined through the lens of business strategy.
The presentation should be particularly interesting for those who want to work in the music industry or who want to develop a personal brand. Honors students can also receive credit for attending. Pre-registration is requested at this link.
Lessons From Swift’s Career Offer Insights Beyond Music
Ghaddar will discuss how students can apply a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to decision-making in their professional careers and how that approach has served Swift well.
For instance, as a new artist, Swift signed to a record label in 2005. When her contract expired in 2018, she was a music superstar with sold-out tours and six successful albums. Her original recordings were sold without her knowledge, ultimately netting $300 million for someone else. She fought back by re-recording her albums, adding new songs, and releasing the new versions. Those new recordings were as successful as the originals and secured her rights to her music.
“It’s genius,’’ says Ghaddar, who teaches the capstone class for the Boucher Management & Entrepreneurship Department at the School of Business and describes himself as a Swift fan but not a hardcore “Swiftie.’’
He said he would compare her business strategy to that of tech giant Apple, which is also very intentional in how it launches new products. A well-crafted strategy is also something he sees in the career of TikTok star Charli D’Amelio – father Marc D’Amelio ‘91 (BUS) is a UConn alumnus – and how her fame has leveraged a family empire.
In addition, Ghaddar hopes the presentation will persuade some students to consider a major or minor in business.
“The world of work is changing at a rapid pace. Minoring in business can be very helpful, as it provides students with an opportunity to understand the different facets of how a company operates,” he says. “Today the opportunities for young people are limitless. I tell my students to try new things. You can always pivot and change industries. The only thing you can’t do is go back in time. This is the time to take some risks.’’
‘Most of Us Are Not Going to Become International Rock Stars’
Richmond Le ’23 (BUS) is the founder of the club, along with Joe Stone ’23, an environmental sciences major, and Alexa Boden ’23 (ENG). Boden serves as treasurer, while Le and Stone are co-presidents.
“We were just coming back from the pandemic and wanted to find a way to unite campus,’’ Le says. “My friends and I are all Swifties, but we didn’t want it to just be a fan club, but, rather, something that everyone can enjoy.’’
The organization has offered album launch parties, coffeehouse performances, pet therapy programs that included UConn DJs playing Taylor Swift music, Huskython fundraisers, and more. The club’s three pillars are art, business, and service.
“Most of us are not going to become international rock stars, but we can learn about Taylor Swift’s business and management strategies,’’ Le says. “We will use a case analysis of her career to understand what happens when things don’t go as planned, whether it’s a problem with competitors, a global pandemic, or not being able to own your own music.”
“Most artists have core competencies, whether it is vocal talent or stage presence or something else. Her one-of-a-kind songwriting can tell a story in one sentence. I think that’s what makes her relatable across many age groups and genres,’’ Le says. “She also knows how to manage her reputation and how to protect her image while, at the same time, being vulnerable.’’