Beth Castle is the managing editor at InHerSight. Based in Durham, she writes about women in the workforce as well as Southern travel, tourism, arts and culture, and food.
Let’s get this out of the way: I’m pro–Taylor Swift, and sometimes blindly so. Whatever the news report, whatever the shift in direction, I’ve always been on her side. There’s yet to be a “controversy” that has made me think, Wow, I just can’t get behind her on this one.
And that’s not because she’s a flawless human being. I don’t believe that at all. T-Swift’s entire discography grapples with the drama of her life—“Bad Blood,” bad breakups, etc. You can’t write about that stuff if you’re a saint.
In actuality, the reason I’m such an avid defender of Taylor Swift is because she’s really, really good at her job, and I respect that. As someone who covers women and their careers every day for InHerSight, I think of Swift as a textbook example of what women deal with all the time in the workforce: If we tirelessly advocate for ourselves and our careers, we face an overwhelming amount of criticism, much of which seems unrelated to the work we do. (Ever been told you were really good at your job but altogether “too emotional”? “Shake It Off” is your rallying cry.)
So, irrespective of how you feel about Swift’s music (it is the wind beneath my wings), it’s time to at least get everyone back on the same page about her career, which has been pretty groundbreaking so far. Here are just a few of the highlights.
1. She isn’t afraid to make bold career moves
Swift wasn’t just a very successful country singer—for a long time, she was the genre’s most popular singer. So, when she released her first truly all-pop album, 1989, in 2014, it seemed like a risky move to some. Yet in interviews, Swift has talked about how making that bold move helped her stay true to herself. Rather than being forced into a category, she developed a sound that felt more authentic and would enable her to continue doing what she loves: connecting with fans through songwriting.
2. She’s fought for fair pay
In 2014, Swift removed all her music from Spotify’s library to protest the platform’s low streaming royalties, and in 2015, Swift wrote an open letter to Apple criticizing the company for not offering to pay artists royalties for the music users listened to during Apple Music’s three-month trial period. Apple listened, and reversed its course, a move that benefited both sides. As for Spotify? Swift signed on again in 2017 when they adopted a “windowing” policy that would only make new music available to paid subscribers for a certain amount of time. Related: She also advocated for a petition that calls for Congress to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Nbd.
3. She knows how to advocate for herself...
When Swift’s contract with Big Machine Records ended in 2018, she used her highly coveted free agency to leverage a better deal with Universal Music Group’s Republic Records. One of the stipulations of the contract was that she’d own all of her master recordings moving forward, which means that she now owns the copyright of any music she makes with Universal Music Group. That gives her control over where her music is used and gives her a larger cut of the profits.
4. ...and how to advocate for others
In the same contract with Universal Music Group, Swift stipulated that if the label sells its Spotify shares, it will distribute some of that money to the artists it represents and not use it pay back their advances. This is a big deal: When artists release music, they’re given advances based on how much a label thinks they’ll make. If they don’t make, say, the $2 million they’re given in advance, they have an “unrecouped balance” with their label. Some companies have used the money from sold shares to count toward unrecouped balances instead of distributing the money directly to artists.
5. She’s business savvy
There’s a reason Forbes has included her on its list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women: Swift is a master marketer. Throughout her career, she’s established key partnerships that have allowed her and her brand to shine. She appeared Apple Music commercials, and you can currently watch one of her tours on Netflix. She was also smart enough to trademark key phrases from her 1989 album to keep people from profiting from her lyrics. If you want even more evidence of her extreme marketing prowess, read about how her recent tour schooled us all in economics.
6. She stands up for herself—publicly
Remember when Swift countersued a Colorado DJ $1 for groping her and won? That was epic, and a good example of how Swift operates. She has principles, and she uses them to advocate for herself and for others. (Our team here at InHerSight loves, loves, loves when successful women lift other women up.) And although there’s no need to rehash the Taylor-Kanye drama here, take note of how Swift responded at the 2016 Grammy Awards after Kanye's repeated attempts to discredit her: “I want to say to all the young women [that] there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame. But if you just focus on the work, and if you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re going, you’ll realize … that the person who put you there was you.” Preach.