One strategy that makes Taylor Swift such a successful artist is her determination to listen to her instincts.
When she was first starting out as a teenager in Nashville, she signed a development deal with RCA Records, but later left for new, independent label Big Machine because she was worried she wouldn’t be able to write her own songs.
She still has that independent attitude to this day — Swift told TIME that a lot of people around her doubted her switch from country to pop, and that she had to fight for her vision for her album “1989,” which turned out to be a huge hit.
Swift said that “every single element of this album has been called into question” and that she had to tell her team, “No, this is how we’re doing it.”
Here’s what she told TIME in an interview for their cover story on her:
“With ‘1989,’ I was really putting my neck on the line, because I was the one saying I need to change directions musically. And my label and management were the ones saying ‘Are you sure, are you positive? This is risky.’ And I was the one who had to come back every time and say, ‘No, this is what we’re doing.’ When I put forth an album cover that didn’t have half my face on it, and tried to convince my label that this was the best way to sell an album, you know, I got some kind of interesting side-glance looks. But I knew that this was the best cover to represent this record, because I wanted there to be an air of mystery. I didn’t want people to know the emotional DNA of this album. I didn’t want them to see a smiling picture on the cover and think this was a happy album, or see a sad-looking facial expression and think, oh, this is another breakup record. When I wanted to call the album ‘1989,’ people on the team questioned that.”
Throughout the process of making the album, Swift insisted on sticking to her vision, and it paid off big time.
“1989” is expected to net about $US12 million in gross sales in its first week. It’s the biggest album of 2014 with 1.287 million copies in its first week. June 2002 was the last time a record (Eminem’s “The Eminem Show”) sold as many copies in one week.
Swift is also fighting the industry trend of moving toward streaming rather than focusing on album sales. Many in the music industry insist that streaming is the future, but Swift argues that it hurts sales and doesn’t appropriately value artists’ music. She pulled her entire catalogue of music from Spotify earlier this month.
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