How Taylor Swift Passionately Supports Smaller Artists

Taylor Swift began her career as a teenager taking on Nashville, Tennessee with stars glistening in her eyes as she performed songs she wrote about young romance and school experiences. She told Billboard that despite having several mentors, including Faith Hill, in the country music scene, she “didn’t see [a similar] community” when she crossed over to the pop industry. Despite this, intentionally or unintentionally, she has helped guide up-and-coming musicians to large new audiences, encouraging her millions of fans to offer their affection and streams to other artists.

Every tour Swift has headlined so far featured various underappreciated opening acts, and this has helped the likes of Ed Sheeran, who opened the 2013 Red Tour, become household names. Her friendship with Sheeran began when they collaborated on her October 2012 song “Everything Has Changed,” a classically Swiftian track about the beginning stages of a crush. Before the Red Tour, Sheeran’s only Billboard chart entry was “The A Team,” which peaked at #16 in January 2013, and by the time his sophomore album x (pronounced “Multiply”) came out in June 2014, he had enough of a following to top the Billboard album chart. Other opening artists who have received the Swift boost on a lesser scale include NeedToBreathe, The Vamps, Shawn Mendes, Haim, and Charli XCX. 

Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran performing "Everything Has Changed" together on her 2013 Red Tour. Both artists are playing acoustic guitars as they sing.
Swift and Sheeran performing “Everything Has Changed” together during the 2013 Red Tour.

In June 2015, just months after the release of her chart-topping record 1989, Swift penned a letter to Apple Music after learning that Apple wouldn’t pay artists for the streams they got during a new user’s free trial period. Swift removed 1989 and her back catalog from the service, explaining, “This is not about me. […] This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field… but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on [their] songs.” She elaborated to the Wall Street Journal, “My prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.” 

Following the move, outlets like TIME applauded Swift for her courage and went as far as to say she “saved Apple Music” from a potential publicity nightmare that would have risen when the industry realized the damage being dealt to artists too late after the fact. It took mere hours for Apple to respond and change their payment policy. Their Senior VP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, told Billboard the day of the decision, “When I woke up this morning and saw what Taylor had written, it really solidified that we needed to make a change. And so that’s why we decided we will now pay artists during the trial period.” Swift ultimately put 1989 back on streaming and teamed up with Apple for an exclusive tour movie

Over the past few years, Swift has taken the digital route to share her admiration of up-and-coming artists – some of the most recent examples are her posting Conan Gray’s “Wish You Were Sober” on her Instagram story and retweeting YUNGBLUD’s cover of her song “cardigan” with a message of gratitude. She has also shared multiple playlists highlighting some of her favorite songs – her 2017 playlist “Songs Taylor Loves” had two installments, featuring acts such as Kehlani and Majid Jordan, while May 2019’s “Playlist by ME!” spotlighted the likes of MUNA and Clairo. She played similar playlists between sets at her tours in support of 1989 and reputation, helping get fans’ energy up in anticipation for her performance. Fans took to these selections so much that they made their own playlists with them to relive tour memories and give the featured artists more of the recognition they deserve. Artists like Sleeping At Last have thanked Swift for featuring them on her playlists, expressing their thanks and insisting that their “year=made [sic].” 

A graphic showing artists' reactions to being featured on Swift's "Playlist By ME!" in 2019. The first tweet is Swift's announcement of the playlist, where she said "I made a #PlaylistbyME! of songs I'm loving right now - check it out and make your own on Apple Music." The second tweet is from Amy Shark and reads "I made the list" with a heart emoji at the end. The third tweet is from Blake Rose and reads "Learned today that Taylor Swift added 'Lost' to her Apple Music playlist and I'm trippin." The final tweet is from Alex Lahey and reads "I honestly can't believe the messiah of songwriting Taylor Swift added my tune 'I Want To Live With You' to this playlist. So shocked Tay! You have no idea what this means to me."
Artists’ reactions to being featured on “Playlist By ME!” in 2019. Image courtesy of The Music Network.

As someone who made her way to the top of the industry with little help, it’d be easy for Taylor Swift to simply sit back and focus on her own career, but she continuously makes an effort to support newer artists and their projects. Swift highlights the biggest stars of tomorrow and shares her platform to help them build theirs.

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Madison Murray View All →

Hi! I’m Madison Murray, a pop culture and music writer who also loves writing about lifestyle and fashion. I have credits on sites like TREMG, Young Hollywood, and Audible Addixion, and I’m the founder of Melodic Musings. In addition to writing, I’m a community editor on Genius, lyric curator on Musixmatch, and a playlist curator at VOLUP2. My favorite artists include Taylor Swift, Machine Gun Kelly, BLACKPINK, Elko, phem, and YUNGBLUD. She/her.

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