The Brilliant Marketing of Taylor Swift’s Mysterious Bonus Track
Try to think of another time when a star released an album with a physical-only bonus track — but that physical product was only made available online, through one website, with a weeks-long shipping delay. Therein lies the marketing genius of Taylor Swift’s Folklore, which dropped on Friday, sans one rare track.
It’s not uncommon for an artist to offer bonus tracks on physical products like CDs and vinyl records: Such tactics help boost the appeal of owning a physical album and can drive consumers to spend more money in the streaming age. Swift has offered physical bonus tracks several times in past releases, encouraging fans to pick up special deluxe editions in hard copy for those Easter-egg songs. But fans can normally rush to a Target, Walmart, or Best Buy on release day to get their hands on these extra-precious versions. The cassettes, CDs, and vinyl versions of Swift’s Folklore — which feature the not-yet-heard bonus song “The Lakes” — are only available to purchase on taylorswift.com, and those items are not due to ship for half a month at the earliest.
This decision to limit the special album versions’ sale to Swift’s official site was most likely influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many physical businesses facing supply-chain problems or closures. But if Swift had wanted to get “The Lakes” into the hands of fans instantly, she still could’ve allowed fans to digitally download the song upon placing their physical orders. Where’s the fun in that, though?
According to Swift’s official website, CDs are expected to ship within two to three weeks of their purchase. Cassettes, on the other hand, take eight weeks, while vinyl takes a whopping 16 weeks — just in time for Thanksgiving. While this drawn-out timeline could very well be a result of manufacturing necessities, it’s most likely intentional: Making fans wait two to 16 weeks for an extra song is a great way of keeping fans interested in an album, long after the rest of the record drops. (Swift’s publicist and label did not respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.)
Flash forward to November. When that much-anticipated vinyl record finally arrives, you’ll probably want to give it a spin. In revisiting the album four months later, you might be inspired to start streaming it on repeat again — especially considering that Folklore, with its dreamy cottagecore aesthetic, seems geared for a cozy autumn or winter evening.
Taylor Swift has not only secured herself a big first-week number with the media frenzy that surrounds a surprise announcement from a megastar: With a simple marketing maneuver around one little bonus song, she’s equipped Folklore with a guaranteed boost to her year-end cume.