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Monday, June 10, 2024

Taylor Swift’s excessive merchandising practices are not sustainable

Consumerism drives much of the music industry and top artists must acknowledge the detrimental effects 


By CLAIRE SCHAD — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 


It is no secret that Taylor Swift’s fans are willing to do almost anything to support their favorite artist. Whether it’s spending hours in a virtual queue trying to buy concert tickets or spending thousands of dollars on merchandise, Swifties are nothing if not dedicated. However, despite Swift’s almost incomprehensible level of stardom, many people have criticized her for promoting potentially damaging norms of consumerism. 

Swift’s success, while largely due to her talent, is also undeniably dependent on the brand that she has built around herself. From vinyls and CDs to jewelry, clothing and journals, you can find almost anything on Swift’s online store. Love her or hate her, there is no denying that the brand she has created is unprecedented and impressive. But how much is too much? Is this abundance of merchandise actually good for anyone? 

Recently, Swift has come under fire from fans and fellow artists alike for her contribution to the harmful systems of consumerism. Earlier this spring, pop singer Billie Eilish called out fellow artists for releasing multiple different vinyl packages, each with “a different, unique thing, just to get you to keep buying more.” She went on to explain that this mass production of merchandise, especially multiple vinyl variants, is frustrating when artists like herself are focused on ensuring their merchandise is produced sustainably. While Eilish didn’t mention Swift by name, it was clear that she was alluding to Swift and other widely popular artists as she went on to say she was referring to “some of the biggest artists in the world.” 

Eilish’s comments are not unwarranted, Swift’s 2020 Grammy Album of the Year, “Folklore,” had nine different vinyl variants available for fans to purchase. Similarly, “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” came in five different vinyl versions, each with a different pastel color theme. 

The most recent example of Swift’s disappointing commitment to consumerist culture, however, came on April 18, with the surprise double album release of “The Tortured Poets Department.” Despite being a continuation of the original album, the second part — released just two hours after the initial album, “The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology” was treated as a completely different album. Meaning, those who preordered vinyls and CDs would have to purchase another if they wanted all 31 songs to be included. 

As a Swiftie myself, Swift’s commitment to consumerism is frustrating. I personally don’t have any CDs or vinyls of her albums because I don’t have a need for the physical album itself as I listen to all of my music through streaming platforms. However, I can understand people wanting to have a keepsake or physical copy of the album to decorate their room. Given this, the problem is not the mere existence of physical CDs and vinyls, but rather the sheer number of variants that Swift and other artists are releasing.

By constantly releasing new variants, some with bonus songs only available on the limited edition physical copy, Swift is encouraging her fans to buy more items than they could ever possibly need. For many of her fans, this creates a situation where they get into a cycle of consumerism that normalizes the constant influx of new items, even when it is damaging to the environment, or even their financial well-being. 

Swift’s unique position of fame has given her the opportunity to switch to a more sustainable method of marketing and merchandising, yet she has failed to take advantage of it. Meanwhile, artists like Eilish have switched to more eco-friendly vinyl options made from recycled materials, they also don’t release nearly as many variants as Swift does, showcasing that it is possible to have satisfied fans while also paying mind to sustainable practices. 

In the past, Swift has showcased her power to motivate and mobilize young people to vote, so it is clear that she has the power to inflict social change. It would be encouraging to see Swift acknowledge the wastefulness of her merchandising strategy and commit to producing merchandise that is ethically and sustainably produced. She clearly has the resources to make this switch, and it is far past time for her fans to call her out for her unsustainable merchandising practices. If Swift doesn’t do it herself, we as fans must not buy into her marketing ploys. After all, does anyone really need eight vinyl variants of the same album? I don’t think so.  

Written by: Claire Schad — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


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