Last Friday, Taylor Swift fans rushed to her official website after the singer-songwriter released a massive holiday merch drop. I was one of these fans, but ultimately was let down by what I saw.
As someone studying design, I was disappointed to see a need for more inspirational, intriguing designs. Half of the clothing in these drops is a single photo printed on a t-shirt. It almost feels like Taylor was selling herself short by not taking full advantage of this branding opportunity.
Merchandise is not meant to be a quick cash grab. Merchandise is part of an artist’s brand. People are going to be walking around in these shirts representing you.
It all comes back to money because it always does. I can’t help but notice many music artists would rather give a small cut of their extensive bank account to a big production company than hire individual freelance artists. It is those self-made designers who are going to work hard to give you the results you want. I follow several independent artists online who could’ve done great things with the content of Taylor Swift’s music.
Small steps have already been taken. For instance, during the struggle of the pandemic, Troye Sivan hired independent artists to make cover art for all of his singles. I remember my joy when Kurtis Conner hired Kel Lauren to design a merch line for him. Then Kel posted a video on their youtube channel of the entire process. It was an insightful video and, ultimately, a collaboration that benefited both of them. Now imagine a stadium-selling, chart-topping artist taking initiatives like this!
Again, this critique is coming out of passion. I do not intend to flame the designers who did some great work in other areas of the merch drop. The website design itself was very well done. The clothing department was the only place I found lost potential. Hopefully, for her upcoming tour, the artist has hired some designers to make one-of-a-kind concert merchandise.