How Apple Music prepares for releases like Taylor Swift's 'The Tortured Poets Department'

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Easter-egg scouting Swifties get those eagle eyes ready.

Apple Music released a new game on the streaming platform to commemorate April 13 — the number associated with Taylor Swift — to tease her 11th era that will be released overnight Thursday when the clock strikes midnight eastern time.

Fans can search for a word a day in the lyrics throughout one of her five new playlists. The full message will be revealed on April 18. And like with her custom voice memos on the platform, Swift is in on the action.

On Saturday, Taylor Nation (Swift's marketing team) sent out a post tagging Apple Music. On Taylor Nation's story there was a glitch effect pointing Apple Music users to the song, "Glitch" where there were six capital letters hidden in the lyrics revealing the secret word.

While the world anticipates the new music, Apple Music is in crunch mode getting all of the associated content ready.

The cover for Taylor Swift's new album, "The Tortured Poets Department"
The cover for Taylor Swift's new album, "The Tortured Poets Department"

Meet me at midnight

Fast-forward to 11:59 p.m. on Thursday night. The team at Apple Music will huddle in their offices on both coasts of the U.S. to watch their "Tortured Poets" hard work get released to the masses.

During all major album releases, threads on Slack channels light up as Apple Music employees communicate the rollout. At the stroke of a new day, the music label releases the album, which streams through the platform and is paired with the content Apple spent months cultivating. The process, at this point, is seamless, but all hands are on deck to ensure the new artwork, lyrics and, of course, music are being consumed without any glitches.

"We've done so many of these, and we've really built a lot of credibility and trust in the artist community," says Rachel Newman, Apple Music's global head of editorial. Every artist is different. With Swift, the streaming service has a long-standing history.

For the launch of Swift's "Midnights" album, Apple Music worked with the Eras Tour singer to curate three playlists: "Quill Pen Songs," "Fountain Pen Songs" and "Glitter Pen Songs," which reflected how the singer categorizes her tracks.

Swift did a similar concept with "The Tortured Poets Department." A fortnight ahead of the release date, she created five playlists associated with the five stages of heartbreak.

In November, Apple Music crowned Swift with the 2023 Artist of the Year and asked her friends to record video messages about the singer's impact, and in December, the company opened a New York City pop-up fan experience.

Taylor Swift arrives at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 4.
Taylor Swift arrives at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 4.

Every rollout is different

Swift is only one cog in the Apple Music machine, and every artist and rollout is different.

"We'll hear from their label directly, and we will also have a conversation with their team, their PR people or their management," Newman says.

When an album is announced, the artist's team reaches out directly to Apple Music. If there's a surprise drop, the editorial team will usually get a heads up and, in those cases, the team will come up with a code name for the project. There will be a very short list of who is privy to the confidential information.

Before you ask, Newman hasn't heard any music from "Tortured Poets," but in many other cases, she and her team will get a taste.

"We always try to think really deeply about the creative approach that is relative to the concepts of the albums and what the artist is talking about and feeling in the moment," she says. "And then it's a real collaboration with the artist's team and sometimes directly with the artist about what feels right for them."

Think of all the content that corresponds to a release: copy, credits, lyrics, marketing campaigns and billboards are just a few items. There are animations that add motion to an album's artwork, playlists that capture an album's essence and fun games that count down to the album's release. For Bad Bunny's album "Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana," Apple Music had a virtual hangman concept inviting fans to guess track titles.

Apple Music News will interview artists and write articles ahead of, during and after a new release. Apple Music Radio host Zane Lowe interviewed Usher right after his Super Bowl halftime show announcement and also when the singer announced his new album "Coming Home."

Storytelling is a key component of new music, and the streaming service's content is an extension of the album's DNA. As the Apple Music team braces for the April 19th release of "The Tortured Poets Department," they will be buttoning up a white, black and beige aesthetic hoping to fully capture the essence of Swift's poetic era.

Follow Bryan West, the USA TODAY Network's Taylor Swift reporter, on InstagramTikTok and X as @BryanWestTV.

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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Taylor Swift's 'Tortured Poets' gets Apple Music launch treatment