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The Year of Celebrity SEO-fication (and The Swiftie Shangri-la)

If YOU ASK DICTIONARY.COM, 2023 was its “Eras” era. Now the online linguistic resource’s inaugural “Vibe of the Year” (not to be confused with its “Word of the Year,” for which 2023’s title-holder was “hallucinate”), the choice is supposed to cement the term in both modern lexicon and slang as shorthand for the fleeting, fluctuating, distinctive periods that can be pinpointed in one’s life.

The rise of the word’s popularity throughout ‘23 could, for the most part, be credited to singer-songwriter and cultural juggernaut Taylor Swift and her Eras Tour, which she refers to as a journey throughout the various “eras” of her career. Spanning five continents and nearly a full year, the 151-show concert tour can itself be considered a separate cultural juggernaut  partly responsible for unanticipated seismic activity in Seattle, an international  wake-up call regarding large-scale event mismanagement in Brazil, and post-pandemic economy refreshment to boot.

Contrary to popular misconception, however, it isn’t Swift who ushered the concept of “eras” towards a more general vernacular, but rather online “stan” spaces on X and Reddit that refer to distinct album cycles, sonic directions, or even an artist’s stylistic choices in terms of their bodies of work or fashion sense.

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Whether this “eras” zeitgeist sprang from a steady crossover of Swift-adjacent terminology and lore from these spaces, or arose in concurrence with it, the upshot’s been a sharp increase of fan-made, or at least unofficial everything Swift: Etsy merchandise (seemingly undeterred by an infamous-turned-memeable 2015 crackdown by Swift and her legal team), cocktails, and even entire AirBnBs — but more on those in a bit.

“Consumption-wise, we are in an era where niches and communities are very important,” Ana Clara Ribeiro, a Brazilian intellectual property (IP) attorney, researcher and independent songwriter, tells Hollywood.com, “so, brands may want to tap into that.”

A lot of Ribeiro’s research and writing explores the intersection between what could be perceived as fandom’s tilt toward creativity-for-profit, and the conversations surrounding artists’ intellectual property–not just in Western or more-U.S.-centric musical spaces, but also Latin and Korean music, both of which are experiencing their own renaissance in the United States and elsewhere. Her work as an attorney, Ribiero says, has taught her that being a fan of a particular artist or celebrity isn’t the carte blanche to infringe on their IP that many of them might believe it is, but also that an artist coming after groups of fans with legal action poses a different set of professional risks–and is therefore less common than one might think.

“It’s always complicated when a company has to take action against a fan, because after all this is the person that you want to reach,” she says. “You want to have them on your side, and some industries are so fan-oriented that the cost of losing a fan over an IP infringement claim might not just be worth it.”

Ribeiro explains that there are notable outliers to this, particularly video game development giant Nintendo. The company is notorious in gamer circles for their near-zero tolerance for fanmade projects that utilize their IP, along with any online streams of such projects.

“I think each case is unique,” she says, having added that she isn’t much of a gamer herself. “Nintendo, and how they deal with commercial properties, are very different from how other companies deal with them, especially nowadays when fandom is such a precious asset, and people invest so much in building fan experiences and in attracting and nurturing fanbases.”

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To put it lightly, fan “experiences” are the backbone of careers built by the likes of Swift, Korean pop sensations such as  BTS (along with Korean music’s next generation of acts), and a growing number of musicians and entertainers who — with mixed results — attempt to squeeze every ounce of potential from the foundations of fandom subcultures. Entire news cycles are now built on aggregating content about pop culture’s biggest names, with Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the U.S., recently hiring and onboarding its inaugural full-time Taylor Swift and Beyoncé reporters. The move seemingly takes a page out of sports journalism, where it’s common for beat reporters to cover specific major-league teams or individual athletes full-time.

Chicago-based realtor Michelle Basiorka describes herself as someone who’s big on fan “experiences”. As a result, she created The Swiftie Shangri-La, a Taylor Swift-inspired AirBnB located in Nashville, Tennessee.

“This is before I even knew she was doing an Eras Tour,” Basiorka tells Hollywood.com. Even before acquiring the property, she says, “I wanted to do a bedroom in the style of the bedroom in the “Lover” music video, which we have now come to find actually represents her original eras. And I knew that for the outdoor space, I wanted to pay homage to the “You Need to Calm Down” music video.”

Basiorka anticipated The Swiftie Shangri-La would gain some traction online after it was made available for guests in 2023, but the internet virality and media attention it drew far exceeded her expectations. The property and its specific location, according to her, is something that just makes sense.

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“[Taylor Swift] goes hand in hand with Nashville, in my eyes, just as much as Dollywood,” she says, “I think what’s unique about Taylor … is that there’s so much lore involved in her music videos and from her music.”

That, Basiorka feels, is something no other artist has managed to as successfully. “It’s the reason we were able to make an AirBnB to the extent at which its done.”

As far the question of its legality, Basiorka believes she might be safe, considering her project is a labor of love and not directly music-related.

“{Taylor} is obviously not in the business of hospitality,” she explains, “It’s done in a way where it’s tasteful, and there’s a lot of love and a true Swiftie behind it. It’s apparent that it’s fanmade and we’re not trying to pass this off as an official Taylor project. I think if she saw it for herself, you know, she’d appreciate it.”


Dalia Abdelwahab is a music, entertainment and culture journalist based in the NYC Metropolitan Area. Her reporting focuses on identifying the intersections between how entertainment is produced and perceived in all its forms, and the state of our society and culture at every given moment. She also has experience with covering national news and foreign affairs.









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