Taylor Swift Also Spurring Sheet Music Sales

Songs Being Transformed Into Choral and Band Formats

Taylor Swift isn’t just stuffing the cash registers at record stores. She’s also selling a ton of songbooks and sheet music as well.

“Her crossover appeal is really amazing,” says Larry Morton, president of the Hal Leonard Corp., the mammoth print music company based in Milwaukee. “She’s very special. She really has been one of the biggest surprises on the sheet music side. We’ve done individual sheets, both physical and downloads, to all of her main songs.”

Morton reports that Hal Leonard released the piano, vocal and guitar matching folio to Swift’s debut CD, Taylor Swift, in September 2007. (A matching folio is a songbook that contains arrangements of all the songs in a particular album.)

“It did fairly well at first,” Morton says, “but not great big numbers. But as we went into ’08, she just exploded.”

This week, Hal Leonard will release the matching folio to Swift’s new album, Fearless, at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) convention in Anaheim, Calif. “It will probably be the biggest-selling album we’ll have for the first half of ’09,” Morton predicts.

As Morton hears them, Swift’s songs are perfect for spurring sheet music sales.

“What makes her music so good for us is the catchy melodies and playable music,” he says. “Someone can sit down and play it on a piano or strum it on a guitar. There are memorable hooks to the songs, and the lyrics are great. … The fact that she writes and co-writes her own songs says a lot about her.”

And there’s a personal angle, too, Morton explains.

“I have a 14-year-old daughter who lives and breathes Taylor Swift,” he says. “Young girls really identify with her. Her message and her songs really reach out to them.

“If you look at who tomorrow’s musicians are, a lot of them are young kids. They’re 12, 13, maybe up to 16 and 17. They’re ready to play. They’re buying music books and trying to figure out how these songs work.”

In addition to the choral arrangements of Swift’s “Love Story” and “White Horse” already out, Hal Leonard will soon release two different band arrangements of medleys of Swift’s songs. “They’re all going to sell well,” Morton says. “The target market is junior high and high school.”

Morton declines to give specific sales totals, but he says the Taylor Swift matching folio was among Hal Leonard’s Top 5 sellers in 2008.

Print arrangements of all Swift’s hits are available as digital downloads, which, as Morton points out, allow buyers to “transpose the music on the fly.” But he notes that physical sheets and songbooks still significantly outsell the digital ones.

Morton says sheet music sales have not been impaired by the steep decline in record stores. Hal Leonard products, he says, are available in 10,000 stores in the U. S., including the Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstore chains, music instrument stores and online via Amazon.com and Sheet Music Plus.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.