If you’re a pop star, bowing at the altar of iHeartRadio — the streaming radio service that puts on a huge festival in Las Vegas every year and also owns a ton of Top 40 stations in the United States — has become a mandatory step for getting airplay. Visiting the semi-regular iHeartMedia Summit in Los Angeles serves a twofold purpose for mainstream artists: It both shows the programmers and string-pullers that you’re, if only for an afternoon, grateful for everything they do/have done/could possibly do for you, and it also allows you to — and this seems obvious — play new music for the assembled executives to demonstrate how and why you’ll still be a viable hitmaker in the coming months. In other words, you want to kiss some feet and prove your worth in the same breath.
That brings us to the in-progress iHeart Summit, an event that’s been taking place since yesterday morning on the West Coast. According to social media updates, several singers and groups have appeared already (each major label and imprint gets about half an hour of stage time) including Iggy Azalea (who debuted her upcoming comeback single, “Team”), Fifth Harmony (ostensibly hitting the ground early for their still-untitled sophomore album), Ariana Grande (intriguingly armed with a guitar), and Demi Lovato (there to promote Confident ballad “Stone Cold”).
To be clear, those are all huge players in pop right now, but another, bigger, industry figure also made an appearance according to reports, suggesting that maybe, possibly — though it’s certainly too early to confirm — she may have new music to promote in the not-so distant future. Though 1989 is merely a year-and-change old (released in late October 2014), Taylor Swift still found the time to appear at the Summit yesterday, where she didn’t perform but did take the stage to thank those in attendance for their support.
On the surface, that’s simply a smart gesture of goodwill; radio played the hell out of 1989, and to some degree it continues to do so with her recent (and likely last) single from the project, the Jack Antonoff co-written “Out of the Woods.” The beaten-into-ubiquity album’s ceaseless radio promotion certainly did wonders for her exposure, tour grosses, and album sales, so a simple, “Hey, I rolled out of bed and showed up to wave and smile for you!” feels like a tactful, kind-hearted move.
But it’s also curious for someone showing up in a room filled with radio programmers 13 months after the release of your most recent body of work. Swift’s admitted already that she needed time off following her globe-spanning 1989 tour —it wrapped up on December 12 in Melbourne after seven full months on the road across the world — but it’s not unfathomable to think that the wildly savvy singer-songwriter is already plotting #T6. Anything less would be underestimating a game-changing pop star.
Of note: iHeartTheaterLA — the official venue for the summit, which has been tweeting out information over the past 24-plus hours about the goings-on inside — has remained mum on Swift’s appearance. Perhaps it was simply a drive-by expression of gratitude, but stay woke. Swift might have something brewing.