The prerelease security plan around Taylor Swift’s 1989 was not a complete success – the album leaked three days before its Oct. 27 street date — but it may have been the most elaborate, at least for an album that more than a few people knew existed (see the gold standard in album security, aka Beyoncé).
“I have a lot of maybe-/maybe-not-irrational fears of security invasion, wiretaps, people eavesdropping,” Swift told Jimmy Kimmel on Oct. 23, adding that for months the only copy of the album in existence was on her phone. At a surprise September listening party for approximately 20 fans at Swift’s home in Los Angeles, loud heavy metal music was blasted out of the dwelling’s windows in an effort to foil any supersonic microphones lurking nearby. Otherwise, the album reportedly lived in a safe at her Nashville management office.
For reviews, journalists were only able to hear the album through headphones on an iPad that was flown in by a management executive (accompanied, at least in New York, by a bodyguard named Sharkey) — after signing nondisclosure agreements — in order to avoid eavesdropping and surreptitious recording.
While bootlegging has plagued the music business virtually since its inception, extreme security measures around advance recordings generally date back to the advent of mass-market cassette duplication in the 1980s.