There’s something you need to know about me: I am a huge Taylor Swift fan. So much so that I’ve successfully weaseled my way into transforming that interest into content for Gizmodo. It’s also important for me to point out that I get a lot of pitches here at Gizmodo—that’s not a flex, that’s just a fact. With that said, I was perusing my email just last week when a subject line caught my eye: “My casket was featured in Taylor Swift’s funeral-themed music video.” Color me intrigued.
For some context, Taylor Swift released her hotly anticipated tenth studio album Midnights alongside the music video for her lead single titled “Anti-Hero.” The track features the singer-songwriter self-loathing her way through her insecurities during the verses and choruses, but the bridge features a vignette of one of Swift’s biggest fears. “I have this dream my daughter-in-law kills me for the money / She thinks I left them in the will,” Swift croons. The music video—which was written and directed by Swift herself—takes this imagery quite literally by depicting Swift’s funeral.
Swift’s copper-colored coffin is from Titan Casket, a Seattle-based company that prides itself on direct-to-consumer caskets and is the company behind the aforementioned email that appeared in my inbox. The company told me that they didn’t seek me out specifically—despite being the resident Swiftie on staff here at Gizmodo—but emailed me randomly during a round of press after Swift’s music video was released. Gizmodo is no stranger to product reviews, but we’ve never reviewed a casket. Regardless, this felt like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So I asked Titan Casket if they would be willing to send me a casket—they happily obliged.
Titan Casket’s business model is one predicated on a groundbreaking piece of legislation from the Federal Trade Commission. The Funeral Rule was first enacted in 1984 and requires funeral homes to accept arrangements from outside vendors, preventing homes from effectively monopolizing the industry. What that means is that while you can purchase a casket directly from a funeral home, you can opt to buy a cheaper one from a provider like Titan Casket with no pushback from the home hosting the viewing. The Orion Series from Titan Casket will run you $1,200, and Titan Casket CEO Scott Ginsberg says that funeral providers will typically charge at least double that. After calling a few funeral homes around the New York City area, the lowest competing price I could find was around $5,000.
Ginsberg brought the casket to G/O Media headquarters in Midtown Manhattan this week so we could try it out. I was gunning for the copper Orion Series casket like the one in the “Anti-Hero” music video, but due to increased demand following the release, Gizmodo scored a bright red Orion instead. During the delivery, I learned that caskets have a lot more bells and whistles than I originally thought.
Ginsberg gave me a quick tutorial on how to use the casket, beginning with how to unlock it. Yes, caskets can lock if you weren’t aware (I wasn’t). The casket has a long bolt that runs along the length of it that catches onto small anchors attached to the side opposite the hinges. An Allen wrench will unlock it with a little elbow grease via a small hole at the foot end that’s covered with a bolt. Once unlocked, the Orion opens up to a silky white interior that includes a pillow and a platform that a corpse can rest on—this platform can be raised and lowered depending on the size of the body with the same Allen key that unlocks it. The casket also has incredibly robust hinges to support each of the two lids when they are upright. For viewing, the hinges need to be pushed inward in order to keep the lid in its opened position and pulled outward to close the casket. If the hinges aren’t properly handled, they can break, which Ginsberg told me is something that casket novices typically overlook.
To test the effectiveness of the Orion, I did what any good casket dweller should do—I took a nap. Today I forwent my afternoon coffee for a 30-minute cat nap in the casket. The casket was initially quite uncomfortable, which makes sense because, well, its for dead people, but I did find myself enjoying the snug fit. All that said, I did find myself able to doze off for a brief moment.
So how did Titan Casket get involved with Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album?
“We had sold this exact casket to a production company back in July for a music video, and we had no idea what that was for. We often sell caskets to entertainment or film companies just because we’re online and we’re a brand in a brand-less space,” said Titan Casket COO and co-founder Joshua Siegel. “One of our employees had woken up early to watch the [‘Anti-Hero’] video and seen that there was a casket that looked like ours.”
Siegel said that Titan Casket has never sold one of its products to a production that involved someone as big as Swift and the small business was ecstatic over the exposure. “This brand is fighting for consumer rights and trying to get families options, so it was this nice moment of validation,” Siegel explained. During the week before the video premiered, Siegel said that Titan Casket stood before the Federal Trade Commission, asking them to modernize the Funeral Rule by requiring funeral homes to post casket prices online. The FTC voted unanimously to update the law.
Swift’s audience devoured her new album Midnights, which broke sales, charts, and streaming records across the board—the ‘Anti-Hero’ music video alone has 47 million views at the time of writing this article. Titan Casket’s exposure to this whopping number of eyeballs would be a gift to any small business, but Titan Casket’s mission isn’t just to sell a product, it’s to connect families mourning a loved one to a vital resource that could save them thousands of dollars during an incredibly emotionally exhausting time. In a world with an increasing number of direct-to-consumer startups like Warby Parker, Dollar Shave Club, and Tuft & Needle that are circumventing the middleman to save money, Titan Casket is circumventing the middleman to save stress, and saving people money in the process.