PS: It is highly recommended to read this article whilst the dreamy song above plays.
You either know Taylor Swift or as impossible as it is, you are living on Saturn. Now, whether you like her music or not is an entirely different question. I, for one, consider myself a real Swiftie, who’s yet to go to one of her jaw dropping live concerts. The kind that is typically let’s-sell-one-of-my-kidney-level-of-pricey!
I want to be transparent – I’m writing this article with a very selfish intention, that may or may not have been inspired by late night binge watching of my Taylor Swift favorites. The goal is to bring back folks living on Saturn and naysayers and convert them into avid Swift fans. I suspect it’s going to be an easy-peasy job. Hop along on this smooth Maserati ride!
Get it? Oh, you will!😉
Eyes full of stars, hustling for the good life
Taylor Swift is a 33 year old singer-songwriter, known for her country-folk-pop inspired music. Born in Pennsylvania to two bankers, she started her career as a 16 year old teen with Big Machine records and entered the major leagues via her debut album ‘Taylor Swift’, which is a 7 times certified platinum album. (Platinum is the certification awarded to music albums that have sold >1 million copies.)
In less than two decades, she has recorded 10 studio albums, re-recorded 2 albums, sold >100 million copies of her albums and won 12 Grammys. She is the first female artist to win ‘Album of the year’ thrice and the 4th artist in the history of music, preceded only by legends such as Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and Paul Simon. The ones who weaved magic with melodies such as, “Fly me to the moon, Let me play among the stars”, “No new year’s day to celebrate, No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away” and “First thing I remember, When you came into my life, I said I’m gonna get that girl no matter what I do”.
Now if that isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is?
People like Taylor Swift always seem like an enigma, like a force of nature that only a few can possibly dream of being. But her life story and therefore, the music she creates is distinctly relatable and powerful. The authenticity that she brings to her music is what draws everyone to it.
Is it then a surprise that 53% of adults living in the U.S.A, ~ 130 million, put themselves in the Taylor Swift fan bucket? Of which, every 16 in 100, consider themself a Swiftie, an avid fan! This is not to say, she does not have an international fan base. Recently, she became the leading female artist to have 89 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
The sheer number, to put it plainly, is equivalent to the number of fans in ~4,400 cricket stadiums!
Speaking of packed stadiums, did you know that Taylor’s most recent ERAS 52-date concert tour crashed the Ticketmaster website? The demand for tickets was so much that when tickets went on sale to ‘verified fans’ on Ticketmaster, its website basically crashed! On a single day alone, 2 million ERAS tickets were sold on Ticketmaster – an unparalleled zenith of ticket sales in their history! The staggering volume of Taylor’s fans is indeed no joke.
“We invited a million and a half on that day to come and buy those tickets, but it’s kind of like having a party. Everybody crashed that door at the same time with 3.5 billion requests,” Live Nation’s CEO, Michael Rapino, later explained.
Untouchable, burning brighter than the sun
Taylor Swift’s unmatched talent, enchanting music, business savviness, an army of devoted fans, all converge to forge a lucrative empire. (If you have enjoyed what you read so far, you will likely fall in love with our article on the K-Pop band BTS)
Her net worth, as of 2022 was $570 million. As you can imagine, a big chunk of her wealth comes from record breaking album sales, concerts (more on this later) and movies/endorsements. But, the most astounding revelation was that she has a sprawling real estate portfolio worth $150 million.
From luxury condos & estate in Tennessee, a 12,000 sq feet beachfront property in Rhode Island, duplex and townhouse in Tribeca to the historic 11,000 sq feet Goldwyn mansion in Beverly hills, Taylor swift’s real estate portfolio puts the word remarkable to shame.
Apart from indulging in exquisite properties, Taylor has three adorable cats – Meredith Grey, Olivia Benson and Benjamin Button. If the latest Ultimate rich pet list is anything to go by, her cat Olivia is the 3rd richest pet in the world, with a net worth of $97 million, translates to ~ INR 797 cr! It’s fortune comes from starring alongside Taylor in music videos, a cute merchandise line and via cameos in ads, like those of DirectTV, Diet Coke and Ned Sneakers.
Taylor has had multiple successful albums. The kind that shatters industry records. The kind that brings things back from the dead.
For example, her latest album ‘Midnight’, released last year, generated close to $230 million in sales for her label Universal, i.e., accounted for 3% of Universal’s revenues from recorded music. During the first week of release, ‘Midnight’ had 1.5 million equivalent sales in the U.S.A – the highest weekly sales in 7 years for any album.
What did Taylor do differently? Ironically, she bet on what seemed like a limping horse, aka, physical media such as CD, vinyl and cassettes. In the U.S.A, where streaming accounts for 84% of recorded music revenue, Taylor actively promoted her album’s CD, vinyl and cassette versions. The thesis being that there is a niche space of music connoisseurs/her fans who want to own her music in a tangible way.
Voila, it worked! 62% of her first week sales came in through vinyl and CDs. As of the end of 2022, ‘Midnight’ derived ~ 1 million in pure sales from vinyl.
Guess what, it has been over 30 years since any album has achieved such record-breaking vinyl sales.
As per usual, Midnight’s success on streaming platforms was not far behind either.
Sidebar – Pure sales, refers to the purchase of either a physical or a digital album. In other words it represents a 1:1 ratio of purchases vs. sales recorded. Alternately, when streaming comes into picture, we talk of album equivalent sales, where an album needs to have a total of 1,500 song streams (Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, YouTube, etc.) before a sale is counted.
The night you danced like you knew our lives would never be the same
Taylor Swift’s concerts are often considered a coveted bucket list affair, with Swifties claiming it to be an almost amnesia-inducing, out of body experience! One of the most exciting segments of the tour is Taylor’s inclusion of surprise songs in her setlist, i.e., two new tracks that aren’t played during any other concert of the tour.
For Taylor, her promoter and her team, these tours bring in a torrential rain of dollars. Currently, Taylor is on her much anticipated ERAS tour, which is expected to rake in an astronomical total of $714 million. Taylor and her team will get $620 million or more (>100% of revenue from tickets).
According to Billboard, assuming an average ticket price of $215, Taylor’s 52 date concert, which will each seat close to 52,863 Swifties, will gross around ~$590 million in ticket sales. Compared to her last 2018 tour “Reputation”, this marks a 71% surge in ticket sales. Ticketmaster, the intermediary that enabled ERAS ticket sales, will pocket close to $13 million in fees.
Now, each venue is set to sell 30,000 pieces of merchandise. At an average price of $80 per item, that translates to a total of $124 million in merch sales for the full tour. Of which, 30% would go to the venue and the remaining $87 million would go to – Taylor ($43 million) and her promoter ($44 million).
Taylor’s music tours are a massive operation. They include large scale sets that take 2-3 weeks to build, numerous costume changes, backup dancers and her entire team. There’s supposedly a trucking fleet of at least 90 trucks that stay with the tour, during the entire time. As one estimate suggests, logistics and transport expenses alone can account for more than $30 million.
Katherine McLaughlin from AD writes, “There’s a joke circling on the internet that no two photos from the show look exactly the same. Some were even snapped mere minutes apart—and you’d never know they all came from the same show. What starts in a hazy pink, cotton candy dreamscape ends in a sultry, sparkling twilight—with plenty of undulating stops in the middle, from ethereal fairytale woods to the energetic skyscrapers of the concrete jungle.”
Therefore, of the net $620 million that Taylor and the team would receive, typically expenses such as taxes, venue rental, logistics, salary for crew etc., will range between 20-25% of her income.
To put it very plainly, in August when the tour ends after having run for 5 months – Taylor will become the highest-grossing female touring artist of all time, with a gigantic pile of $465-$496 million wealth, on top of her current net worth.
If you think that’s as far as the money flows for the ERAS tour, you’d be fooling yourself!
From a macro economy point of view, fans attending her concerts are making a whole trip out of it, thus contributing to local businesses and generating wealth influx. Take for example, Chicago, which experienced a ridiculously enormous surge in hotel room occupancy during her concert, with ~44k rooms occupied on Friday and Saturday each.
A recent report by QuestionPro suggests that, ERAS tour likely to generate an incredible almost-unfathomable $4.6 billion in consumer spending in the U.S.A alone.
Wow! Just wow!
Does it now make sense as to why Taylor is loved and cherished by many, for many different reasons?
Taylor Swift is no longer simply a singer-songwriter-performer. In many ways, Taylor Swift is a corporation – being consciously built in a phenomenal manner. One can only wait in awe to witness the unravelling of this multi-million, potentially billion dollar business.
To quote Taylor herself, “It might be the end of a decade, but it’s most definitely the start of an age”