The phenomenon, so overwhelming, is almost inexplicable. How, when, and why has an American country singer in her early thirties become the biggest money-making machine on the planet? At what point, after being seen by more than three million fans in the last year, has she put $1.100 billion into her bank account? How, according to the Federal Reserve, has the U.S. economy and much of the global economy gotten back on its feet? Taylor Swift (Pennsylvania, USA, 1 years old) is not going to reveal the secret. It's airtight. With the exception of Time magazine, which has just named her person of the year, it has been years since she has given interviews, chatted with the press, or sent out press releases. Her almost 020 songs, which she has composed and sung herself during her 33-year career and has placed on 250 albums, speak for her; There are also some scarce publications on his social networks, with 17 million followers. But to understand why 10 has become his year, you have to look at the facts and data. In recent months, Swift has shown that she is much more than a singer: she is an artist of numbers.
If you do the math and only with Spotify, it's as if every inhabitant of the whole world had listened to three of his songs. The platform, where she dethrones Bad Bunny as the most listened to artist — for the first time in a decade a woman occupies the throne — assigns her 26.100 billion listens. Amazon and Apple (where she has doubled her 2022 figures; the platform names her artist of the year) also place her as the most listened to of 2023. An unfathomable wave that can be explained by two arguments: the music that the artist has composed and sung for 17 years, of which she has re-recorded several old albums; and his successful The Eras Tour, which began in March and has just ended, and will resume in February 2024 until, in principle, November. All supported by a loyal fan base, who observe, analyze and, of course, buy everything, because she treats them as if they were family.
This immense tour, with which he has given 66 concerts (and has 85 left), has caused earthquakes, economic and real: it has raised 1,300 million dollars and generated around 5,500, but also in July, in Seattle, USA, a seismic activity meter calculated that his fans had caused an earthquake of 2.3 degrees. "In Chicago, she broke the record for hotel occupancy in the history of the state [Illinois], with 44,000 rooms," says Dr. Alfredo Valadez, professor and business researcher at Cetys University in Tijuana, northern Mexico, in a brief summary of the artist's economic activity for this article entitled Swiftconomics: An Economic and Musical Power. Because yes, universities also study Swift. Berkeley, Stanford and Harvard will teach about it next year, where they will review its letters, its literature or its cultural impact.
There's not a week that goes by without a record or an achievement from Swift. He isthe first person in the world of entertainment, of any category, to occupy the prestigious cover of Time magazine since its creation in 1927, and through which 14 U.S. presidents or three popes have passed. They claim that she is "the narrator and hero of her own story." Forbes, which, like Bloomberg, estimates her to have a fortune of $1.100 billion (double that of 2022), places her as the fifth most powerful woman in the world, also the first woman in the entertainment industry to enter that ranking. People names her most exciting person of the year.
250 songs in 10 eras
Much of the blame lies with her impressive tour, The Eras Tour, an unparalleled musical, artistic, technical and logistical display that has taken her to the United States (with 53 concerts in 20 cities), and, for the first time, to Latin America: Mexico, Argentina and Brazil (with 13 concerts in four cities). With an average of 60,000 spectators per city, that means that it has been seen by around four million people. In what the trade publication Pollstar calls "the biggest show on Earth", every concert, every night, is unique... and the same as the previous one. He sings 44 songs in exactly the same order, except for two surprise songs out of the other 200 he has released during his career. She dedicates herself body and soul, because she knows how expensive and complex it is to get tickets: she prepared for the tour by singing the setlist on a treadmill and, after the performance, she stays in bed, barely speaking, until the next one. "I go on that stage sick, hurt, heartbroken, uncomfortable or stressed. Right now it's part of my identity as a human being. If someone has bought a ticket to see me, I'll play except in cases of force majeure," he told Time.
With that show, Swift wanted to return to stadiums after the pandemic. In the beginning, each new album involved touring until covid hit. In the summer of 2019 he released his album Lover, which he would promote in the summer of 2020 (for example, in Spain he was the star of the Mad Cool festival). With the break, she changed the pace: she released two surprise albums in a row (Folklore in July 2020; in December, Evermore) and a third in October 2022, Midnights, with a much more personal sound – she is a magician of genres, who changes non-stop, another reason for her success. They became bestsellers. "I think that gave her a credibility that she didn't have," says British publishing marketing expert Kat McKenna, author of the book about the artist and fan phenomenon Look What You Made Me Do, the title of a Swift song, which will be released in the spring. "There was always someone who said, 'But she's just a pop singer.' And I think he put out those two albums with no obligations. He wrote those two albums, which were really perfect, and all of a sudden a new wave of people came in."
During the pandemic, he gave new music to his locked up listeners; at the opening, he has given them 150 three-and-a-half-hour concerts around the world in which to listen to those songs, those that were pending from Lover, those from the three new albums and those from the first six. She herself says in her concerts of The Eras Tour that when she proposed it it seemed crazy, but she wanted to review her 10 studio albums, her 17 years in music. The triple somersault couldn't have gone any better. Tickets disappear like candy at the door of a school; On the first day of sale in the U.S. alone, in November 2022, it placed more than 2.4 million. The average price is, according to Pollstar, $253; on resale, according to Fortune, of nearly $2,200. Every night Swift pockets about $13 million, Bloomberg estimates, which has earned her $700 million, beating predictions from Billboard (which gave her $590 million) andForbes ($620 million). She will have about 350 left clean. Hence, she is already, officially, a billionaire. And what's left: the Washington Post, led by Professor Peter Cohan, from Babson College in Massachusetts, calculates that, if he keeps 85% of the tour's profits, the usual percentage, he could exceed 4,000 million dollars.
It's not just what the singer achieves, it's the impact she has wherever she goes, where everything she touches turns to gold. Alan Gin, an associate professor at the University of California's San Diego business school, has calculated that if each ticket costs about $300, each attendee has an average spend that goes up to $1,300. Travel, lodging, food, and clothing take another thousand dollars with ease. Because you're not a good Taylor fan if you're not dressed inspired by one of her eras or her looks, and she's wearing a bunch of friendship bracelets, homemade bracelets made with beads, which have also had a sales boom, up to 500%, according to Time. "Swift helps the local economy and supports a lot of businesses in the area," says the professor by videoconference, and affirms that the only artist to whom he could compare right now is Beyoncé with her Renaissance tour, which according to the promoter Live Nation has grossed about 579 million dollars in its fifty concerts. "During the pandemic, there was an opportunity to generate income, but not to spend it," says Gin, who also warns of this sometimes too joyful waste of leisure. "Young people are less aware of spending and saving."
A woman holds cards showing Taylor Swift depicted as Jesus Christ, the night before the concert she gave at the El Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires on November 8. SARAH PABST (New York Times / Contact)
The truth is that every time the vocalist sets foot in a city, millions are guaranteed. California's economic watchdog estimates that his six concerts in August brought in $320 million for the state. Even the Federal Reserve has acknowledged that its activity will inject around $5 billion into the U.S. economy. In July, its chairman, Jerome Powell, said that the phenomenon of Swift, as well as that of the movie Barbie, with more than $000.1 billion grossed, were worth watching. In June, Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman came as a surprise that Swift didn't make even more money. But back then she wasn't yet a billionaire, nor had she added more and more concerts to her schedule (and the ones that remain, probably. Only she knows.)
Her global leap, to which she is not accustomed, will give her a lot of joy. Until now, its incursions beyond the United States and Canada were limited: especially to the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan. His first time in Latin America has been a great success. Arturo Vega, president of the Chamber of Commerce, Services and Tourism in Mexico City, explains by phone that the artist "left a very positive mark, of about 1,010 or 1,012 million pesos," about 60 million dollars, in her four concerts in August. It was 25% more than anticipated. "It had an impact not only on the local consumer sector, which is what usually happens with these concerts, but also on the tourism sector," he says, since fans from all over the country and others came to the Mexican capital. "It was a unique event in the last decade. It has a very large and very active audience; That was seen, both in hotels and restaurants or local businesses that before, during and after the event were at full capacity."
For Vega, Swift's visit to the capital was very positive. "These types of shows help us not only to solidify the economic ecosystem, but also at a cultural, social and tourist level. And I feel like they give another identity to the cities in which they take place. They start to see it not just as a place full of buildings, but as a place to share an experience," he says. It is normal for cities, such as in Arizona, to be temporarily rebaptized with the name of the artist; or that some rulers even ask him to pass through their municipalities or countries. In July, Justin Trudeau begged Swift not to put him through "another cruel summer" ("Cruel Summer" is one of his most famous songs) and to stop by Canada. She has fulfilled nine concerts so far. At one of the six in Toronto, where about 250,000 seats were available, more than 30 million people registered for tickets. The many who didn't, all over the globe, seem to have taken to the movies to see the star. His The Eras Tour hit theaters in October and has already become the best concert opening in theaters in the U.S. and in the 94 countries where it has been released. With a production cost of between €10 million and €20 million (without platforms or production companies behind it: it's all up to the singer), it has grossed €250 million, only behind the €261 million of Michael Jackson's This Is It in 2009, according to the specialized film media Variety.
Taylor Swift during the concert of her The eras tour on August 24 in Mexico City. Hector Vivas (TAS23/Getty)
Swift has only played once in Spain: on March 19, 2011 at the then Palacio de Deportes de la Comunidad de Madrid. There was room for 15,000 people; 4,000 came. On May 30, the story will be different. The capital is looking forward to the arrival of Swift, with the opening of the Santiago Bernabeu after its 900 million euro renovation. "We are very happy that he has chosen Madrid," confesses the head of Tourism at the City Council, Almudena Maíllo, over the phone. "Two things are valued. First of all, the venue, because it's going to be the start up of the Bernabéu, and it's going to have a knock-on effect. And then Madrid is the gateway to Europe, the connectivity it has is important, especially with the United States and Latin America," says the councillor. "Thanks to Taylormania and the good times that live music is going through, to the hotel capacity of the city... It makes it a phenomenon for which we are very happy, betting on being a destination capable of attracting events. We are aware that events of the quality of a Taylor Swift concert have a very important return. It's not just the day of the concert, but the before, during, after... and remembrance."
Stolen discs, re-recorded discs
But Swift's income doesn't just come from this tour. There's also his music. It's a musical enterprise forged with time, power, and a left hand. If Bloombergthought in October that his streams had contributed $120 million to his fortune, now Billboard believes that this year alone and with Spotify he has earned $100 million. But that's also because she herself left the platform in 2014 complaining about her unfair payments. He returned in 2017 when he deemed them valid. Also in 2015, he threatened to leave Apple Music because he didn't want to pay royalties to artists during the user's three-month trial period. After his threat, the company reconsidered. It is also that her model is different from that of other singers: she earns more, since she has the masters (original recordings) of eight of her 10 albums, and she has more rights, being a vocalist but also a composer. Upon signing with Universal in 2018, he negotiated higher royalties. There's a reason.
It all started in her native Pennsylvania, when Taylor Swift began to sing from a very young age with a natural talent that the perfect tandem formed by her parents, Andrea, a marketing manager at an advertising agency, and Scott, who became vice president of Merrill Lynch, knew how to recognize. The little girl wanted country, and they took her to the cradle of country. Scott asked for his company to be moved to the Nashville, Tennessee office, and there, singing in a coffee shop, she was discovered by a producer, Scott Borchetta, and in 2006, before turning 16, she released her first and self-titled album with her production company, Big Machine. The rest is history. That debut was the beginning of nine other albums that have gone from country to pop to indie. British writer Michael Francis Taylor is the author of two biographies about Taylor Swift, the most recent being The Brightest Star from just two years ago, published by New Haven Publishing. A connoisseur of the artist, he believes that she is "the best lyricist of the last decades", as he says by phone from his home in Suffolk. "He's right up there with Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan," he says. 51 million records sold support his theory.
Since then, Andrea and Scott, who have been divorced since 2011, have continued to be their daughter's guides and business partners. Taylor Swift S.A. is a huge family business spread across a conglomerate of companies that bear the artist's name, initials or favorite number (13, like her date of birth, December 13, 1989). Hence, disappointment and sadness were shared with the family in the most complicated trance of Swift's professional life: in 2018, when she lost her music. Then Borchetta sold the entire Big Machine to businessman Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber's manager (among others) and archenemy of Swift for about $330 million, and the package included those masters, their copyrights, their lyrics, their videos and more material of the singer. According to the artist's version, she begged Borchetta to sell it to her, and if she didn't do so she wouldn't put it in Braun's hands. It didn't work. Goodbye to everything built since 2006.
Swift showed her anger and pain on the Tumblr platform, in a long letter where she talked about her "stolen" albums, as she always calls them, and accused Braun of taking over her songs: "The music I wrote on the floor of my room and the videos I dreamed of, that I paid for with my money, that I won by playing in bars, then in clubs, then in venues, then in stadiums." "Scooter has robbed me of my life's work, which I haven't been given a chance to buy. Basically, my musical legacy is about to be left in the hands of those who have wanted to dismantle it," he said. "Not even in my worst nightmares did I imagine that the buyer would be Scooter. Every time Scott Borchetta heard his name in my mouth, I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing, they both knew it. Controlling a woman who wouldn't want to associate with him. In perpetuity. That means forever." Not so much: he sold the artist's catalog just a year and a half later to an investment group called Shamrock Capital. It had cost him $140 million. He cashed in 405.
Then, through a legal loophole, from 2020 Swift managed to start re-recording all that material, because she did not have rights to the albums, but she did have rights to the composition of the songs. "The re-recording project is a huge accomplishment," says Kat McKenna. "I'm impressed by his business vision, to be able to think about it again, and so quickly; To the point that record labels have now put clauses in their contracts so that artists can't do that. But she does things that no one else has done." That's why he fought so hard for his royalties, and his music is the focus. You don't make money from ads, brands, or ad campaigns, because you haven't done them in years.
Taylor Swift on stage at the Más Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last November. TAS/Getty Images
Swift has already re-recorded four of those albums, which she has named the same but with the last name Taylor's Version: Fearless and Red, in 2021; and Speak Now and 1989, this 2023. The latter, released in October, managed to sell 1.7 million copies in a week, more than the 1.3 million of the 2014 original. It's the best album release, by any artist, since 2015. Fans, who cross several generations, recover them, buy them back and listen to them again with the current ones, managing to reposition them in the charts of hits and more talked-about. And they wait for them on the tour, closing the circle.
At 33 years old and a billion dollars, what is Taylor Swift left to do and accomplish? Is there a ceiling? She herself acknowledged in Time that, although she has been "raised and sunk by public opinion many times in the last 20 years," she is in perfect moment. "This is the proudest, the happiest thing I've ever felt, and the most creatively fulfilled and free thing I've ever been," she told the magazine. "Ultimately, we can think about it as much as we want, or try to overcomplicate it, but there's only one question: Do you have fun?" he asks. And she amuses and has fun, shaking the principles of the music industry.
Not even scholars such as Kat McKenna and Michael Francis Taylor are clear about it; only she'll be at the helm. His personal life has always influenced his musical and business decisions. This summer she began a romantic relationship with Travis Kelce, one of the most well-known, powerful and wealthiest players in the American football league, the NFL (he earns $14 million a year, a minutia compared to Swift). Something that puts her in the media spotlight of an audience that is not her own. According to a March Morning Consult poll, 53% of Americans say they are Swift supporters. Its fandom, 52% female and 48% male, in the U.S., "is largely made up of millennials, and leans toward the white race, the suburbs and the Democrats." Former professional Daniel Devesa, a game announcer for the American Football Federation in Spain and with two podcasts, is clear that "the NFL takes advantage of Taylor Swift's media pull". "The number of Swifties who are getting hooked, or at least interested, in the NFL since the arrival of the Taylor phenomenon is impressive. You only have to look at the case they make of him, the hype they give him... And the league feeds it, they are interested in it and they know that it can bring them a very large market," he explains. The cameras are constantly focusing on the games. "What a lot of these people don't know is the economic power that Taylor Swift has, what she drags and generates, and even if the football public doesn't know it, the league is not an idiot and takes advantage of it, in fact, it's going to cause it." So much so that even Kelce T-shirts have multiplied their sales by up to 400%.
She will return to the stage in February in Tokyo to continue through Singapore, Australia, France, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, back to the United States, Canada... in another 85 concerts until the end of November. It remains to be seen how much of a multi-million dollar impact that tour will have, and how long and where it can be extended. As for releasing new music, nothing is known. For now, she has two of her first six albums yet to be re-recorded: the first, Taylor Swift (2006), and the latest, the highly anticipated Reputation (2017). He still has to recover his name and his reputation. Symbolically, because having it, you already have it all.
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