Commentary

How Taylor Swift Is Saving Entertainment Biz All By Herself

During a summer of strikes, strife and uncertainty, one person is single-handedly saving entertainment and the economy: Taylor Swift. Between her Eras tour, merchandise, streaming music and theatrical documentary, Swift is a one-person revenue machine, earning billions for her business partners and cities across the country, and soon, the world.

In an unusual move, Swift isn’t reporting tour grosses, but analysts expect Eras to become the first billion-dollar concert tour by the time it ends in November 2024, surpassing Elton John’s farewell tour, which grossed about $900 million. Insiders estimate that a typical Eras concert grosses about $10 million. The host stadium takes 20%-30%, and then Swift pays out about half of the remainder in expenses, leaving her a $3.5-$4.0 million profit per night. Multiplied across 100 concerts, Swift walks away from the tour with $350-$400 million.

“But that’s not all!” Swift’s concerts are also merchandising bonanzas, with fans shelling out $75 for hoodies, $55 for long-sleeve shirts, and $45 for T-shirts. Concert executives estimate that Swift grosses over $2 million a night in merchandise sales, and sometimes closer to $3 million.

And then there’s streaming. As all Swifties know, their idol is re-recording all her Big Machine albums, and releasing them as “Taylor’s Version.” True fans listen only to this version, and not the originals recorded for her former label, purchased by archnemesis Scooter Braun, and sold to private equity. The Eras tour drives demand for these albums, and for the week ending June 15, Swift landed six albums in the Billboard Top 25. Many fans still buy her albums on vinyl and CD, and her last release, “Midnights,” sold nearly a million copies on vinyl last year, making it the best-selling physical album since 1991.

Soon, Swift will be saving cinema, too. An Eras concert documentary opens on October 13, and sources say that ticket pre-sales have already reached $65 million, with a $100 million opening weekend within sight. At a time when actors are on strike and movie releases are being postponed, the two-hour-and-45-minute “Eras” documentary could keep multiplexes alive until the holidays.

Economists estimate that the Eras tour will be responsible for $5 billion in consumer spending. The city of Chicago credited Eras for reviving its tourism industry. Traffic jams around concert venues cause delays of as much as 847%. Even a Federal Reserve paper credits the Eras tour with having a significant effect on the nation’s economy. And at a time of massive media layoffs, newspaper chain Gannett recently advertised for a full-time Taylor Swift reporter.

What can marketers learn from the Eras juggernaut?

*Consumers crave live events: In a digital/streaming/Zoom/Covid world, nothing beats coming together as a community for a major event, and the Eras tour provides this, complete with costumes, friendship bracelets and high-quality merchandise to remember the night and prove to friends that you were there.

*More is more: Swift’s concerts are three-hour, 44-song extravaganzas, spanning all the albums of her long and illustrious career. Tickets are expensive, but fans get their money’s worth, hearing all the music and seeing all the costumes from the many “eras” of Swift’s career.

*Exclusive content sells: Every night, Swift performs an exclusive song or two in a mini-acoustic set, with the goal of never repeating a song again on tour, “unless I mess it up so badly, that I have to do it over again in some other city.” Fans wait on pins and needles for the “Surprise Song(s),” and post them on social media.

Not every brand or artist can perform at Swift’s level, but all can learn from her playbook, to overcome “Bad Blood,” fill in “Blank Spaces,” and tell fans, “You Belong With Me.”

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