Few artists have ever achieved the status (or should I say Reputation) currently held by Taylor Swift. Her success is, quite simply, difficult to describe, but this is me trying.

Swift currently sits as the most streamed artist on Spotify, with staggering monthly listener figures in excess of 109 million. Swift recently broke the record for both the most Spotify streams in a day and the most album streams in a day on October 27th when she released 1989 (Taylor’s Version).

Swift’s credentials are further bolstered by a whole host of chart and award records; Swift has been nominated for Song of the Year at the Grammys more times than any other female artist, in 2021 Swift became the first female artist to win Album of the Year three times, and she is the highest earning female artist in the past decade. These are but a few of Swift’s many accomplishments, needless to say, the list could go on Evermore.

Swift is currently in the midst of her Eras Tour, which is set to become one of the highest-grossing tours of all time. The tour will see her perform on five continents, with more than 150 countries scheduled so far, including three sold-out shows at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium in June 2024.

Economic Impact of Taylor Swift

The US leg of Swift’s Eras Tour took place over the summer and, far from being a cruel summer for the artist, the numbers were nothing short of impressive. The US leg of her tour, so far, has grossed approximately $780 million.

The Eras Tour is well on its way to overtake Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, which grossed over $939 million. Furthermore, her Eras Tour film dominated the US Box Office, grossing almost $100 million in its first three days, making it the highest-grossing concert film of all time.

The economic impact of the Eras Tour goes well beyond the ticket sales. The Eras Tour is projected to generate close to $5 billion (approximately €4.5 billion) in consumer spending in the United States alone. For comparison, that is nearly €1 billion more than the budget for the Department of Further Education, Research, Innovation and Science in 2022.

A study of US Eras Tour attendees found that, on average, fans spent $1,300 per event. Perhaps an even more staggering statistic is that 91% of attendees said that they would do it all again. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia credited her for May being the best month for the city’s hotels since the pandemic.

How Swift Mastered the Digital Era

The development of digital streaming has changed not only the way we listen to music but also its composition. According to the Financial Times, the average UK number one single in the late 1990s was four minutes and twenty seconds in length and has reduced steadily since then. Similarly, the average time it takes to reach a song’s chorus has fallen to about 40 seconds, and the names of number-one singles have become shorter.

This is largely due to the fact that on streaming platforms, such as Spotify, royalty payments are only triggered after 30 seconds of listening. Therefore, the digital streaming era puts a premium on instant appeal.

Swift’s song Anti-Hero, which spent 8 weeks at number one in the charts, the longest of any of Swift’s songs, is perfectly suited to the streaming era requirements. The song has a five-second musical introduction before Swift starts singing and reaches its chorus after 45 seconds. The song clocks in at three minutes and 20 seconds.

Bucking Trends

In a digital era, Swift has also bucked the trend when it comes to physical record sales. Swift’s most recent album release, 1989 (Taylor’s Version), outperformed the original 1989 both digitally and in physical albums sold. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) sold 693,000 copies on vinyl in its first week, the largest week of sales for that format since at least 1991. A further 554,000 copies were sold on CD.
Swift’s impressive physical album sales are largely the result of cunning marketing. Swift creates different editions, reissues, and extras that make fans want to collect more and more copies of her albums in different forms.

For example, for Swift’s Midnights album, four of the five different album covers fit together to form a clock face, while another comes with bonus tracks, making buying different versions of the album a necessity for true Swifties.

Swifties themselves are a huge element of Taylor Swift’s success. Swift is excellent at fostering her fandom. The artist was one of the first major acts to use social media as a way to directly communicate with fans and has hosted secret listening parties at her house for upcoming album releases as well as meet-and-greets during her sold-out tours.

Swift has perfected the art of monetising “super fans” in a digital era which makes it difficult for fans to directly buy music from their favourite artist.

Whether or not you are a lover of Swift’s music, it is difficult to deny the impressiveness of what Swift has achieved over the past number of years. Swift has managed to successfully change from her humble beginnings as a country singer to becoming one of the biggest pop stars in the world.

Swift’s personal transformation has had, and will continue to have, knock-on effects on the music industry as a whole.

Mark O’Rourke – Features Editor