Shortcuts / 14 November 2023

The business of Taylor Swift (part 2)

In our last Squiz Shortcut, we talked about the road pop superstar Taylor Swift has taken to the top. That gave us a good sense of what she’s achieved, so in part 2, we take a look at why her music resonates with such a wide audience, how she’s set the business side up for success, and we’ll breakdown of her estimated $1.1 billion net worth.

Where do we start?
How about with the music itself? It goes without saying that Taylor is simply very good at what she does – and the experts agree…

What do they say?
There are a number of published studies and articles about the technical side of Taylor’s music – in one, the faculty of the College of Music at Harvard were asked to assess her artistry. Comments like “she has a terrific ear in terms of how words fit together” kept coming up… 

Her lyrics can be quite clever…
And she’s also pretty good at putting together melodies with the words – the Harvard article says that she pens “easily recognisable chord progressions and rhythmic setups”. That sounds highly technical, but long story short, she’s a master at writing catchy songs that really resonate with a wide audience. 

So her music is objectively good?
Yep, and as we touched on in part 1, Taylor has also built this fan base – there are some smarts behind that too.

Go on…
Well in that same Harvard article, the music experts put that down to the “strong social and emotional bond that people feel with her”. She’s built that by addressing where she is in her life via her songs so that we know – or at least feel like we know – where she’s at in her life. 

So things like her relationship breakups or hanging with her girl squad or blow-ups with celebrities… 
Exactly, and those all connect back to her identity and solidifies her fans’ connection to her. 

Who are her fans, anyway?
Taylor’s fandom crosses generations but many of her rusted-on fans have grown up with her over the past 2 decades. Her broader fan base are – like Taylor – Millennials. They were born between 1980-2000, so they’re aged between 23-43yo. They’re the biggest generation in American history – so even bigger than the Baby Boomers. 

And with those numbers comes influence… 
You’re bang on the money – just by sheer weight of numbers alone, Millennials have a huge impact on the economy and culture. But Taylor is also huge with Gen Z… That largely happened during the pandemic – there was a lot of TikTok content about her, and she was putting out albums when many weren’t, so a new generation was able to discover her pretty easily. 

What’s her appeal?
Her music really resonates across the generations because the things she sings about – like love, relationships and friendships – are things that many people also experience in their lives. Academics also say she’s aspirational – that is, she’s a role model because she’s successful and is seen as someone who sticks to their guns.

Like with the ‘Taylor’s Version’ albums?
That’s right – and it’s a factor in why the re-releases of her albums have been such a big hit. Her fans are happy to celebrate her triumph over adversity and that’s inspiring for a lot of young people. And older people too, by the way…

So how is this all working out for her career-wise?
To put it lightly: quite well… Taylor’s had a number of achievements in the music industry, including becoming the first woman solo artist to win the Album Of The Year Grammy 3 times and the first female artist in Spotify history to reach 100 million monthly listeners. 

And didn’t she just smash another record this week?
She sure did… She became the first songwriter to score 7 nominations for Song of the Year at the Grammys, breaking Lionel Ritchie and Paul McCartney’s tied record. And keep in mind she’s only 33yo – she’ll turn 34yo in December. 

What about the money?
Well, according to Bloomberg, her total net worth is US$1.1 billion, making her one of the few musicians to become a billionaire from their music alone. 

How does that break down?
At the top of the tree is the value of the music she’s released since 2019 – that’s $400 million of it. Not far behind that is what she’s earned from ticket sales from touring and merchandise – that’s $370 million. But that’s a conservative estimate… Her Era Tour – which she’s currently doing – has been massive, and it’s expected to become the first tour to rake in more than $1 billion.

That’s a lot…
It’s extraordinary – and it’s not just for her… These big events benefit the broader economy, too. One study said her first 53 US concerts this year added $4.3 billion to the country’s gross domestic product, or GDP. 

Wow… What else makes up Taylor’s net worth?
There’s also her streaming earnings from Spotify and YouTube – that’s about $200 million. And rounding it out is her personal property holdings – her 5 properties in Tennessee, California, New York City and Rhode Island are valued at $110 million. 

So the business of Swift is fruitful…
It sure is, and as Bloomberg says, “Taken together, Swift Inc is essentially a multinational conglomerate with the world’s most devoted customer base, its most charismatic CEO and significant economic power.” 

That’s a good way of putting it…
And one business analyst took that idea further, saying she really is a quintessential entrepreneur – that she “has great ideas, is able to scale her ideas and seems to be pretty risk-seeking”. We mentioned in part one that having parents who were well-equipped to deal with turning her into a star certainly helped, particularly her dad who had a background in finance. 

Remind me about him again?
That’s her father Scott – he was a longtime employee of Merrill, which is a wealth management and investment broker. He’s the registered investment adviser to The Swift Group, which is HQ’d in the family’s hometown of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. And he’s linked to 10 companies affiliated with his daughter, including the merchandising and rights-management businesses and entities that own her tour bus, 2 private jets and real estate.

That’s a big advantage… 
Yep – many stars butt heads with their management teams, but for Taylor, she has someone she trusts running the all-important money side of the business. 

So she’s done pretty well for herself…
She sure has, and if her history is anything to go by she isn’t anywhere near done yet. Are you Ready For It?

Squiz recommends:

Taylor Swift vaults into billionaire ranks with blockbuster Eras tourBloomberg

Miss Americana – Netflix

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