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What Taylor Swift's new album means for her $1 billion fortune

Madeline Berg   

What Taylor Swift's new album means for her $1 billion fortune
  • Taylor Swift's new album, "The Tortured Poets Department," is almost guaranteed to be a bestseller.
  • But no matter how well it does, it isn't set to be the way Swift earns most of her money this year.

Taylor Swift released her new album, "The Tortured Poets Department," at midnight, and, in what should be no surprise to anyone on this planet in the year 2024, it caused a scene.

Her album was set to garner millions of streams from the moment it dropped, accompanied — no doubt — by a LOT of social-media takes. There's also almost no doubt it'll top the Billboard chart like the 13 Swift albums before it.

But no matter how many platinum certifications it collects or streams it racks up on Spotify, "The Tortured Poets Department" isn't set to be Swift's biggest money-maker this year.

The remaining leg of her Eras Tour — kicking off in Paris next month and running through December — is instead expected to be what contributes most to her fortune, which Bloomberg estimated to be $1.1 billion last year.

"Live music is the engine of the global music business," Clayton Durant, an adjunct professor at NYU Steinhardt's Music Business Program who's the founder of CAD Management, told Business Insider. "Her tour is probably going to earn 10 to 15 times more than her streaming."

Swift's Eras Tour brought in more than $1 billion in ticket sales last year over its 66 dates. By the end of this year, she's set to have played another 86. Swift's cut is unknown, but based on industry standards, she'll surely earn nine figures in 2024 from ticket sales.

Concerts don't only bring in money from ticket sales.

Pollstar estimates that Swifties spend an average of $40 a head on merch at her concerts — that adds up to about $175 million in gross merch sales last year. Swift's camp keeps the majority of that.

Bloomberg estimated that between box office and merchandise, Swift pocketed $225 million, pre-tax, from her first 57 Eras Tour dates. Career earnings from ticket sales and merchandise account for 34% of her total net worth, while earnings from music streaming and sales account for 18%, Bloomberg estimates.

Swift isn't alone in making money on the road.

In 2021, the last year Billboard made a list of music's top earners, seven out of the 10 top money makers earned more than half of their income from touring.

But the music industry didn't always function this way. Before the advent of streaming, musicians made most of their fortune selling CDs, cassette tapes, and vinyl records.

"Physical music sales made up the bulk of artists' revenue pre-streaming, and that revenue was what enabled artists to tour. These days, the equation has flipped," Tatiana Cirisano, a senior music-industry analyst at MIDiA, told BI over email.

Streaming made listening to recorded music much cheaper. For less than the price of one CD — or for free, illegally or with ads — people could get all the songs they wanted.

"The moment Napster hit, it changed the paradigm, and it really honestly diluted the value of music," Durant said.

To be sure, Swift is still making tens of millions, if not more, on streaming and record sales each year — more than almost any other artist on the planet.

Streaming services such as Spotify pay out artists on a pro-rata model: There's a pot, made up of subscription and ad revenue, paid out to artists each year. Those with the biggest share of the platform's total streams get the biggest piece of it.

But "if you're an individual artist, you have to have a pretty massive audience to be able to earn a meaningful share of that revenue — which is paid out to you after your label gets its cut," Cirisano said.

Last year, Swift was the most streamed artist on both Apple and Spotify. One of every 78 songs streamed in the US last year was a Swift song, according to the music-data firm Luminate. She'll probably rank at or near the top again, between "The Tortured Poets Department" and a streaming lift from the second leg of her Eras Tour.

Swift is also set to earn more than most artists from physical music sales. Last year, she was responsible for one out of every 15 vinyl records sold, according to Luminate. Cirisano said Swift's rabid followers saw physical records as "a symbol of fandom" and a way to support Swift.

That said, without Eras, Swift would just be a poor centimillionaire.