Long stories short
- Mark Zuckerberg’s so-called Twitter-killer platform, Threads, registered over 100 million users in its first five days.
- The British Library used state-of-the-art imaging technology to read the earliest historical account of Elizabeth I’s reign for the first time in 400 years.
- Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Strong were all nominated for the Best Actor Emmy for their roles as Logan, Roman and Kendall Roy in Succession.
Miss Americana and the billion-dollar tour
Tickets for the European leg of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour went on sale this week. It is set to beat Beyoncé’s Renaissance to become the first tour to gross over a billion dollars. Elton John’s just-completed Farewell Yellow Brick Road holds the top spot at $939.1 million gross over 320 shows.
So what? Dismissing Swift as a spangly starlet with too many ex-boyfriends is to miss the point. The 33 year-old has flipped the popstar playbook, setting her own terms for IP control, fan culture and, crucially, how to leverage live performances to maximise cash.
The show is a trip through Swift’s 17 year career in 10 acts. Running to a Springsteen-busting three hours 22 minutes, it’s part Broadway musical, part catwalk show with surprise appearances from Swift’s A-list friends. The set for Eras takes so long to build there’s a whole “spare” production, which leapfrogs each live date to go set up in the next location.
For the fans, it’s emosh. 22 year-old Swiftie Anna (@taylondongirls) was first in the Ticketmaster queue for Monday’s London fan presale. Eras will be her ninth Swift gig: “Taylor and her music have gotten me through some of the darkest moments in my life. To see her in my hometown with my friends I’ve made through Taylor will be so special.”
Eras by numbers
131 – total shows across 2023/24 in Asia, South America, Australia, Europe and the US.
44 – songs played per show.
11 – outfit changes at least, including custom outfits by Oscar De La Renta and Versace.
2 – rumoured breakups, with actor Joe Alwyn and The 1975 frontman Matty Healy.
1 – album release during the tour so far, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).
Champagne problems. Roughly 75 per cent of artists’ income is generated through live events and tours. In the 1990s it was less than a third. More than two million tickets were sold in a single day for the US leg of Eras. TayTay pockets between 40 and 60 per cent of the per-show gross revenue, about $4 million a night, and around $1 million profit per show just from the merch. And a good thing too. Spotify only pays $0.04 per 10 streams, and the artist technically forks out for the whole shebang – stadium rental, ticket service, dancers and support acts, the lot – via a promoter middle-man who also takes a cut.
Look what you made me do. Being a Swiftie isn’t cheap. The average US ticket price (excluding resale) for Eras according to Pollstar was $253, that’s $170 more than Swift’s 2011 Speak Now tour. In the UK, a nosebleeder for Eras will set you back £58 or you can splash out £172 for next-to-stage standing. But in Rockonomics: the Economics of Popular Music, Professor Alan Krueger argues that the success of touts and secondary ticketing sites proves the face value of tickets is less than their true market value. For TayTay’s Kansas stopover, tickets were changing hands for up to $14,000 on resale sites. US fan spend on tour paraphernalia such as hotels, travel and outfits (cowboy boot sales have boomed) is around $5 billion – level, for example, with Twitter’s revenues for the whole of 2021.
Mastermind. After a long-running dispute with music-mogul Scooter Braun, Swift is also in the process of re-recording and releasing her first six studio albums in order to retake ownership of the masters of all her music. She premiered a previously unreleased track from the latest of these, her 2010 country album Speak Now, at last weekend’s Kansas performance and was joined on stage by Twilight’s Taylor Lautner, an ex-boyfriend and one of the album’s muses, for that extra squeal-causing publicity moment. The result: Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) became the most-streamed album in a single day in 2023 and the most-streamed country album in a day in Spotify’s history. Mic drop.
There is only one Taylor Swift. Her exceptional popularity gives her immense bargaining power with industry big dogs such as labels, streamers, ticketing companies. Can the Taylor effect become precedent for other artists? Perhaps, if ex-Disney now-pop-star (and long-time Swiftie) Olivia Rodrigo is anything to go by. Triple Grammy winner Rodrigo told NME in 2021 it was “really inspiring for me to watch somebody [like Swift] take control of their career and their life”. Rodrigo has made sure she owns her own masters, too.
Also, in the nibs
reviewed this week
We’re reading: Penance
We’re listening to: My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross
Book for: Maria Prymachenko
Photograph Kevin Mazur/ TAS23/ Getty Images