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Money, Power, Glory: Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour

The Eras Tour is the cultural sensation that will define 2023, and Taylor Swift is an inferno scorching the earth behind her as she makes her worldwide victory lap. I am merely a star in her solar system, one of 70,000 lucky enough to attend the second night of her Nashville shows back in May.


Swift has been a leader in the music industry for 15 years now, but as the media follows The Eras Tour’s monumental success, it also traces her birth as an industry legend. The tour is the artist’s largest yet: a stadium tour of 146 shows spanning five continents. It is expected to gross $2.2 billion in North American ticket sales alone and $5 billion in additional consumer spending. With almost 100 upcoming tour dates and three more of her re-recorded albums slated for release, Swift is only getting started.


The performance itself is a three-and-a-half-hour magnum opus of 44 songs, spanning nine of her ten studio albums. The set is divided into nine sections, one for each of her “eras,” and an additional segment in each show for two non-setlist “surprise songs.” Everything about the concert experience is bigger and better than anything she’s done before, from what The Wall Street Journal called one of the 21st century’s most expensive and “technically ambitious” productions, to its set “extravaganza” according to Rolling Stone.


Swift’s omnipresence in pop culture is a product of her unparalleled public relations and marketing team. By the second weekend of the tour, Swifties had mapped out every minute of the show’s basic playbook. A couple weeks in, her six-year relationship with D-list actor Joe Alwyn ended. Shortly after, her rebound, The 1975’s Matty Healy, was playing guitar for Swift’s opening act, Phoebe Bridgers. Then came Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), a second breakup, a surprise performance from Ice Spice, and the announcement of 1989 (Taylor’s Version). Swift’s team knew the world would be watching every weekend, and they used the tour as a weekly opportunity to maintain her relevance on a global stage with a fresh story.


The success of the tour comes from the cash cow that is the Taylor Swift brand. With almost religious fervency, Swifties consume the products, lore, and media that comprise the Taylor Swift universe. Much of her content contains hidden “easter eggs” that allude to her future plans and require more than a surface-level familiarity to decode. Her team structures most of Swift’s public-facing movements to strategically reward fans who have the most knowledge of her brand. This framework is by design; greater loyalty to the brand makes for greater loyalty as customers. Most Swifties don’t just like Taylor Swift, they’re obsessed with her.


Three years post-pandemic, people crave the excitement of live music they’ve missed. The Eras Tour reintroduces us to live entertainment, and Taylor Swift’s cult of personality offers a sense of community to those whose adolescence has been characterized by isolation. Swift theming the tour around the past and present versions of herself is an excellent use of nostalgia marketing—we know we’ll love what she has to offer because we associate it with a more “normal” time. She isn’t trying out “Princess Taylor,” or “Bad Girl Taylor”—she’s asserting her place as an industry legend by reminding us she was there for us during the good ol’ days.


The sheer magnitude of The Eras Tour and Taylor Swift’s record-breaking sales this year is staggering. According to Forbes, the tour is expected to make Swift anywhere between $500 million and $1.5 billion, with an additional projected $100 million from the tour’s accompanying feature-length film. Forbes also reports the singer is currently worth $740 million. Swift’s astonishing fortune raises questions about her potentially astonishing greed. Swift treats her staff well—she’s given $55 million in bonuses to her tour’s drivers and crew—and I truly believe she is far from exploitative. But at the pinnacle of her career, Swift is not expected to stop any time soon. With the re-records of her masters reclaiming revenue streams, we will undoubtedly see Taylor Swift become a billionaire in the next year. At this point, I can confidently say she is greedy. I can also confidently say the music is so good that I’ll never stop giving her my money.


I attended The Eras Tour on May 6, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee, with two friends. Our tickets cost $72 each. The event broke the record for the most attendees in the history of Nissan Stadium, previously held by Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour performance the night before. We sat in the upper bowl with an obstructed view of the stage, which is a marketable way of saying behind the main stage. It was the most transcendent night of my entire life.

As the clock counted down the queen’s arrival, I felt a shockwave travel up my body and escape as a scream like those girls who saw Elvis shake his ass for the first time and went insane. I have been a fan of Swift since I was five years old, and my first time seeing her was a moment I had envisioned all my life.

Photo credit: EMMA MCINTYRE/TAS23/GETTY IMAGES


She was an absolute powerhouse on stage, singing live for 44 songs nearly straight-through (and the next night through a torrential downpour). While I credit much of the tour’s success to marketing, the soul of the show is in her unmatched talent. In her first time touring since 2018, her improvements in choreography and vocals were immediately noticeable. Her command of an audience of over 70,000 was remarkable; every person in my section sang with her through the entire show.


Beyond Swift herself, (what I could see of) the show’s visuals was stunning, along with her eight costume changes. The atmosphere was electric, and I spent every moment in a dreamlike haze. The set ran like a well-oiled machine; it was obvious that every move made on or off stage was choreographed with calculated precision. My only complaint was the setlist’s snubs of Speak Now and Taylor Swift in favor of her newer albums, particularly my least favorite, evermore. I suspect the fact that Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) did not exist at the start of the tour and Taylor Swift (Taylor’s Version) still being in production guided the decision, but as a country Taylor stan, it was a hard pill to swallow.


I vividly remember the version of myself that coexisted with each of Taylor Swift’s eras. As I watched, I remembered my cousin Lime Wiring Fearless onto my hot pink iPod Nano on Christmas morning in 2008. I remembered choreographing dance routines to 1989 on VideoStar. I remembered what it was like to cry to folklore in my first car. And while I listened to her, the past versions of myself were there with me, too.

The success of The Eras Tour comes from the fact that, for many of her fans, Swift has been the soundtrack of their entire lives. Using nostalgia, she invites us to explore our own pasts alongside hers. With over a year until the tour closes in November 2024, Taylor Swift’s record-breaking success is boundless.

 

Olivia Baisier is a senior in the College studying Justice and Peace Studies, Journalism, Chinese, and Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour choreography.

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