Hello and Happy Sunday! Today's Deep Dive is one to send to the Swifties in your life, as we explore the chart domination of country-singer-turned-megastar Taylor Swift. We explore the records she's shattering, her unique solo appeal in an era of collaboration, and how her tour is tapping into the experience economy.
The release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) this month has seen Taylor Swift achieve her 12th #1 album to date, beating the record for chart-topping albums by female artists that was previously held by Barbra Streisand. That confirms Swift as modern music royalty, placing her 3rd alongside Drake for the most #1 albums of all time, surpassed only by The Beatles (19) and Jay-Z (14).
Sounding like a broken record
Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) went straight to #1 in the Billboard charts, making up nearly 1 in 4 of all album sales worldwide in its first week. She is the first woman and only living solo artist to have 11 albums concurrently charting on the Billboard 200, as well as the only artist to have ever achieved a new #1 album in each of the last five calendar years (2019–23). Perhaps most incredibly of all, a staggering 25 out of the 100 biggest songs on the Billboard Hot list are by the Pennsylvania-born singer. Indeed, Swift has broken so many records, there isn’t space to write about them all.
Swift’s re-recorded albums — a campaign she has embarked on following the sale of her first 6 album masters to music mogul Scooter Braun — have arguably intensified the love story between the artist and her loyal fanbase of "Swifties", as evidenced by the demand for her Eras World Tour.
The 131-show tour, which features a variety of tracks from her extensive catalog, has meant that Swift’s entire discography has soared in popularity in the past months. The latest daily data from Spotify places her at some 98 million streams a day, more than double the next most popular artist, Bad Bunny, who is racking up “only” 48 million streams a day.
What's perhaps most remarkable though, is that in a music industry where the “collab” has become commonplace, Swift’s appeal as a solo artist is currently unmatched.
Just looking at the top 5 most-listened-to artists on Spotify, Taylor’s biggest hits are notable for being overwhelmingly…well, her. A staggering 147 out of the 152 Taylor Swift songs that have amassed more than 100 million plays are songs in which Swift is the lead artist. Drake is involved in more songs to cross that threshold, 218 to be exact, but more than one-third (72) of those are songs in which Drake is only a feature on the track, not the main event.
Tourism (Taylor's Version)
The Eras Tour has so far grossed more than $300 million since March, overtaking legends Bruce Springsteen and Elton John to become the biggest tour of the year. But how far can it go? Pollstar have estimated that it could gross over $1.4 billion by the time it concludes in August 2024, which would make it the highest grossing tour of all time.
One study from research company QuestionPro reported that fans have individually spent an average of $1,300 per show to attend the tour, including tickets, travel, accommodation, and clothing. If concertgoers continue to spend at this rate, the tour could generate some ~$4.6 billion in consumer spending in the US alone.
Indeed, earlier this month, occupancy rates in Chicago hit an all-time high (96.8%) when Swift performed 3 shows there, and it was noted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in its most recent ‘Beige Book’ — which, as the name suggests, isn’t usually the most riveting report — that a major boost in hotel revenue seen in May was largely credited to “an influx of guests for the Taylor Swift concerts in the city”.
Who run the world?
A similar phenomenon is happening with Beyonce's Renaissance World Tour, which some people predict could end up ahead of Taylor's tour once the dust settles next year. Both are forecast by analysts to gross over $1 billion from their shows — a feat never before seen in popular music — after unprecedented demand from fans.
Much has been written about the rise of the experience economy, but few events embody the trend more than modern global tours. Consumers are willing to shell out for that special “once in a lifetime” experience. Even with ticket prices across the two tours routinely running into the hundreds of dollars, both have seen host venues with tens of thousands of seats sell out in mere minutes.
Both Beyoncé and Swift have employed differentiation strategies — charging super premium prices for higher quality products or experiences, and the remarkable demand for the tours confirms two things:
We often hedge our bets in this newsletter, trying to see things from as many angles as possible. But, with streaming domination, chart domination and one of the biggest tours ever underway, we don't need to see any more data on the topic — Taylor Swift is the biggest popstar on the planet right now.
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