How much Taylor Swift mania can we take? Just wait — there’s still a long way to go
Every generation or so, a major artist enters what’s called their imperial phase, a period of their career where they can’t seem to do anything wrong. Everything aligns perfectly and it seems that the universe now revolves around that act. Right now that artist is Taylor Swift.
The reasons for Swift’s turn at the very top of pop culture are complex. She’s a top-flight songwriter and performer. As the defacto CEO of her empire, she’s been brilliant, carefully crafting and protecting her image, overseeing all the marketing, planning the Eras Tour, and making some savvy business decisions when it comes to issuing new music, charitable initiatives, and dropping just the right amount of benevolence at exactly the right time. Taylor has set all kinds of chart records with her albums (more Number One albums in the Billboard Top 200 than any other woman, someone who’s had four albums in the Top 10 at the same time, etc.) It’s estimated that the nightly box office on this tour is as much as US$14 million.
It all makes for great media coverage that encompasses everything from woman power to the spin-off economic benefits being generated by this tour (hotels for Toronto are pretty much already sold out for her visit in November 2024). Here’s a quote from Dan Eastwood of online research company QuestionPro: “If Taylor Swift were an economy, she’d be bigger than 50 countries; if she was a corporation, her Net Promoter Score would make her the fourth most admired brand, and her loyalty numbers mimic those of subjects to a royal crown.”
So yeah, she’s big. And popular. And powerful. But let’s break this down a bit.
The current Tay-Tay mania can be partly attributed to the lack of a centre in popular culture. The internet has fractured everything, meaning that there’s very little we all know about and agree upon — at least compared to the old days. In the absence of any true competition, an event like Taylor Swift creates a gravity well on the order of a supermassive black hole, sucking everything in and demanding more and more attention. It’s like the Barbie movie: a global cultural juggernaut but less pink.
And because everyone seems to be talking about Taylor, fear of missing out becomes a real thing. Even casual fans- — and even non-fans — are caught up in the confusing excitement. “What’s going on here? What am I missing? Everyone else is getting involved, so shouldn’t I?” No one wants to be left out, hence the ever-growing interest and coverage. It’s like a hurricane caught over some freakishly hot Atlantic water. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger, obliterating everything in its path.
Which brings me to this: Have you noticed how there’s been very little negative coverage of the Eras Tour? Yes, there have been stories about convoluted Ticketmaster ticket-purchasing procedures, servers melting down, fans who were sold “obstructed view/listen only” seats, hotels and parking lots charging usurious prices (it cost US$120 to park at a surface lot for the shows in Seattle), and minor logistical hiccups, but have you seen anyone anywhere in the media criticize Tay-Tay? Why not?
Easy. No one wants to incur the wrath of Swifties, Taylor’s formidable and intensely loyal and often combative fanbase. Only the BTS Army and Beyoncé’s BeyHive come close in strength and numbers. And woe be to those who mess with Taylor because that brings millions of Swifties to the battlefield. Even the New York Times took note of this.
If you’re publicly identified as an Enemy of Taylor — or even someone who just doesn’t pay Swift the proper respect — prepare for a social media attack of nuclear proportions up to and including doxing and death threats. One writer critical of the Eras Tour was sent anti-gay slurs and a campaign was launched to have that person fired from their job as a reporter. And has Taylor said anything about this stan behaviour? No. Yet there’s been little note made of that in the media. With no one saying anything bad — even if it may be deserved — it’s nothing but sunshine and chocolates and dancing unicorns.
Swift has also been able to both dodge criticism and go on the offensive when she’s felt wronged — very successfully, too. That includes everything from the issues surrounding the master tapes of her original albums to writing songs about bad real-life boyfriends. There are at least 31 of those. Nothing is ever her fault it seems. Her fans will back her up on that, too.
Look, the Eras Tour is definitely special, the likes of which we won’t see for a long, long time. It delivers great value for fans: three hours, over 40 songs, and a ton of high-end production.
By the time the 146 shows wrap up late next year — five continents, all stadium gigs, by the way; no mere arenas for Taylor — the total gross is projected to be beyond US$1.4 billion, eclipsing Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour. That brought in US$939 million during its 328-show run that extended from the fall of 2018 to this past summer. The average box office gross was a mere US$2.85 million. When the lights finally go out after the sixth Rogers Centre show in Toronto in November 2024, the Eras Tour will likely have been seen by more than nine million people. That’ll handily beat Ed Sheeran’s Divide Tour, which played in front of 8.7 million people. But it took two years and 255 shows to accomplish that.
Barring any illness, scandal, extinction-level asteroid strike, or mass coronal ejection that will wipe out the world’s electrical infrastructure, Taylor mania is going to be with us for at least another year. And if you’re in Toronto and you’re not going to any of the shows, I’d make plans to get out between Nov. 14 and Nov. 23, 2024. It’s going to be impossible.
Meanwhile, everyone will continue to want a piece of Tay-Tay. To commemorate the end of the U.S. leg of the tour, Starbucks created a 122-track playlist called “Starbucks Lovers” (note the reference to some misheard lyrics in the song Blank Space) that’s running in stores across the U.S.
If that’s not enough, there are Swift-inspired coffee drinks that will probably push back the return of pumpkin spice latte by a few weeks. That won’t sit well with some people. They’d just better not complain because, you know, Swifties.
The Eras as Starbucks drinks: pic.twitter.com/TayVsfcAkY
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) March 17, 2023
by Corus Radio