Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour will be the first to shatter $1 billion in ticket sales, making a lot of people richer: ‘The dollar bill should have her face on it’

But even that impressive figure may be undercutting the final totals: Additional tour dates go on sale on Ticketmaster Thursday for recently announced North American shows, bringing the Eras Tour total to 140-plus dates over 20 months. It’s possible Swift could add even more shows, as she has done multiple times already, and earn even more in ticket revenue.

If—or more likely, when—she crosses $1 billion, she’ll take the crown of highest-grossing tour of all time from Elton John, who became the record-holder this year when his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour grossed over $900 million after wrapping up in June, according to Billboard Boxscore, the industry’s gross sales tracker.

The math of that billion-dollar-plus gross works out something like this: With an average ticket price of $253.56 (that’s the face value; Swift doesn’t get a cut of the astronomical resale prices), according to live music trade publication Pollstar, Swift has sold over $600 million in gross ticket sales in the U.S. alone over 53 shows (and that could be a conservative estimate given the differing capacity of venues).

While tickets are often less expensive in other countries, some international venues, like Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia, can also hold more concertgoers. With over 80 dates abroad planned over the next 15 months—plus another, smaller run in the U.S. after that—Swift will easily surpass $1 billion in gross sales if she performs them all, putting her ahead of Elton John and making her the sole woman on the list of top-grossing tours.

It’s quite the feat for someone who started out as a teenager singing country songs about breakups and best friends. Over the past 17 years, Swift has become one of the richest self-made women on the planet, with Forbes estimating her net worth at $740 million in June of this year. That’s only growing the longer she’s on tour.

“She’s self-made, and it’s amazing that she’s gone from just a girl with a guitar to being a great performer and probably the most powerful entertainer on the planet, bar none,” says David Herlihy, a teaching professor at Northeastern University and coordinator of the school’s music industry program.

But Swift won’t pocket the full gross from the tour. Between the cost of putting on the show, the hundreds of people working on it, and other stakeholders, she’ll net significantly less than the total ticket sales (although she has other tour-related revenue streams—including sponsorships, merchandise, and music sales—that are also adding to her bottom line). After all, the pop star isn’t the only person behind the show—there are countless people working on the tour, from promotion to set design to logistics, who will get a cut of the tour’s revenue.

Here’s how that might play out.

A breakdown of the Eras Tour pie

Swift is managing to earn so much in such a short time (she’s expected to hit $1 billion in less than two years of touring) thanks to inflation and demand. The average $254 ticket price (and again, that’s face value) is more than double the average for her last tour in 2018. That’s in part because all concerts cost more in 2023 than they did a few years ago and because of the unprecedented demand to see her shows—since she last toured, she’s released four new albums and two rereleases (with another, 1989 Taylor’s Version, on the way). Fans are hungry to hear their favorite songs live.

“Most of the money goes to the artist. They have the power,” says Herlihy. “She actually charges less than what the market will bear, but it’s still a lot.”

The U.S. presale crashed Ticketmaster, which did not even host a general sale since tickets sold out immediately. Swift is also touring in stadiums alone, including up to six nights at a single venue in places like L.A. Many of those venues—such as MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and Nissan Stadium in Nashville—have reported record-breaking attendance at the Eras shows. She has been the first act to perform more than one night on a single tour in some cities as well, increasing her total show count and adding to her revenues.

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Exactly how concert ticket sales are divided up is different for every artist, venue, country and its tax laws, event size, and so on. But generally, it’s split among the artist, their management team and other employees, venues, promoters, and taxes, as well as fixed expenses like rigging, security, transportation, and so on. Artists also have to pay out songwriter royalties when they perform, and Swift, who writes or cowrites all of her songs, gets a portion of that, as do any cowriters.

Without seeing her contracts, it’s impossible to know the exact breakdown of sales. Big artists known to sell out venues typically get paid a guaranteed rate to tour a certain number of dates. But Swift is a unique artist—“stratospheric,” as Herlihy put it—so it is possible she has a unique agreement with promoters and venues, such as the guaranteed minimum rate and then an additional percentage of ticket sales beyond that.

“With someone like Taylor Swift, there’s no risk whatsoever that her tickets won’t sell out,” says Herlihy. “Oftentimes, promoters will pay her more than the face value of the tickets. She may get 110% of the face value.”

Swift took the unusual step of not reporting her nightly figures to Billboard Boxscore, meaning the numbers available are all estimates from outlets like Billboard and Pollstar, but the costs associated with a tour the size of Eras will roughly break down to this:

Pre-tour expenses

Before the tour even kicks off, artists need to pay for rehearsal space. The specifics for the Eras Tour aren’t public knowledge yet, but Swift’s 1989 World Tour required three months of rehearsals, including four weeks of stage rehearsals and 10 days of dress rehearsals, according to the documentary about that event.

Then there’s the set design. Swift’s stage transforms for each of her “eras,” or different albums, sometimes more than once for a single set of songs. The show involves three different stages, lights, LED backgrounds, stage hydraulics, and pyrotechnics, among other elements, requiring tech and sound crews to devise and operate. The 1989 Tour employed hundreds of people to make it work.

Fixed expenses

There are thousands of moving components for a tour the size of Eras, and the “fixed” expenses on a tour are many, including sound engineers, security, transportation of stages and equipment, scaffolding, catering, medical staff, dancers, backup singers, the band, riggers, hotels for the crew and drivers, etc.

The cost for many of these components, especially transportation, has increased recently, given inflation. Michael Scherkenbach, founder and president of Shomotion LLC, one of the companies transporting Eras Tour equipment in the U.S., told Fortune he was bound by nondisclosure agreements and could not discuss how much it costs to transport the stage around the U.S., but the Guardian reported that it could cost upwards of $750,000 per day.

It will likely cost more than that to transport the stage and equipment internationally, requiring cargo ships or planes to move everything. Beyoncé’s last world tour, for example, reportedly required seven Boeing 747 air freighters and more than 70 trucks.

“There’s a lot of money coming off the top,” says Herlihy. “Perhaps 25% to 40% of the ticket revenue goes to cover the expensive touring.”

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In its annual report for 2022, Live Nation Entertainment, which owns Ticketmaster and promotes artists, says it may “reimburse artists for certain costs of production, such as sound and lights.” Exactly what comes out of the promoter’s cut and what comes out of the artist’s varies from contract to contract. Swift is working with promoter Messina Touring Group, which could get a cut of the sales.

Swift will also need to pay her management company, in this case 13 Management, which is run in part by her parents, Scott and Andrea Swift.

Typically a booking agent is also involved, but Swift did not employ one for the Eras Tour—a major cost savings. The demand was so high for the concerts—see: Ticketmaster’s break down—that a booking agent wasn’t needed.

Venues

The venues themselves—the stadiums Swift performs in—take a cut of ticket sales or a fixed fee as rental income, according to Live Nation’s annual report for 2022.

They also “receive some or all of the revenue from concessions, merchandise, parking, and premium seating.” Live Nation owns and operates some venues, so the company makes money this way as well.

The impact of the U.S. leg of the Eras Tour will be included in Live Nation’s 2023 annual report.

Merch

Also not included in the $1 billion-plus figure: merchandise sales. At every show—and even days before—fans have waited in hours-long lines to buy T-shirts, posters, and sweatshirts donning Swift’s face and commemorating the tour. As noted above, the venues get a cut of the merch sales, which can be as high as 30%, says Herlihy. Swift could easily pull in tens of millions of dollars from merch sales at her shows, and that’s a conservative estimate. Fans and resellers have been buying out the concert merch at every show.

“Taylor can negotiate that percentage down, so maybe the venue is only getting 20%,” Herlihy says. “She’s a merchandising juggernaut, a merchandising machine. She makes a lot of money.”

Universal Music Group (UMG), Swift’s record label, is in charge of her merchandise and also gets a cut of sales. In its earnings call for the second quarter of 2023 last month, the company called out the “Swift Lift.”

“Merchandising revenue grew 12% in the quarter, with growth in direct-to-consumer revenue, fueled by a strong performance from Taylor Swift, more than offsetting a decline in touring revenue,” Boyd Muir, UMG’s chief financial officer, said on the call.

Swift also sells merch for the tour on her website and encourages fans to buy from there with a discount code provided after they attend the tour in person.

Ticket fees

The fees that concertgoers pay to the likes of Ticketmaster, primary seller for the majority of U.S. shows, can add significantly to the total price of attending. The ticketing company “generally gets paid a fixed fee per ticket sold or a percentage of the total ticket service charges,” according to Live Nation. That said, the artist also gets a cut of the fees, according to Herlihy.

Live Nation controls not only the ticket distribution for many shows, it also owns, leases, operates, or has exclusive booking rights for hundreds of venues around the world, according to its annual report. That means it can require artists who want to play in those venues to use Ticketmaster to sell tickets to those shows. Since the start of the Eras Tour and multiple screwups during the presale, that’s put them under public and congressional scrutiny, with fans and lawmakers saying it’s unfair for one company to control so much of the live events market.

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Sponsorships

The Eras Tour is sponsored by Capital One, a company with which Swift has had a long relationship. Swift will get a significant payday for that, and has appeared in Capital One commercials.

Music bump

The Eras Tour—coupled with the release of new versions of her first six albums—has led to renewed interest in some of Swift’s extensive catalog, resulting in increased streams as well as sales of physical vinyls and CDs.

And the tour has proved to be a brilliant marketing opportunity for another project of Swift’s—rerecording her first six albums. The goodwill from the tour is helping to make the pop star even more popular, which in turn likely boosted sales of her latest rerelease, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), which came out last month during the Eras Tour run and sold more than her previous rerecorded albums.

Of course, UMG also benefits from the bump in records Swift has made under her contract. JPMorgan credited her album Midnights, which came out in October 2022, with generating $230 million in sales for the company—close to 3% of its annual revenues from recorded music, per Bloomberg.

Ticket resellers

Swift doesn’t get a cut of tickets that are resold on sites like StubHub, so the resale values don’t figure into the $1 billion-plus total. But resellers have made out handsomely on this tour.

“Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour demand is like nothing we’ve ever seen in the 20-plus years StubHub has been operating,” the ticket reseller told Fortune in a statement, noting she has outsold her previous tour, Reputation, 11-fold.

According to TicketIQ, a no-fee ticket seller, the secondary market average list price for the Eras Tour was $2,183 in early August, compared with an average face value of $253.56, according to Pollstar. Tickets for the U.S. dates maxed out at $499 (VIP packages cost as much as $899), and Swift opted not to turn on dynamic pricing for the sale, meaning she left a ton of money on the table, given the unprecedented demand.

Local economies

Local economies have benefited greatly from the Eras Tour, as has been widely documented, through increased consumer spending on hotels, restaurants, and more. They also benefit from taxes on the tickets, which are typically included in the face value.

And Swift herself has been generous, donating to food banks in each city she visits and giving bonuses reported to be upwards of $55 million to crew members.

Swift herself

Swift can more than afford to make such donations. While it’s unclear exactly how much she’ll take home, the singer will earn, conservatively, hundreds of millions of dollars from the Eras Tour, given all of the different revenue streams.

On ticket sales alone, the Eras Tour could surpass all five of her previous tours combined. The Reputation Tour was her previous highest gross, at $345.7 million, according to Billboard.

“The dollar bill should have her face on it,” jokes Herlihy. “She’s the point one percent, the pinnacle. If capitalism is evolution, survival of the fittest, she is the fittest.”

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