×

Music Moguls of the Year: Inside Taylor Swift’s Empire, From Music to ‘Cats’

On her new feminist anthem "The Man," Taylor Swift sings, "When everyone believes you, what's that like?" But no one is disbelieving her business prowess now.

Taylor Swift Music Mogul
Rex/Shutterstock

On her new album, “Lover,” Taylor Swift sings frankly about something she doesn’t love: being underestimated. In the feminist anthem “The Man,” the pop superstar sings not just on behalf of herself but all powerful women who’ve felt judged by an inconsistent standard: If she were male, Swift supposes, “They’d say I hustled, put in the work / They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve / What I was wearing, if I was rude / Could I be separated from my good ideas and power moves? / I’d be a fearless leader, I’d be an alpha type / When everyone believes you, what’s that like?”

It’s safe to say that, as of the release of “Lover” last week, no one in the world would deny Swift her serious baller status. In back-to-back interviews with CBS and ABC, she declared that, as a matter of fact, yes, she was intending to re-record most or all of her previous six albums — a response to her catalog having been acquired along with the rest of her former record company, Big Machine, by Scooter Braun, the manager-turned-label-mogul she considers a nemesis. It’s become increasingly clear that, far from just complaining about the sale of her masters, she means business.

Swift doesn’t need the money she might come up with from any re-recordings. At 29, she recently topped the Forbes Celebrity 100 list, bringing in an estimated pretax income of $185 million over a year’s period — her second time at Forbes’ summit. Record sales represented a small part of that $185 million, particularly in a year when she was between album releases. Touring was the biggest part: Her Reputation Stadium Tour set a record for a U.S. gross, bringing in $266 million domestically on the way to a $345 million global total — defying armchair prognosticators who mocked her newfangled variable-pricing ticketing model or thought her rep might actually have been tarnished by those Kanye dust-ups. But Universal Music is clearly bullish on her future as a recording artist, too, signing her to a deal that could be worth $200 million over several albums, insiders say. Republic label president Monte Lipman told Variety a week out from the release of “Lover” that it’d already sold close to a million copies globally; for her fans, if hardly anybody else’s, the album format remains not just viable but vital.

Swift’s bigger business moves typically have more to do with power than money: Key to her signing with Universal, besides the value of relationships built up as the company distributed and promoted her Big Machine product, was its agreement to make artists partial beneficiaries of a Spotify payout and — the holy grail for superstars — owner of her own future master recordings, starting with “Lover.”

Taylor Swift

Her Hollywood aspirations have remained an open question, with Swift turning down most opportunities to expand into film since her baby steps with cameos in “Valentine’s Day” and “The Giver.” A co-starring role in the upcoming “Cats” could represent a serious paw forward in that regard — or maybe just a purr-fect case of species identification. In the meantime, any serious film PR blitz will have to wait till after a few months’ worth of massive promo push for the new album, which has spreading the “Lover” love around between even more sponsors. As usual, Target will have several versions of the physical packaging. But Amazon was not to be left out of the mix: It offered exclusive “Lover” multi-product bundles for a limited time, and anyone getting a package from the e-tailer lately may have noticed it bound in Swift-branded tape. Her Amazon Prime Day in-studio performance in July was a precursor to a release-week livestream gig for YouTube.

Besides her Elizabeth Arden fragrances, Swift’s many past or present sponsorships include UPS, Diet Coke, American Express, Apple Music, Comcast Xfinity and, most recently, Capital One. Some of that capital has gone into her charitable causes — which this year expanded, in a very visible way, to GLAAD, which even got a cheeky shout-out in the single “You Need to Calm Down.” Will she someday invest all those savings into Jay-Z-style entrepreneurial channels? Perhaps, but for now, she attracts endless sponsors and investors eager to write her name in the blank space on their checkbooks. And a fan base that continues to grow up with her, and for whom calming down is not an option.

$84m

Real estate holdings, including properties in Beverly Hills, Nashville, New York City and Rhode Island

34m

Albums sold in the U.S. since her 2006 self-titled debut

$926m

Total tour grosses since 2009