'Do I need to give a billionaire more money?' How Taylor Swift's financial status collides with fans (2024)

For Swifties, it was never a matter of if Taylor Swift would become a billionaire, but when.

In itslatest rich list, Forbes estimates Swift has a $1.1 billion fortune and says the megastar is the first artist to achieve billionaire statussolely from songwriting and performing.

Other artists who have hit the milestone – including Rihanna and Jay-Z – earned their massive wealth in part thanks to fashion and cosmetics brands, alcohol companies or entertainment holdings.

In mere weeks Swift will treat her fans to yet another album – The Tortured Poets Department – which will fuel another merchandising spectacle.

But by building an empire on her vulnerable lyrics and "big sister" persona, will Swift's new billionaire status impact how Swifties relate to their idol?

The (super rich) girl next door

'Do I need to give a billionaire more money?' How Taylor Swift's financial status collides with fans (1)

"Taylor has an amazing relationship with her fans, or at least an amazing illusion of a relationship with her fans," says Georgia Carroll, who holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Sydney where she specialised in fandom.

"It's something she's cultivated since the earliest days of her career, where she's really presented herself as not quite a girl next door, but kind of as the aspirational big sister or cool friend who is going through the same things as you are."

Swift's sprawling discography captures the plethora of emotions and experiences, from the giddiness of first love (Fearless, Speak Now) to the rollercoaster that is your 20s (Red, 1989) to darker, more adult themes (Reputation, Midnights).

"She's taken her fans on this lifelong journey where it does feel as though you're kind of getting this peek into her life and her diary, which really builds a connection with her fans," Dr Carroll says.

This all feeds back into the concept of parasocial relationships, which is, as Dr Carroll explains, "anytime a fan feels as though they know a celebrity because of messages through the media, from social media and, in Taylor's instance, through her music."

"So you feel as though you actually know her even though she's a stranger."

'You can see those dollar signs rolling in'

Since 2019, Swift has released eight albums – four being re-releases – and her next album is due out this month.

In 2023 her Eras Tour hit the $1 billion mark after selling a staggering 4.35 million tickets across 60 tour dates, according to the Associated Press.

'Do I need to give a billionaire more money?' How Taylor Swift's financial status collides with fans (2)

To add to its success, the concert film grossed a further $261 million worldwide and secured the highest opening weekend for a concert film.

For Dr Carroll, "nobody is surprised" about Swift's new billionaire status.

"It's been something that has been on the cards for quite a while especially with the Eras Tour and the Eras Tour film making her so much money and all of the stories around the records that they've broken and her economic impact," she says.

"In the last five years she's released this crazy amount of content which obviously has multiple album versions, multiple vinyl versions, merchandise alongside it.

"It's been this trajectory in the last five years, but especially the last 12 to 18 months, where you can see those dollar signs rolling in for her."

Swift's strategy of releasing limited edition versions of vinyl albums – each with a different cover, colour or bonus track – has drawn criticism over the years.

The debate fired up again this week when Billie Eilish expressed her frustration at overconsumption in the music industry.

"It's some of the biggest artists in the world making f**king 40 different vinyl packages that have a different unique thing just to get you to keep buying more. It's so wasteful," she told Billboard.

Eilish later clarified her comments and said she wasn't singling anyone out.

'Do I need to give a billionaire more of my money?'

Dr Carroll says while Swifties have a strong connection to their idol, it's the current economic environment that may have them pausing for thought rather than Swift's billionaire status.

'Do I need to give a billionaire more money?' How Taylor Swift's financial status collides with fans (3)

"We have The Tortured Poets Department coming out in three weeks so that's going to come with a new wave of merchandise and then the Eras Tour is starting up again in Europe," she said.

"I think we are reaching the point where fans are kind of like, 'The cost of living is going up, my rent is increasing, my mortgage is increasing, do I need to give a billionaire more of my money?'"

"But at the same time, her fans are so connected to her and so willing to support her that they see it as their choice."

"The argument I make is that the way her marketing is structured, they are in a way manipulating the fans, but it is the fans' choice at the end of the day and the fans can say, 'You know what, I can't afford this.'

"The argument the fans make is that it makes them happy and they like supporting her."

Dr Carroll adds the biggest impact Swift's billionaire status will have is by giving critics "more of a provable backbone."

"I think it's going to just give legs to any critiques and arguments that exist and the discussions that are had by people who aren't necessarily in the fandom."

But Dr Carroll says when it comes to fans spending money, "not so much [do] they see it as supporting A Billionaire with a capital A-B".

"They see it as supporting Taylor Swift, somebody who has been there for them over the years and who has brought them joy and brought their life meaning and they want to kind of continue that relationship."

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'Do I need to give a billionaire more money?' How Taylor Swift's financial status collides with fans (2024)
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