What Will a Taylor Swift ‘Reputation’ Tour Look Like?
Jonathan Hyward / The Canadian Press via AP – Taylor Swift
BC Place, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
With the release today (No. 10) of
Taylor’s “1989” tour was the highest grossing trek of 2015, with more than $250 million raked in on the year. That tour was promoted by Messina Touring Group and tickets went for an average of $110 and moved an average if 42,893 in each market. Many cities that year had stadium shows or multiple nights of Taylor in an arena with 83 shows in 53 cities. That tour is still the highest-grossing single-year North American tour of all time according to Pollstar data with an average gross of a whopping $4,724,687 per market.
In terms of individual shows, the songstress didn’t have the top spot in either the North American or the International Box Office charts, but her name does appear frequently on both charts, including a solid run in the 5-8 slots in North America, which were all stadiums.
Conventional wisdom indicates Taylor’s upcoming run will have more stadiums, which means a late-spring or early-summer launch for the North American market. And stadiums have been a trend for this year’s other big-name artists like U2, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay and Guns N’ Roses. The most comparable act to Swift, Beyoncé, played mostly stadiums during her “Formation” tour last year, the largest North American outing in 2016 and the continent’s second largest single-year tour of all-time with more than $169 million grossed, behind only Swift.
At least one source told Pollstar that next year’s venture will likely be – no surprise here – a big production. The last outing included technological bells and whistles from a moveable catwalk to the Pixmob wristband technology that would make an entire stadium dance with synchronized LED lights. Whatever 2018 brings, it will certainly be a spectacle, whether its digital mapping, drones or the latest video technology.
“You look at the enhancements and how technology continues to increase, the video screens, the sound, I think these artists are able to capitalize on all the advancements that are out there,” John Page, President of the Wells Fargo Complex and longtime head of Spectra (aka Global Spectrum – the second largest venue management firm in North America with its own share of stadiums) told Pollstar. “I think that’s what makes a large venue that much more intimate even though you may be in the last row you can still feel like you’re a part of it when the sound is great and the bells and whistles, whether their tricks or gags – the stuff by these stage producers like TAIT – the bridging with Katy Perry, the Lady Gaga elements – it’s a theatrical show. It’s not just a concert anymore. It’s what you would see in Vegas or Broadway.”
The 1989 tour also included a plethora of surprise performances by Swift’s besties (Selena Gomez, Lorde, The Band Perry) and a myriad of guests (Idina Menzel, Keith Urban and Mick Jagger among many others) as well as walk-on appearances from an array of non-musical celebrities (including Kobe Bryant, Lena Dunham, Gigi Hadid, and the National U.S. Women’s Soccer Team). Though she’s necessarily one to repeat herself, that aspect of Swift’s tour constantly kept her in the headlines and enthralled her fanbase.
With Swift nearing the age of 30 (she’ll be 28 in December), will her audience be kids with their parents, who seemed to dominate her tours, or her contemporaries who might be budgeting their entertainment expenses or the widening fan demographic that over the last decade has continued to expand? Swift started as a country artist in 2006 (when her first single “Tim McGraw” dropped) and gradually crossed over into pop, organically building her fanbase into the global pop star Goliath she’s become.
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“When you look at the genesis of Taylor Swift, it’s an incredible story,” Page said. “She’s really one of the true, iconic artists of our day. You look at her ability to start and be a trademark country artist and then cross over to the extent that she has, and maintain that fan base, and everything she does from a social media perspective, it’s almost a playbook on how to do things the right way.
“I think you’re going to see some new people, based on some of the songs that I’ve heard but I think her audience will continue to expand. I think you’ll get the younger demo as well as the older fanbase as well. I think she crosses so many generations, the people that have grown up with her, in my opinion. My daughter, my wife and other people I know still think so highly of her that no matter what she puts out they’re going to listen to it and they want to go see her live.”
That said, the market for live pop music can be fickle. All one has to do is look at the ebb and flow of the pop machine from Debbie Gibson to Britney Spears to see how much the market can change over the course of anyone’s career. “You never know in pop,” one veteran agent told Pollstar. “Sometimes in the pop market you’re only as big as your last single.”
Charles Sykes / Invision / AP – Taylor Swift
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Indeed, if that’s the case, Swift should be in good shape. Reputation’s first single “Look What You Made Me Do,” which dropped in late August, “broke the internet” setting new streaming records with 84.4 million U.S. streams in late August, according to Nielsen Music. Swift’s subsequent new singles, however, “…Ready for It?” and “Gorgeous,” have thus far failed to have similar traction, debuting high but quickly dropping out of the top echelon of the charts.
“I’m sure she’ll be able to do some stadiums,” the same source continued. “She’s so big in terms of her celebrity. But can her ticket appeal match her celebrity? And is her new record the equivalent of what came before? It’s something of a crap shoot.”
Helping mitigate any risk, however, is veteran tour promoter Louis Messina, who worked her wildly successful 1989 tour and who is also currently working with another big-name solo act: Ed Sheeran. Ed has mostly played arenas in 2017, but he has dates in Asia, Australasia, Europe, and North America booked into November of 2018, and those gigs are overwhelmingly composed of stadium plays.
Messina was happy to let Pollstar know that when it comes to details about Swift’s tour our guess is as good as his, as he claimed to be waiting for details on whatever may be happening.
Sheeran’s stay in Australia and New Zealand consisted of many 3 or 4-night stands in venues like Auckland, N.Z.’s Mt Smart Stadium, Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium and ANZ Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park because of his special connection to the region. He also hit countries like Thailand, United Arab Emirates, India, Japan, Philippines and Poland.
Taylor may similarly have big international plans, though North America has traditionally been her bread-and-butter. She wrapped up her last tour with several weeks in Australia after multiple nights in Singapore and China, and she also played Europe and Japan earlier in the year.
Much has been made of Taylor’s use of Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system to handle the onsale, and dedicated fans can secure themselves a better spot in the digital line for tickets by spending money on TS merch.
One industry insider asserted that this will be the ultimate high-profile experiment for Verified Fan, expressing curiosity as to whether the service would be able to please potential millions of registered Swifties.
The two groups the source worried for were: Swift fans who bought t-shirts but may not get the chance to see the artist; and families that put in lots of effort to secure a good place in line only to find prices way out of their budget.
AP Photo / Darron Cummings – Taylor Swift
Formula One U.S. Grand Prix, Circuit Of The Americas, Austin, TX
The fact that fans who have already bought merch are more likely to get tickets might mean that Taylor decides to lower her prices. On the other hand, the fact that fans are being asked to register so far before actual dates are even announced provides TM with massive insight into demand, likely before prices are set or venues are even booked which can help with both priccing and routing. (Registration for the onsale closes Nov. 28.)
The same source reiterated that Verified Fan will ultimately be one of the best ticketing tools artists have at their disposal, but it is still relatively new and will take time to smooth out rough edges. They also expressed that ultimately, VF just like all of Ticketmaster’s services, is optional, and many signs indicate the system will eventually help many artists move toward it’s stated goal of connecting real fans to the tickets at the actual price set by the artist.
Possible opening acts for the tour are anyone’s guess, but Sheeran and Future have been revealed as collaborators on “End Game,” one of the tracks on Reputation. The list of previous openers for Taylor is long and includes Sheeran, Vance Joy, Shawn Mendes, Haim, Guy Sebastian, Casey James, Austin Mahone, Florida Georgia Line and Brett Eldredge.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>3 days until <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/reputation?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#reputation</a>. <a href=”https://t.co/oExj2XFGvH”>https://t.co/oExj2XFGvH</a> <a href=”https://t.co/sjr8hMqPxV”>pic.twitter.com/sjr8hMqPxV</a></p>— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) <a href=”https://twitter.com/taylorswift13/status/928104179926749185?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 8, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Prior to any full run, Swift has announced a brief December Christmas radio tour to run through markets that include Los Angeles; Chicago; New York; and London with other big-name artists in Sheeran, Sam Smith, The Chainsmokers, Fifth Harmony, The Script, and One Direction’s
Promotional efforts for the project have included a ubiquitous partnership with UPS, two collectible magazines released through Target that will include poetry, photos and artwork and “secret sessions” listening parties with fans in her Rhode Island home and in London. The track listing for the album recently leaked online, creating even more buzz on the internet.
Pollstar’s Elite 100 Artists chart for the week ending Nov. 2 has Taylor Swift at the 10th overall position despite the fact that she has only released select singles and the album will once again be “windowed,” kept off streaming services for its onsale week. The chart shows that Taylor’s fans purchase songs at a much higher rate than average, which may only fuel predictions that this will be her best-selling endeavor yet, with some speculating she could move two million albums in her first week.
All of which points to a well-oiled touring machine ramping up for what could very well be the largest tour of 2018 smashing industry records as only an artist of Swift’s caliber can.