Mid-Year Top Tours: No. 1 Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’

Night Two Of Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour East Rutherford, NJ
Taylor Swift performs onstage during “The Eras Tour” at MetLife Stadium on May 27, 2023, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Mid-Year Top 100 Worldwide Tours
No. 1 Taylor Swift
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Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour is so capacious, it struggles to be constrained within a single metaphor.

She is a hyperluminous star, pulling in all manner of matter and casting a bright light on all of it.

This issue tells tales of a year of blockbusters and no one has busted more blocks than Swift.

The Messina Touring Group-promoted tour has an estimated gross that surged beyond $300 million on more than 1.1 million tickets in the tour’s first 22 dates (Swift’s totals are estimated as complete sales figures have not yet been reported). 

Even in the overheated economics of the post-pandemic live industry, those are especially balmy figures. But there’s plenty of evidence that Swift is driving the economy beyond the stadiums she’s filling.

Online research group QuestionPro estimated that the U.S. leg of the tour will generate $5 billion in economic impact, “more than the gross domestic product of 50 countries,” according to the researchers. 

In Chicago, hotel occupancy hit nearly 97 percent during Swift’s three dates at Soldier Field. Las Vegas reported its highest post-pandemic tourism spend. Swift is a stronger motive force than gambling, buffets and cheap booze.

In the live industry, tour timing is always a discussion. Artists and agents want to ensure they aren’t out against similar acts vying for the same venues. But Swift’s timing was near perfect in a macroeconomic sense as well. 

Inflation proved persistent but, counter to every Econ 101 course ever taught, unemployment barely budged in reaction to the inflation-cooling measures of the federal government. 

So Swift went on sale at a time where pent-up demand was coupled with a consumer class still gainfully employed. Had she waited a little longer, that perfect storm may well have fizzled out or looming recessionary fears may have led to tighter grips on pocketbooks.

But maybe not, because we must consider who is at the center of this.

Swift: eligible already for a lengthy career retrospective despite being two years too young to be president. She’s grown from the coquettish country prodigy of her self-titled debut to the self-assured woman of today and, in the 17 years between, her songs have been an honest portrait of everything she wishes to share: the vulnerability, growth, mistakes and triumphs. Swift’s genius is that she both challenges and reassures her audience – the Swifties, a demographic cohort flexing its economic and political muscles now, as they’ve aged into the fullness of adulthood. But the reassurances don’t get stale and the challenges aren’t alienating and thus she can be a guide for growing up, perpetually relevant to the young no matter their birth year.

Like a wizened salt in the open boat, she knows the currents and can anticipate when the winds will shift.

Consider this: three of the opening acts on “Eras” – MUNA, Paramore and Phoebe Bridgers (as part of supergroup boygenius) have graced the cover of this magazine since the tour was announced, not because they were opening for her but because they draw water on their own merits. And it’s clear that they earned their opening spots because Swift herself loves them and their art.

To her Swifties, she’s a gentle leader, never jarring or yanking, with a preternatural sense of the zeitgeist that would seem calculating if it wasn’t so genuine. It’s fitting that Swift is coupled with Bruce Springsteen at the top of our charts. The Boss gave voice to generations of the hardworking and forgotten in the Flyover. Swift galvanizes a generation that has no plans to be ignored or unheard. Thus, just as cementheaded candidates have tried to use “Born in the USA” as a patriotic soul stirrer, cringey pols have spent 2023 shoehorning Swift lyrics into polemics about Ticketmaster.

Beset by bots and overwhelmed by demand claimed to be unprecedented and unforeseeable, Ticketmaster fizzled and crashed the day “Eras” tickets went on sale for the U.S. leg, though clearly it recovered and operated well enough to deliver more than 1 million tickets once it was all said and done – and the lessons Ticketmaster and Live Nation learned from the Swiftastrophe were applied when other big-ticket tours went on sale.

Nevertheless, pundits and politicians made hay out of the very public, very dramatic failure, prompting a flurry of legislative proposals meant to address both Ticketmaster’s supposed stranglehold and the problems wrought by the secondary market, which resulted in often contradictory legal frameworks, depending on the jurisdiction.

The Swift onsale and the Ticketmaster backlash did what precious few issues still do: unite Democrats and Republicans in a paroxysm of bipartisanship, leading to a made-for-TV Senate hearing, with Live Nation CFO Joe Berchtold dutifully wearing the ashes and sackcloth, enduring the premeditated zingers of senators from all sides of the ideological spectrum.

It’s the most prominent example of how the “Eras” tour hasn’t just entered the broader discourse but, in so many ways, its gravity is so formidable that the tour and everything that’s fallen into its orbit drives the discourse.

It has prompted analysis about the nature of parasocial relationships (often prompted by discussion of Swift’s actual relationships). It has been used as a vehicle to discuss the psychological makeup of Millennials and Gen Z-ers. Staid op-ed pages gurgle and burp with think pieces that use the tour as a frame for whatever pet cause the writer wishes to advance. 

It even jumped to the sports pages as people with far too much time on their hands noticed that “Eras” tour cities failed in the NBA playoffs. The theory fell apart when the Nuggets from tour stop Denver won the title over non-“Eras” town Miami and its Heat.

The tour runs in the U.S. until its record-setting five-night conclusion at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, and then it crosses the border, first at Mexico City’s Foro Sol in late August. In November, there’re runs in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. That’ll wrap 2023.

It seems impossible Swift will reach the billion-dollar mark for the calendar year, a mark that seemed plausible if she’d gone ahead and went fully international in the fourth quarter.

Instead, she’ll wait until 2024, with runs in Asia, Australia and Europe. It’s a daunting six-month schedule: 38 performances in 22 cities in 15 countries on three continents. 

She certainly could make it to the Big B in the first 12 months of the tour. She’ll have just finished the Australasia leg by the time the first anniversary arrives with 76 shows under her belt. If the average gross estimated by Pollstar’s crack numbers team holds up, “Eras” will surpass $1 billion during the three-show run in Singapore.

And by the end of it all? Once the European leg wraps up with the second of two two-night stands at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium, Swift will have captivated the audiences of a grand total of 102 shows. If the estimates – which are fairly conservative – hold, the total gross for the entire tour could be nearing an astonishing, unbelievable, inconceivable $1.4 billion.

And we’ll have to try and craft even more expansive metaphors for Swift’s success. 

The annual POLLSTAR ranking of the concert industry’s top performing artists is tabulated for all Worldwide shows played between 11/17/22 to 5/17/23. All ticket sales figures are calculated in U.S. dollars and are based on reported information and extensive research by POLLSTAR.