When Taylor Swift tells a story, you listen. This one is about a time when she got her heart broken.
She was 17. She had booked the biggest opportunity of her life so far, opening for country star Kenny Chesney on tour. “This was going to change my career,” she remembers. But a couple of weeks later, Taylor’s mom gave her bad news. Plans for the tour had shifted, and Taylor was too young to join. “I was devastated ,” she says.
For her 18th birthday, Chesney wrote her a card. It read: “I’m sorry that you couldn’t come on the tour, so I wanted to make it up to you.” With the note was a check. “It was for more money than I’d ever seen in my life,” Swift says. “I was able to fuel my dreams.”
A lot has changed since then. At 34, Swift is a pop superstar and a businesswoman, and on December 7, she was named the 2023 TIME Person of the Year. “This is the proudest and happiest I’ve ever felt,” Swift says. “And the most creatively fulfilled and free I’ve ever been.”TAS2023/GETTY IMAGES
An Epic Tour
Swift’s epic Eras Tour played 66 dates across the Americas in 2023. It’s the first concert tour to make more than a billion dollars. Politicians round the world implored Swift to play their countries. Stadiums, streets, and even cities were renamed for her.
Swift’s arrival in a city energizes the local economy. A mini economic boom takes place. Hotels and restaurants get more visitors. When Eras kicked off, in Glendale, Arizona, businesses made more money than they did during the 2023 Super Bowl, which was held in the same city.
The “Taylor effect” was noticed at the highest levels of government. “When the Federal Reserve mentions you as the reason economic growth is up, that’s a big deal,” says Ed Tiryakian, who teaches finance at Duke University, in North Carolina.
All of this can be a lot of pressure for one person. After she plays a run of shows, Swift takes a day to rest. “I do not leave my bed except to get food,” she says. “I can barely speak because I’ve been singing for three shows straight.”
The movie version of Swift’s Eras Tour took an uncommon route. It was released directly to theaters, without the help of a Hollywood studio. “I did what I tend to do more and more often these days,” she says, “which is to bet on myself.” Swift made a deal directly with AMC, giving the theater chain its highest single-day ticket sales in history (see “Box-Office Smash”). The premiere took place in Los Angeles, California. Swift packed 13
theaters with thousands of fans. She went into each one thanking audience members for being there. During the movie, Swift sat with her fans, sang along, and danced in her seat. Excitement rippled through the crowds. Swift is “so good at making her personal experience relate to millions of people,” says McCall, 20, a fan. “When I listen to her songs, I think about what I’ve been through—not what she’s been through.”
Box-Office SmashFREDERIC J. BROWN—AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The Eras Tour is breaking records. So is the movie version. Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour has made more than $250 million at the box office. It had the biggest opening weekend for any concert film: $92.8 million in North America. And it made going to the movies an event. Fans dressed up and swapped friendship bracelets. With no studio involvement, Swift and AMC take home about 57% of ticket sales. You can rent the movie now. —By Annabel Gutterman