Inside Taylor Swift's meteoric rise to fame and wealth

Konstantin Sheiko
February 14, 2018

Taylor Swift is one of the most famous, young, beautiful and successful stars today, and it is safe to say she is enjoying the fruits of her labor. She scored her first contract with Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records after a performance at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee. Swift released her first single, “Tim McGraw”, in 2006. It was a top 10 hit and sold more than 2.5 million copies. Later, she made the transition from country music to pop.   

Taylor Swift began to build serious wealth with ‘1989’ world tour, which grossed around $200 million. In addition to writing and recording music, Swift also regularly increases her bank account from endorsement deals with brands including Apple, Diet Coke, Target, CoverGirl, Sony, Elizabeth Arden, Walmart, American Greetings and Keds, and had estimated total earnings of $170 million in 2016. In addition to her music career, Swift has appeared as an actress in the crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2009), the romantic comedy Valentine’s Day (2010), and the animated film The Lorax (2012).   

In 2009, Forbes ranked Swift the 69th-most powerful celebrity with earnings of $18 million, 2010’s 12th-most powerful celebrity with earnings of $45 million, and 2011’s 7th-most powerful celebrity with earnings of $45 million. As of August 2017, Taylor Swift’s net worth was $280 million, according to Forbes. For the third straight year in 2017, Swift has made the Forbes Celebrity 100 list of the world’s highest-paid entertainers. She also was named by Forbes as one of America’s Richest Self-Made Women in both 2016 and 2017. Plus, she has won numerous accolades, including six Grammys, Kid’s Choice Awards, ten AMAs, seven CMAs, six ACMs and 13 BMI Awards MTV, and People’s Choice Awards, among others. She has sold over 20 million albums and 41.8 million digital tracks worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time.    

Is there a recipe behind her success? In short, Taylor Swift has built an empire by ripping the aesthetics of quirky girlhood from the internet and mass producing them for Target. Swift sells albums by maintaining that she’s still the innocent, lovesick individual. She writes songs like a girl who is soft and impulsive, falling in and out of love, always being manipulated, constantly getting hurt. But it is hard to imagine the real Swift ever allowing her emotions to get the best of her. In reality she is, unabashedly, a grown woman who’s mining the hurts and obsessions of teenage world for lyric gold. Taylor’s love of making money is remarkably straightforward. She is vastly opportunistic, willing to risk a lot if it will make her a profit. At one point the singer introduced a system where fans were encouraged to purchase merchandise, like a $60 gold snake ring, in order to “boost” their chances of being able to purchase concert tickets. This naked money grab did not go over so well, with the media outlets writing at the time, “for fans who are not trying to spend money just for the chance of spending more money, the arrangement is off-putting”. 

At the end of the day, Taylor Swift is just a really smart businesswoman who knows what sells. For example, to accompany her album ‘Reputation’, Swift was selling two behind-the-scenes magazines, available exclusively at Target for twenty dollars per piece. Even Taylor Swift's cats Meredith and Olivia make the money alongside her career. The country-pop star named her pets after her favourite TV characters. Meredith gets her namesake from Ellen Pompeo's Grey's Anatomy character Meredith Grey, and Olivia gets hers from Mariska Hargitay's Law & Order: Special Victims character Olivia Benson. The cats star in various product promotion videos together with Swift, having made an astonishing $40 million fortune so far.    

Putting this cash windfall to good use, the singer made a number of luxury acquisitions, including a Manhattan townhouse for $18 million in an off-market deal. Remarkably, it is located only a few doors down from her $19.95 million penthouse duplex. This 27-foot-wide townhouse was renovated by architect and designer Leopoldo Rosati in 2011. The home’s lower level is pure luxury, with a D-Box motion controlled home theatre, gym, steam bath, and bar. As a bonus, there is also a guest suite with a private bathroom and separate entrance.   

In 2011 Swift purchased a Dassault-Breguet Mystere Falcone 900 personal jet. Allegedly, it cost around $40 million to buy. In 2011 the plane was merely 2 years old. In 2011 alone, Swift banked more than $45 million, so this lavish jet was quite affordable despite its price tag. On the nose of the jet, there is the number “13.” This is Swift’s favourite number, and oddly enough, before every show, she draws it on her hand. She has profound reasoning for 13 being her favourite, stating, “I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album went gold in 13 weeks. My first number one song had a 13-second intro.” She continues, “Every time I’ve won an award I’ve been seated in either the 13th seat, the 13th row, the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter”. The aircraft’s registration is “N898TS,” with the “TS” standing for “Taylor Swift”.    

Adding to a controversy surrounding her name, the singer insured her famous legs for a whopping $40 million in 2015. The sources said that Taylor was believed to be ‘embarrassed’ once she found out how much her legs were worth, adding, “she thought her legs were possibly worth a million”.

And while spending the well-earned money on her lavish lifestyle, Swift has not stopped exploiting the time-tested image of a hurt girl in love, this time around blended together with a luxury twist. It turns out the bathtub full of diamonds in Swift’s 2017 ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ music video was authentic, chock-full of loaned pieces from celebrity jeweller Neil Lane. Hundreds of carats in jewels, including those in the tub and what Swift was wearing and biting, were worth more than $12 million, and that an “insane” amount of security was involved.

Only time will tell what kind of shrewd marketing trick does Taylor Swift has up her sleeve, but one thing is for sure - judging by her previous endeavours, we won’t be disappointed.