In honor of Taylor Swift's album of the year Grammy victory on March 14, 2021, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at Taylor's music empire from her business deals and partnerships to the major money moves that contributed to her estimated $400 million net worth. Keep reading for a guide to how Taylor's made her money…
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Taylor Swift got a head start on the rest of us in terms of pursuing her dreams. She was just 14 when she inked her first big deal — with Sony/ATV Music Publishing — in 2004, becoming the youngest songwriter they'd ever signed. The next year, she accepted an offer from a then-new Nashville label, Big Machine Label Group, and hit the ground running with original songs she penned while in high school. Taylor became a country-pop sensation overnight with the 2006 release of her self-titled debut album, which sold 7 million copies worldwide and remained on the charts for 157 weeks — longer than any other album during that decade.
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With the success of debut album "Taylor Swift" under her belt, the songstress stepped up her game on her sophomore album and not only wrote but co-produced 2008's "Fearless." Taylor's creative input paid off: The diamond-certified album — with hit tracks "Love Story" and "You Belong with Me" — sold 12 million copies worldwide and earned her an album of the year Grammy. Over the next year, her debut concert trek, the "Fearless" tour, grossed $75 million after tickets for the 118-show run sold out in mere minutes.
Taylor Swift's early success didn't come without a bit of drama. For example, take the time when the newcomer beat out superstar Beyonce for best female video (for "You Belong with Me") at the 2009 MTV VMAs. Her acceptance speech was abruptly cut off when rapper Kanye West infamously rushed the stage. "Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you," he interjected. "I'mma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!" The controversy only garnered her a stronger fan base (that spent more $$$) as Taylor continued to soak up her "Fearless" glory with a CMA Award and a Grammy win. Taylor's special connection with her loyal fans (known as "Swifties") has kept her on top of the money charts ever since.
Once Taylor Swift proved she could write, produce and perform music to sold-out crowds, she set out to tackle acting. The multi-talented star got her feet wet with small screen gigs, like hosting "Saturday Night Live," before making her big screen debut in 2010's "Valentine's Day." The rom-com boasted a star-studded ensemble cast that included Bradley Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner (pictured) and Julia Roberts, but Taylor certainly was one reason younger fans flocked to theaters during its $52.4 million-grossing opening weekend.
2010 was a big year for Taylor Swift's bank account apart from her acting endeavors. Her third album, "Speak Now," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold more than a million copies in its first week alone. Taylor included a few tracks featuring lyrics that mirrored her actual love life. "Back To December," for example, was rumored to be about her short romance with "Valentine's Day" co-star Taylor Lautner the year prior. There's no better way to sell records than making them personal, right?
Taylor Swift's 2011 "Speak Now" world tour was an enormous success. She raked in a cool $123 million for 87 sold-out shows across 19 countries. Show me the money!
Taylor Swift kept the ball rolling with the release of her fourth album, 2012's "Red," which debuted at the top of the charts and sold 1.2 million copies in its first week. Album sales skyrocketed to upwards of 6 million worldwide with the release of hit singles including "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble" — which fans speculated were about some of her real-life romances (after splitting with Jake Gyllenhaal and Conor Kennedy, Taylor moved on to then-One Direction singer Harry Styles).
Taylor Swift's 2013 "Red" tour was just as successful as the album it promoted. She grossed more than $150 million from 86 (obviously sold out) shows.
With Taylor Swift's stock rising by the minute, she signed a sizeable endorsement deal with Diet Coke for a reported $26 million in 2013. The same year, she started to build a working relationship with Victoria's Secret, signing on (for an undisclosed amount) to perform during the brand's annual fashion show. She promoted her music to more than 10 million viewers that year while hitting the catwalk with her real-life model pals like Lily Aldridge (pictured) and Karlie Kloss. Before that, she'd already partnered with other global brands, like CoverGirl and Keds, to appear in a slew of million-dollar ad campaigns. Forbes reported that a chunk of her net worth still comes from these types of profitable deals, which in more recent years have included contracts with Apple and Capital One.
Taylor Swift's music had always teetered between genres — country and pop — until the 2014 release of her birth-year namesake record, "1989." Like pretty much everything she touches, her self-proclaimed "first documented, official pop album" turned to gold (actually, it went nine-times platinum). Hits like "Shake It Off" and "Bad Blood" helped Taylor sell 10.1 million albums worldwide and earned her another Grammy for album of the year (she's the first female to win that award twice!). At the end of 2020, Taylor had earned 10 Grammys in 41 nominations over her career, with six nods to be determined heading into the 2021 Grammys.
Taylor Swift's subsequent "1989" world tour grossed roughly $258 million during its 85-show run. She famously brought out a host of her celebrity pals over the course of the concert trek. Justin Timberlake (seen here) and Ellen DeGeneres hit the stage in Los Angeles; Mick Jagger joined her in Nashville; Miranda Lambert appeared in North Carolina… and many, many more stars popped up in other cities.
Realizing her worth as an artist, Taylor publicly took a stand against streaming platforms with unreasonable royalty agreements. In 2014, she pulled a major power move and removed all of her music from Spotify, which she felt was undervaluing her work. The following year, she penned an open letter to Apple Music expressing her problem with their free three-month trial for new members. Threatening to make "1989" unavailable, the subscription service swiftly (pun intended) changed their policy to ensure artist compensation during the trial. Get that money, girl!
Taylor Swift's sixth studio album, 2017's "Reputation," yet again debuted at No. 1 and became the top-selling album of the year (globally, she sold 4.5 million copies). The year before its release, she ended a year-long romance with DJ-producer Calvin Harris and enjoyed a headline-making summer fling with actor Tom Hiddleston — and, naturally, wrote all about their ill-fated relationships on the album. Fans especially took notice of her hit single "Look What You Made Me Do," which is believed to be about her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West.
Taylor Swift's "Reputation" stadium tour — which featured special guests like best bud Selena Gomez — was a huge real cash cow for the pop star: It grossed $345.7 million over 53 shows! In fact, Taylor knocked the Rolling Stones out of the top spot for highest grossing U.S. tour bragging rights after making $266.1 million on about 2 million tickets just for her North American leg.
On top of all the dollar signs Taylor Swift saw in 2018, Billboard estimated that she raked in $17 in merchandise for each "Reputation" tour ticket (for reference, more than 2.8 million fans attended the concert run). She also sold a film documenting the tour to Netflix that we can only assume earned her millions. Forbes calculated that Taylor made a cool $1 million a day off the success of "Reputation," which also won her four more American Music Awards (as of late 2020, she had 32 AMAs in total, which is more than any other artist including previous record holder Michael Jackson). She also jumped to the second spot on Forbes' list of highest earning musicians for 2018 after reportedly making an additional $5 million from album sales, $2.4 million from streaming sales and $2 million in other royalties.
Toward the end of 2018, Taylor Swift parted ways with Big Machine Label Group and signed a global deal with Universal Music Group's Republic Records for an estimated guarantee of up to $200 million. In the deal, Taylor's new label agreed to give her the rights to all of her future music after a five-year period, which wasn't the case before. Control of her past catalog fell into the hands of entertainment exec Scooter Braun (pictured) when he purchased Big Machine for $300 million in 2019. Needless to say, Taylor was wildly unhappy! Things took a new turn in November 2020 — the same month Taylor started re-recording her first six albums — when Scooter turned around and sold Taylor's masters to a private investment group for a reported $300 million after she was again denied a chance to buy them back.
Taylor Swift turned the page to a new chapter with the 2019 release of her seventh studio album, "Lover," which sold 3 million hard and streaming copies in its first week in August 2019. Fans attributed her romantic lyrics to the happy state of her three-year relationship with "The Favourite" actor Joe Alwyn. A month earlier in July camehuge news: Forbes announced that Taylor had earned an estimated $185 million over the previous year — putting her at the top of the business magazine's list of the world's highest paid celebrities of 2019.
Taylor Swift has been smart with the millions she's made, investing the bulk of it. She reportedly owns eight properties worth upwards of $84 million as well as a custom $40 million private jet. But she's not hoarding all the rest of that dough for herself! Part of the reason she's amassed such a huge fan following comes from her propensity to give back. In 2019, Taylor donated millions including $113K (13 is her lucky number, after all) to the Tennessee Equality Project, which supports LGBTQ rights.
Taylor Swift returned to the big screen in the December 2019 version of Broadway's "Cats" alongside Idris Elba, Judi Dench, James Corden and more. Not only was she paid to appear in the project, but she also co-wrote (with "Cats" creator Andrew Lloyd Webber, no less) an original song, "Beautiful Ghosts," for its soundtrack. While the film was considered a box office failure, it still grossed $75.5 million and scored Taylor Golden Globe and Grammy nominations for her song from the film.
Taylor Swift's financial generosity also made headlines in 2020. That March, after a slew of tornados ravaged parts of Tennessee, she donated $1 million to the non-profit Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund to help victims. In April, it was revealed that she was giving money to the employees at Nashville record store Grimey's New & Preloved Music to help with expenses and their health insurance payments after coronavirus lockdown orders forced the business to close. In December, it came to light that Taylor had also donated $13,000 each to two mothers' GoFundMe accounts to help them pay rent and care for their kids amid the ongoing global health crisis. "Nikki, I read about you in the Washington Post and thought it was really brave of you to share your story. I'm so sorry for everything you've had to go through this year and wanted to send you this gift, from one Nashville girl to another. Love, Taylor," she wrote to one of the women, Tennessee resident Nikki Cornwell.
In July 2020, Taylor Swift dropped her surprise eighth studio album, "folklore" — just 11 months after she released "Lover" — and earned critical praise for its indie folk and alt-rock sound, a departure from her previous work. It became her seventh No. 1 album and spent eight weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 chart, making it the longest running No. 1 album since 2017. In addition to being 2020's first album to sell 1 million units, "folklore" also sold 2 million copies worldwide in its first week. In November, the music of "folklore" earned five Grammy nominations and the same month, Taylor dropped another surprise project, "Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions" — a documentary on making the secret album during the coronavirus pandemic — on Disney+. But there were more business surprises in store before 2020 — which saw her come in at No. 25 on Forbes' list of the world's highest paid celebrities with earnings of $63.5 million — would end…
In November 2020, Variety reported that Scooter Braun, who'd acquired the rights to the masters for Taylor Swift's first six albums through his Ithaca Holdings company, had sold them to the Disney family's private investment arm for "north of $300 million," the same amount he paid for Big Machine Label Group as a whole in June 2019. But November 2020 also marked a big business moment for Taylor: She became contractually free to re-record those first six albums and immediately started doing so. She gave fans a first taste of some of her new old music in early December 2020 when she allowed a re-recorded version of her hit song "Love Story" to be used in a viral Match.com video ad created by her pal Ryan Reynolds's company, Maximum Effort. In March 2021, fans got to hear a snippet of Taylor's re-recorded version of "Wildest Dreams" too when it was used in the "Spirit Untamed" movie trailer.
In December 2020 just a few days before her 31st birthday, Taylor Swift made another major business move when she released her ninth studio album, "evermore," less than five months after dropping her last album, "folklore." She explained her newest unexpected album in an Instagram post to fans, writing, "Ever since I was 13, I've been excited about turning 31 because it's my lucky number backwards, which is why I wanted to surprise you with this now. You've all been so caring, supportive and thoughtful on my birthdays and so this time I thought I would give you something! I also know this holiday season will be a lonely one for most of us [because of COVID-19] and if there are any of you out there who turn to music to cope with missing loved ones the way I do, this is for you."
In March 2021, Taylor Swift did it again: At 31, she took home another album of the year Grammy Award, this time for "folklore." The victory put her in the history books as she became the first female artist to win album of the year three times — an accomplishment that's sure to boost her music sales.