With a record-breaking world tour, the ability to move economies and a $1.1 billion net worth, the 33-year-old entertainer ranks among the most influential women on the planet.
By Maggie McGrath, Forbes Staff
“You’re making me feel phenomenal,” Taylor Swift likes to tell the sold-out stadium of fans at each stop on her Eras tour, right before she performs her feminist anthem “The Man.” Basking in the applause, the 33-year-old pop star then flexes her bicep and kisses the muscle, all of which whips the audience into a bigger frenzy. “You’re making me feel,” she says, as a smile spreads across her face, “powerful.”
It’s a brilliant bit of theatrics, but Swiftie Nation understands that she is, and has always been, the true source of her own power — and 17 years into her remarkable career, Swift has never had more economic, cultural and political clout. All of which has caused her to soar up the ranks of Forbes’ World’s Most Powerful Women, from No. 79 in 2022 to No. 5 this year.
Thanks to the record-breaking success of the Eras tour, Swift became a billionaire in October — making her the rare recording artist to achieve ten-figure status, joining the likes of Jay-Z (net worth: $2.5 billion) and Rihanna ($1.4 billion). A three-and-a-half-hour concert retrospective of her career, the Eras tour has grossed nearly $850 million over the course of 63 U.S. shows. Its first leg has added an estimated $190 million, after tax, to Swift’s coffers, boosting her net worth to $1.1 billion. The show will head to Europe and Asia next year.
The so-called Taylor Swift Effect casts a wide financial halo. Two nights of her tour in Denver added $140 million to Colorado’s gross domestic product, thanks to fans spending an average $1,300 apiece on hotels, restaurants and retailers. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve even cited Swift in its June Beige Book, noting that May — the month the Pennsylvania native performed at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly for three nights — marked the strongest month for city hotel revenue since before the pandemic. The U.S. Travel Association estimates that, collectively, the U.S. leg of the Eras tour added more than $5 billion to state economies.
“She’s like a big corporation, essentially, operating in many sectors,” says labor economist and University of Chicago professor Carolyn Sloan. “Her audience has skewed so young and so female for so long that people may have underestimated how big this thing could be, economically. I don’t think anybody doubts that today.”
That predominantly young, female audience also followed Swift to the movie box office this year. Here again, she flexed her entrepreneurial muscle, bypassing Hollywood studios to release The Eras Tour directly with AMC in October, despite the fact that she had no traditional marketing apparatus at her back. No matter. Swift herself is the ultimate marketing machine. Stacy Jones, founder of marketing agency Hollywood Branded, estimates that the singer has amassed more than $130 billion in “earned media” — a bit of a voodoo number that attempts to estimate the value of free publicity — over the last two years. Word of mouth and a few strategically timed appearances at Kansas City Chiefs football games were more than enough visibility to get fans in the seats. The movie notched a $93 million opening weekend and has grossed more than $200 million worldwide.
As with the Eras tour and the concert movie, much of Swift’s power stems from her direct control over her business. More impressive, and potentially far more lucrative, is the way in which she reclaimed ownership of her song catalog by rerecording albums that were part of a $300 million sale Swift alleges was done behind her back. She has so far rerecorded and released four of the six albums that were part of that sale. The most recent of these, 1989 (Taylor’s Version), set a Spotify record for most-streamed artist in a single day when it was released in late October.
When you consider that Katy Perry and Justin Bieber sold the rights to their respective music catalogs in 2023 for more than $200 million, the value of Swift’s music will only make her wealthier in the eras to come.
As formidable as Swift is, she is not, however, the most powerful woman in the world. That title goes to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, whose policy and budgetary decisions affect Europe’s 450 million people. That number soon might soar past 500 million. In her annual state of the union speech in September, von der Leyen reaffirmed her intent to make Ukraine and countries in the Western Balkans official EU members.
No. 2 this year is Christine Lagarde, the European Central Bank president who is shaping Europe’s monetary policy at a moment of high inflation. Also coming in ahead of Swift is U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (No. 3) and Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni (No. 4). Both are the first women to hold their respective positions, and Meloni is asserting her influence by proposing reforms to Italy’s constitution that would allow for the direct election of the prime minister.
“All those people with hard power are truly powerful women,” says Jones, the branding expert, “but they’re not going to be able to change the world in the way that Taylor Swift is.”