How Taylor Swift Became a Billionaire by Marketing Her Eras

Explore Taylor Swift’s journey to becoming the most popular female pop star in the music industry

Taylor Swift is a singer, songwriter and self-marketing genius. With a career spanning 20 years, Swift is the most popular female pop star on the planet today.

She’s also a “postmedia celebrity” and a “digital native,” New York Times journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote in a lengthy celebrity profile on Swift’s Eras tour. The profile is different from the typical celebrity deep-dive: Brodesser-Akner never once quotes Swift, because she was unable to interview her for the piece.

When Brodesser-Akner reached out to Swift’s PR team to request an interview, she was denied – Swift was too busy, her publicist reported.

Brodesser-Akner notes that Taylor didn’t need to speak with her, and that meddling with a middle man would be a waste of her time. Swift has almost half a billion followers across all of her social media platforms – the New York Times, Brodesser-Akner adds, only has 92 million.

“Whether or not you like Taylor as a person, she is a marketing genius,” resident ASA designer and Gen Z Swift-expert (by nature of growing up over the course of Swift’s “eras”) Stella Green-Rhoades said.

And it’s true: Swift, like Kim Kardashian, has been hated with vitriol for a variety of reasons, yet, like Kim, is a billionaire with an undeniable talent for spinning her creativity into gold.

Taylor Swift has used personal branding in the digital age to achieve billionaire status. Understanding Swift’s overall marketing strategy requires analyzing her relationship to her fans, her social media presence and her “Eras” themselves.

The Swifties department

“A Swiftie is a higher level than a fan,” Green-Rhoades said. Cultish may be an exaggerated description, but Taylor’s Swifties are a legion of supporters with a deep connection to Swift’s personal legacy, through her music (and vice versa).

Few fan bases embody the passion, force and impact of Taylor’s Swifties. A lyric in a song from Swift’s album Midnights inspired a friendship-bracelet trading frenzy at shows on her Eras tour. Swifties solve word puzzles and games online to crack the clues about the tracks Swift will release from the “vault” (songs recorded for previous albums that have never been released).

Swift’s songs are like riddles: every word has a meaning, every lyric is a clue; into who the song is about, and what “era” will come next. This isn’t hyperbolic: Swift herself talks about the Easter eggs she leaves in her music for her fans to find, piecing together new details of the story. We’ve all heard about the infamous scarf from “All too Well,” reportedly about Swift’s relationship with Jake Gylenhaal – without his name ever being mentioned in her music. When Swift wore never-before seen blue outfits on tour, fans predicted that a re-recording of 1989 was soon to come (and they were correct).

“Swift’s eras cemented her [legacy]; she’s in her 30s and she’s an icon already,” Green-Rhoades said, adding:

“She’s not doing something mind boggling or groundbreaking, the mechanics of it, but the way she’s been able to create these easter egg games with her audience creates a sense of interactivity and connection that people at her status are afraid of or unable to create with their fans.”

Taylor Swift’s media mastery and rising net worth

Swift’s connection to her fans is tailored (get it) through her social media presence. With each era, she rebrands to a very particular aesthetic. The font, colours, style and type of content she posts shifts, Green-Rhoades noted. She pulls up Swift’s Instagram account on her phone and scrolls through her feed.

“See,” she says, “her feed right now [curated towards the release of her new album, The Tortured Poets Department] is this sepia sort of black and white – it’s warm, different from the black and white of her reputation era.”

Screenshots show three different aesthetics through Taylor Swift’s eras, as seen on her Instagram feed. One is moody, one is pink and one is cozy
Screenshots of Swift’s Instagram through the eras

The most notable of Swift’s rebrands on social media was when she went dark prior to her
“Reputation era.” This was during the Kim/Kanye drama of 2016, when the pop princess faced internet backlash for approving/not approving of an explicit lyric about her in one of Kanye’s songs. In the wake of the backlash, she went off the grid. Swift erased her social media presence, eventually coming out of the woodwork with cryptic, darkly coloured posts of a snake – leading up to the release of her Reputation album, of course.

“She’s created brands within herself that she can market with merch,” Green-Rhoades said, noting how the song “Cardigan” inspired cardigans being sold on Swift’s website (Swift even turned the one-off merch into a line, creating new cardigans for consecutive albums). Each of Swift’s eras is a brand: Lover is sweet, soft and pink, Reputation is dark, edgy and vengeful, 1989 is bright and blue-toned, etc. Swift’s costuming during the performances of the songs from these eras on her tour – and the merch to accompany each era – embodies the era’s particular aesthetic.

“‘Which era are you?’” Brodesser-Akner recalls a Swiftie asking her at an Eras tour show. “‘The era isn’t the album you like,’” the Swiftie clarified, “‘it’s the one you are.’”

The Era of the postmedia celebrity

Swift has harnessed the power of her personal branding at her shows, working with her fans to draw attention to her new music (no New York Times reporter required).

On tour, Swift is aware that all eyes are on her – fans livestream the shows, “so everyone knows something the second she announces it [on tour],” Green-Rhoades explained, adding that “it could be 3 am here and she could be doing a show in Japan,” but if she announces something people will know about it instantly.

For example, when Swift announced the 1989 re-release (Taylor’s Version) at a show, it went viral instantly, thanks to fans posting about the calculated “surprise” on Instagram (air quotes because, in her documentary on Netflix, Swift said that her life is planned out “two years in advance”).

Swift uses this to her advantage – she has (most likely) assembled a strong marketing team to execute her creative vision, but it’s the Swifties who bolster her self-promotion – all she has to do is sing.

You might not be Taylor Swift, but if you’re a growing brand looking to upscale your marketing strategies, you need a strong marketing team (no Swiftie loyalty required). That’s where we come in: from increasing brand awareness to generating leads and driving sales, our team at Arnold Street Agency is here to help you reach your goals and elevate your business.

Questions? Visit our website to learn more about the services we offer and get in touch with us.


Q: Is Taylor Swift actually a billionaire?

A: According to the internet – yes! Forbes reported that Swift joined the billionaire’s club in April, 2024, with an estimated net worth of 1.1 billion.

Q: How many Swifties are there?

A: Last year, more than 50% of US adults said that they identified as a “Swiftie” – cementing the rise of Taylor Swift from pop star to marketing master in the zeitgeist.

Q: What’s the deal with Taylor Swift’s private jet emissions?

A: After ranking as the #1 CO2 polluter of 2022 with her frequent private jet travel, Swift countered the claim by saying she uses carbon offsets to bring down her emissions output. What we know for sure is that Swift has “dramatically changed” her jet setting behaviour following public backlash for her ranking as a top polluter. Only time will tell . . .