Why do we cheer Taylor Swift for making money?

Now Taylor Swift is also “Person of the Year”. Selected by Time Magazine. In a row with Volodymyr Zelenskyj, Elon Musk, Joe Biden and Greta Thunberg. For a brief moment you wonder if she hasn’t been there before, Taylor Swift has been successful for so long.

There’s no question: the singer has broken record after record this year. She is actually one of the most powerful women in the world, measured in terms of her economic dominance but also her pop culture influence. Their music is heard worldwide like no other, and their “The Eras” tour could easily make three times as much sales if stadiums weren’t sold out at some point.

In short, Taylor Swift is a step up even in the league of superstars. She has become a brand and is considered a role model for several generations of young people. She’s dating a successful footballer, and this time it doesn’t look like her partner is just another number ready for a quick kill. The singer is even re-recording her albums. Because she wasn’t happy with them artistically. At least that’s what she says. Publishing something twice in order to make double the profit, even if it sounds just slightly different – no one has come up with this idea recently. And then it is sold quite cleverly as a courageous, emancipated songwriter move.

Actually, Taylor Swift can’t do much wrong (except for this “Cats” movie, which no one remembers anyway).

Taylor Swift becomes #taylorswift

But there is a problem with all of these reports. They’re about Taylor Swift, but they’re no longer talking about the musician with the dazzlingly beautiful country, pop and folk melodies, long refined through collaboration with the most talented colleagues. The fact that the musician knows exactly what the majority wants to hear, and her approachability is certainly characterized by an all too visible flawlessness, doesn’t matter at all.

We mainly hear headlines about the businesswoman and influencer Taylor Swift. Every record report, from chart placement to GDP growth in a place that is lucky enough to host a concert by the undoubtedly hyper-talented, to honorary doctorates or the influence on girls to take things into their own hands more confidently, suggests everything: There is no business queen like Taylor.

Now every penny that rolls into the pockets of the singer and her gigantic staff may be deserved. That’s just how the market works. Anyone who has more to offer, whether simply in a musical way or, as seems to be fitting today, with identification potential that is obviously difficult to exploit, will get more. And then you can give it away. But that is also symptomatic of a pop system in which the audience wants more and more from fewer and fewer megastars. There have been trends and starlets before, but Taylor Swift, with her supernatural success figures, also seems to demonstrate that some people now have the opportunity to get even more of the ever-shrinking pie.

Concerts become events

Of course, this goes along with the news that Taylor Swift is the most listened to musician on Spotify (by far), but at the same time artists who generate fewer than 1000 streams per song in the future will no longer be paid at all. If you don’t already have a fan base, you won’t even get a place at the launch pad.

Anyone who has listeners who reject all criticism and become active online gives the impression that they are floating above things in a certain way. So you go to Taylor Swift’s concerts a little bit as if they were hosting the Super Bowl. An event that you should perhaps see once in your life. Something bigger than anything else. This also makes you forget that Swift brings over 40 songs to the stage every evening, reinvents herself again and again, both live and in the studio, and apparently works like no one else in her industry to be able to enjoy this privilege. And then she often appears generous and approachable. Sometimes even modest.

Without it being intentional, however, every report of success takes the sensitive musician out of the game and turns her into a money and authenticity machine. The question remains: Why is there actually something to celebrate when a musician earns more money than others? Shouldn’t it be their artistic vision that is worth celebrating and appropriate to criticize when image and output cannot always be reconciled?