No doubt by now you’ve heard about the tour bonuses reportedly handed out by superstar Taylor Swift at the end of last month. If you missed the headlines, here’s a recap: Next week marks the end of the first leg of Swift’s Eras Tour, and to mark the occasion the singer gave out bonuses of $100,000 to more than 50 truck drivers, and gave unspecified bonuses to musicians, dancers, lighting and sound techs. Wow. It’s good to be the Queen. And a member of her crew.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that a night at Swift’s Eras Tour has been the hottest ticket in town. The tour has been an incredible success, posting staggering numbers. As of June, more than 1.1 million tickets had been sold, a gross of more than $300 million, and Forbes estimates that the tour could gross as much as $1.6 billion by the time the last truck is emptied. That’s for the ticket sales. Don’t forget about merch, which reportedly rakes in around $15 million per show. That’s a lot of scratch.
Swift’s success has not been limited to the United States. The next leg of the tour—which kicks off at the end of August with four shows at Foro Sol in Mexico City, Mexico—will bring the artist to South America, Japan, Australia, Europe and the UK. Since initially announcing the tour, Swift has added shows, cities and even countries to the itinerary, extending it with dates running through November of this year.
Some of the more jaded personalities in the touring industry might look at that calendar and think, “Yeah, I should get a bonus. I thought I was going home on <insert date here>,” while others—probably the majority—would say, “Yep, add those dates and keep the paychecks coming.”
In my years working in the touring industry, I’ve heard about a wide variety of tour bonuses, mostly very modest. Silly bonuses like $500 sneakers (who would wear them?), articles of clothing (meh), engraved multi-tools (not a bad idea), and assault rifles (true story, and no thanks). But cash is king, and getting that kind of bonus—though it’s probably not life-changing like many of the headlines imply—would certainly be welcome after working one’s arse off for an artist. Even after taxes, $100k could pay for a year or two of college tuition, a Covid-induced debt, a vacation, or perhaps that new roof that your house needs.
It’s smart business and helps an organization maintain its success: Hire the best people you can possibly find, pay them what they’re worth in the first place, and when the job is nearing an end, say “thank you” while giving them incentive to come back next time. No doubt it makes people feel valued by their employer. Kudos to Taylor Swift.