Taylor Swift fans who bought merchandise across shows and pop-ups may have felt their digital wallets hurting, with water bottles and posters costing $40 each and hoodies $120.

While the price of merchandise for some may come as a shock, it’s now one of the most crucial parts of the live entertainment business, complimenting ticket sales and food and beverage which once dominated revenue.

The last shows of the pop star’s Australian leg of the ‘Eras Tour’ ended in Sydney last week, with fans paying hundreds of dollars just to watch their idol from the ‘cheap seats’.

The 34-year-old has an estimated net worth of $US1.1 billion ($1.7 billion) and fans attending her concerts got a better understanding of where that money comes from. The range and price of the merch included $65 T-shirts, $85 long sleeves, $50 bracelets and $40 tote bags, which were sold at her shows and organised pop-up booths. Yet, they were prices many Swifties were willing to pay after spending hours in line.

Ticket prices to Swift’s Melbourne and Sydney concerts ranged from $79.99 to $1,249.90.

Accor Stadium in Sydney was “not able to provide an accurate ballpark” on hiring the venue for a concert when approached by Central News.

So, who’s making money out of it?

The Australian supply of tour T-shirts, made in China, is provided by American company Jerry Leigh Of California Inc, who describe themselves as “a family-owned clothing manufacturer… with the philosophy of designing fashion that is accessible to everyone”.

The company has licensing agreements with Disney and Warner Brothers as well as owning the David Lerner New York Brand.

But the merchandise for Swift is more expensive than many touring groups, with fans paying a premium for celebrity rather than necessarily getting better quality.

Akilah Amaratunga, an events promoter in Sydney, makes shirts for as little as $15. For every shirt he sells, 50 per cent is profit, without the venue, the agent, manager or tour manager getting a cut.

“I use VistaPrint and get t-shirts at $15, selling them after shows for $30,” said.

A single hoodie ordered through VistaPrint typically costs from $33-$55, with long-sleeve shirts starting at $22. The cost gets even lower for bulk purchases.

Although Swift’s merch is among the most expensive, recording artists’ have faced a drastic decrease in revenue since the rise of music streaming.

In 2008 two-thirds of revenue came from CDs whilst in 2020 physical sales of content made up only 9 per cent in the US. After downloading, then streaming became the norm for music consumers. Artists are making $US4.37 per 10,000 streams compared to 14-23 cents per dollar spent on a CD or a download.

Licensed merchandise, specifically in music, generates $US3.5 billion a year in sales globally.

Venues also can take large cuts of the profits, ranging from 10 per cent to 40 per cent. Combine this with the agents, managers, lawyers, and touring managers who can all take cuts. Agents usually receive a 10 per cent cut of their salary, whilst managers receive up to 15 per cent. Not to mention the countless staff, i.e. security guards, caterers, and bus drivers.

In addition, fans are reselling merch for hundreds of dollars more on sites such as eBay.

Main image by Eva Rinaldi/Flickr and supplied.