You’re on Jalopnik and you’ve clicked on a story about Taylor Swift. I’m not here to fault you. I will admit here on the site that employs me, that I can’t help but continue to purchase her albums and rock to them quite shamelessly in the comforts of my own home and car. It’s okay. We’ll enjoy her music and the intricate work that goes into putting together her pièce de résistance—her performances, together.
We can acknowledge that T, TSwift, Taylor Swift is a “go big or go home” kind of woman. Her pandemic project of rerecording and rereleasing all of her records is no small feat (all while throwing some shade at her former beaus in the process). There are a lot of moving pieces that go into recording all those parts, remixing and preparing them for listening. And as you can imagine, her tours aren’t anything to slouch about either.
Watch this opening from her Reputation Stadium Tour in 2018:
At around 2 minutes, a wall revealing her stage for the night opens. Those walls ... those aren’t stored somewhere in the arena. They are built. They are torn apart strategically. They are then loaded in the most strategic of ways onto one or multiple semi trailers. Someone has to conceptualize, build, and create some sort of sheet and breakdown for how it goes together, operates, and comes apart for every show, every night.
I’m tired just imagining it.
This stage or set piece, could take a few days to build, meaning not only does tour management and Taylor’s people have to plan ahead the logistics of multiple sets of rigs, but they have to plan ahead for multiple shows.
An example would be if Taylor was playing Detroit for a few days, and expected in Philly soon after, her team would plan to send one set of rigs and equipment to Detroit, while a matching set of equipment was sent on its way to Philly. Detroit’s equipment would then be sent to the next city on the docket after Philly, and so-on.
Imagine, planning plan around “do we have one show traveling, or do we schedule ahead and send another crew and more equipment to the next venue?”
And while there are tricks of the trade tour managers can utilize to help relieve some of that planning stress, Taylor’s production has even more to coordinate. Because you see, while some smaller national tours could take a handful of trailer trucks filled with equipment, Taylor...for her Reputation tour in 2018, had over 80 for just one show.
This video from a few years ago for Taylor’s Reputation tour at Ohio Stadium gives you a better look at what her tour production on wheels looks like. Here The Industry Observer writes:
Boasting 52 semi-trucks of staging, and 30 more of steel, the production recquires 4 (yes FOUR) whole cranes to put everything together and make it the monumental show it is. Columbus Arena Sports and Entertainment (CASE) say it is a bigger production than The Rolling Stones 2015 concert at the same venue, or Cirque Di Soleil’s Michael Jackson event that took place nearby.
So, 82 semi-trailers carried just one of two sets of stages the singer purportedly hauled all over the country for her Reputation tour.
The article continues:
Workers labored for two days setting everything up. Swift’s show on Saturday night lasted two hours. Taking it all down and loading everything back aboard the trucks took about a day. No doubt the 60,000 fans who attended the event loved it, and her.
“To be sure, it was as dazzling a show as this town has seen,” said a reviewer for the Columbus Dispatch, ”and her gesture rang genuine.” That gesture was her thanking the 500 workers, some local and some in her employ, who set it all up.
So in this case, it took two days behind-the-scenes with hundreds of people to support and create every aspect of Taylor’s show in one location. That also includes planning each tour destination to the incredibly detailed handouts they provide to those working on tour so they can pack and unpack the semis hauling every set piece, lighting rig, instruments and whatever else they might need, properly in the most expert game of Tetris you might every play.
There’s also volunteers or those working at the venue helping those working with the tour, helping with loading, and making sure Taylor’s staff knows where to go to set things up, tear down, and where anything can all be stored while it awaits another load-in.
I reached out to a friend and former colleague of mine, Scott Bell, who is a Production Manager for MI Entertainment Group here in Michigan, and Tour Manager for a group called The Menzingers for a little more insight. According to Bell, it’s fairly common for big names like Swift or Metallica to coordinate and haul these small cities simultaneous for large stadium tours.
He said in comparison, smaller shows with supporting acts may unload anywhere from 4 -10 semi trucks to put on one show. From the venue’s standpoint, while they’re unloading all of those trucks, production managers, like Bell, are also working to coordinate the next day’s lineup, as some acts come in the night before to unload equipment so they can say, program their lights for the next night’s show. It’s truly a complex dance to put together.
I can tell you from my past concert days, unloading and loading trailers were difficult enough, and for the acts I typically helped with, they might have one or two large trailers, or just a van they threw all their stuff in. But Taylor’s show, is a masterpiece. To coordinate 82+ semi trucks to load in and put together a show ... just to load them up successfully in a night before sending them off is like watching a Nutcracker Ballet production in New York. Intricate. Graceful. Beautiful. You go T.