As Beyoncé, Taylor Swift tour, ‘a whole economy is being built around the concerts’

Spending goes far beyond the concert tickets, to travel, clothing and much more.

By Shelly BrisbinAugust 17, 2023 2:16 pm, ,

Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour could take in $1 billion this summer – and Beyoncé’s Renaissance shows could top that record-setting pace.

But beyond massive paydays for the artists and their promoters, Renaissance and Eras represent real impacts on the economies of cities where the tours are stopping, with spending on concert tickets and merch to beauty rituals, travel and clothing so massive that it’s being factored into the way analysts see the economy in 2023.

Jordyn Holman, who looked into the phenomenon for The New York Times with colleague Jeanna Smialek, says part of the rush to spend on these artists is “revenge spending” – making up for those long pandemic months when there were no concert events to dress up for. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Taylor Swift spent a lot of the past few months touring the U.S. – six sold-out shows in Arlington and Houston. Can you talk a little bit about some of the ways her fans have been spurring economic activity in the places where she’s making appearances?

Jordyn Holman: Absolutely. So it’s been years since Taylor Swift has been on tour, and fans have definitely felt that pent-up demand. And they are manifesting that by spending on new outfits, making sure they’re wearing all the glitter and shimmery things.

And then also they’re flying to new places. Maybe they don’t live in Dallas, but they flew in there, and then that means they’re buying a hotel room. They are doing some of the sideline parties. A lot of the hotels have different mixers, or the friendship bracelets. So it’s like a whole economy is being built around the concerts.

» MORE: Tell them how the crowds went wild: Taylor Swift fans in Texas are ready for the Eras Tour

We have another top performer, one with definite Texas ties: Beyoncé is bringing her Renaissance Tour to the U.S.; she spent a lot of the summer performing in Europe. What about the impact following the excitement for those shows? And we should say Beyoncé will be bringing the tour to her hometown of Houston in September. What’s happening there? And is it very much the same as what’s happening with the Taylor Swift shows?

Yes, it is. So what was really fun about reporting this story is that these concerts are actually happening on parallel tracks and having about the same amount of economic activity. So both Beyoncé and Taylor are expected to generate about $4.5 billion in not just the concerts, but all of the spending that’s happening around one another. So that was a cool stat that stood out between both of them.

And to your point, when it comes to Beyoncé fans, they too are willing to get on planes and book these hotel rooms. They are getting elaborate nails that match either Beyoncé’s wardrobe or the nails that she’s had in previous shows. That was a fun detail that came out of it.

A lot of businesses in the cities that they go to are capitalizing on this trend. So in New York City, when Beyoncé was in town, a local cruise ship company did a Beyoncé-themed dance party night that people going to the concert went to learn the choreography – but also people who didn’t have tickets, just wanted to have a Beyoncé moment, and that was their moment. So those are the kind of ways that people are spending their money.

You know, I can remember people complaining about T-shirts being $50 and that sort of thing. But with these two shows, we’re way beyond merch here. Can you talk about the man who said that he spent $15,000 on multiple Beyoncé shows?

Absolutely. I was just about to bring him up. So my colleague Jeanna, she went out to MetLife in New Jersey when Beyoncé was performing her Sunday night show. And she met a man named Kalen Allen who said that he is spending $15,000 on Beyoncé through multiple concerts. So he wasn’t just going to the one in New Jersey. He had gone overseas and is planning to go to others.

And he got professionally styled – so new clothes, but then also makeup. And he had just one of the best quotes ever: He said, “You know, Beyoncé got a lot of money out of me. At this point, I’m going to claim her as a dependent on my taxes.” So there’s that.

You all talked about the term “revenge spending” to describe how people are approaching these concert events. What is revenge spending?

So in the earliest days of the pandemic, as we can all remember, our spending patterns just changed completely. And so when things started opening up, when concerts started going back on tour, this idea that people were saying, “what the heck, I will spend all this money, because I couldn’t at a certain point.”

And so this idea is like, you’re catching up on lost time, that even spending $2,000 on a ticket doesn’t feel like much because you weren’t able to before. So it’s a phenomena that economists have pointed to in terms of fueling the economy and also maybe possibly hoping to engineer the soft landing that the Federal Reserve is really keen on doing.

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I know that a lot of people have felt quite the pinch as prices have been rising with inflation and interest rates have been skyrocketing. And yet you see this sort of spending around two, well, they’re beyond just recording artists; they’re really pop culture icons now.

And I’m curious, how do you square that? I mean, the economy continues to be sluggish. Is it that Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are exceptions to the rules that go along with kind of dialing back spending? Or is there something about the live concert business more broadly that’s booming? How do you see it?

At the end of the day, going to a concert is discretionary. It’s up to you if you want to do that. But when talking to the fans of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, it almost became so that this type of spending was non-discretionary. They needed to do it because both of these artists haven’t been on tours in years.

You have that revenge spending element. And then also, maybe people just decide to spend less on eating out to make this work within their budget. For multiple fans I talked to, they made the decision to go on these tours as soon as the announcement for the tour came out. So it gave them months to plan. And as we kind of think about consumer pullback and all of that stuff, it’s like, well, because they budgeted for it, they’re able to do it. And that’s how I saw this story.

And this is not just a youth phenomenon. I think when we think of pop music, we often think of middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students. But this is going really much further afield when it comes to audiences, too.

This is so generational. I talked to people who were 20-year-olds going with their mothers. And mothers taking their kids to Beyoncé because the mothers grew up with Beyoncé when she was back in Destiny’s Child. So it definitely crosses against generations, races, cities, obviously.

And so for the music industry, that’s great because it’s not just young people; it’s old people. They’re able to bring everyone to these venues and really capitalize on that moment.

» MORE: Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ pays tribute to Black queer roots of house and disco music

I have to ask you, are you a Beyoncé fan or a Swiftie?

Oh, I am going to see Beyoncé in Houston actually. So I’ll be down there in September.

So if you’re coming in from out of town, how do you prepare for a Beyoncé show?

So I got my Airbnb already because I knew that was going to be pretty intense. I’m going to be ordering my clothes online and bringing all of that. But I’m on the fence – I think I want to do cowboy boots, because it’s Texas. This story, reporting it, was actually very informative for how I need to prepare, because people spent months – and I only have a month right now.

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