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Taylor Swift’s tour is boosting business near venues, but the singer’s the big winner

Henry Epp and Hannah Baggenstoss May 19, 2023
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Taylor Swift performs onstage for the opening night of "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Taylor Swift’s tour is boosting business near venues, but the singer’s the big winner

Henry Epp and Hannah Baggenstoss May 19, 2023
Heard on:
Taylor Swift performs onstage for the opening night of "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management
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Tonight, Taylor Swift plays the first of three sold-out shows at the 60,000-seat Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts near Boston. It’s the latest stop on her “Eras” tour which has brought throngs of fans to cities around the country, making a big economic impact — one that few other artists can replicate.

Back in January, hairdressers at a Drybar hair salon in Houston started seeing a lot of bookings for one particular weekend in April.

“And at first we were all like, ‘What’s going on that weekend?’” said Jaimie James who manages the salon. “Like, we were all trying to figure out what was happening.”

Maybe it was prom? Nope — Taylor Swift was coming to town and her diehard fans wanted to look good for the “Eras” tour.

“The clients that are coming in are probably going to want different hairstyles from her different eras,” James said. She and her colleagues studied up on those styles … and it paid off. She said they booked close to 100 more clients than usual that weekend. 

“You knew this was going to be one of those experiences that people were going to gather and travel for,” said Holly Clapham, chief marketing officer at Houston First. According to Houston First’s data, there was an 87% hotel occupancy rate the weekend Swift performed. Overall, the week of concerts in Houston was the highest hotel revenue week to date.

Economic effects like this are playing out everywhere Swift stops on her first tour in four years.

“Parking and restaurants and just everything around those venues is going to be just chocked to the gills with people,” said David Herlihy, professor in the music industry program at Northeastern University. 

He said Swift herself really stands to profit. He estimates she’ll make $5 million to $7 million dollars a night just on tickets.

“She’s also selling hundreds of thousands of pieces of merchandise for every concert, and she’s getting 85% of that revenue,” he said.

Some of that merchandise money will be coming from Carrie Simonelli of Lincoln, Rhode Island. As she wrote in an essay for the Boston Globe, she’s the mom of two teenage girls who are huge Taylor Swift fans, especially her youngest daughter, Meredith.

“She has like a Taylor Swift collage behind her bed, and she prints out song lyrics,” she said.

Simonelli found herself among the thousands of people waiting in endless virtual lines on Ticketmaster’s website last November. That well-publicized fiasco led to lawsuits and a Congressional hearing. 

 She was finally able to get two tickets for Sunday’s show — for nearly $900.

“I was like, ‘This is it. This is your birthday present. This is part of your Christmas present. Don’t ask for anything else,’” she explained to her kids.

As far as the local economies involved, “One night can really change their trajectory for the rest of the year,” said Stacy Merida, who teaches in the Business and Entertainment program at American University.

“We had a line out the door. It was so busy,” recalled Cassidy Fairey, a barista at Social House cafe in Philadelphia. They put on a Eras-themed celebration the last day Swift was in town, and customers who brought in their light-up bracelets from the concert got a discount.

With these numbers and anecdotes, it’s tempting to think this tour is a sign that the live music industry is thriving after three years of the pandemic, but it’s more complicated than that.

“There are really two music industries going on right now, one for the 1%, and one for the 99%,” said Andrew Leff, a professor of music industry at USC. He said less popular artists than Swift face high touring costs because of venues and promoters who are trying to make up for lost pandemic years.

“They’re gonna go with the sure bets are the traditional artists that they know will bring in revenue, rather than taking chances on younger artists,” he said. Still, Leff is planning to take his daughter to see Taylor Swift when she comes to Los Angeles in August. They paid about $225 per ticket. 

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