The Economics of a Concert: From Taylor Swift to Beyonce


I’m drunk in the back of the car, wondering how much money Swift has made from touring so far. If you are, too, read on!

“If Taylor Swift were an economy, she’d be bigger than 50 countries,” affirmed the President of QuestionPro Research and Insights, Dan Fleetwood, in an interview. First of all, impressive.

Secondly, whether you are a fan of the “Love Story” pop star or not, there is no denying the economic footprint of her concerts. And it’s not just her. In the current inflationary environment, many artists—from Beyoncé to Drake, The Weeknd and more—who are on tour right now are demonstrating the power of experiences in perking up economies.

So, how much have these artists made so far, and what’s the secret?

“Look around, everybody on mute”—we are talking big money

Four months into her tour, pop star Beyoncé’s “Renaissance World Tour” has made US$461.2 million. By October 2023, it is expected to rake in over US$2 billion, breaking her own record for the highest-grossing tour by an African-American artist. The “Renaissance” tour represents a personal win for the artist since it is her most profitable show to date. 

But Beyoncé isn’t the only one making headlines with lucrative tours. Kicking off in March this year, Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour is projected to make US$2.2 billion in North American ticket sales alone. Every night she plays her iconic songs, she earns about US$13 million

Blackpink’s “Born Pink” tour in London
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Touring Data revealed that within a month, Drake’s 2023 “It’s All A Blur” tour brought in over US$41 million in revenue. The Weeknd’s “After Hours Til Dawn” tour this year has scored over US$350 million by July. Meanwhile, the K-pop sensation Blackpink, through their year-long “Born Pink” tour, earned over US$100 million, becoming the highest-grossing girl group, with the previous record being held by Spice Girls.  

These are significant numbers; but don’t be fooled, the artist doesn’t get to keep it all.

The economics of a concert: Where does the money go?

If you run a startup, you would know you don’t get to keep all the revenue you make. It is typically reinvested into the business. So, you would use that to cover salaries, production costs, marketing and the like. The same is true for concerts, which have significant overheads.

For instance, from the revenue earned, Swift gave out bonuses worth US$55 million to her truck drivers, dancers and many more and reinvested some into the production of her concerts. But that’s about how Swift, or a startup, would navigate money—but what about consumers? Apart from ticket costs, where else do they spend? 

Handmade friendship bracelets are taking center stage at Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour. 
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Picture a brick-and-mortar store. Customers aren’t just paying for items you sell; they’re also factoring in travel and incidental expenses. Typically, for every US$100 spent on a concert, people also end up shelling out about US$300 on related expenditures, like hotels, food and transportation. Specifically for the “Eras” tour, fans went beyond the average, spending between US$1,300 and US$1,500 on outfits, merch, food and travel. This helped boost local economies by millions. In a testament to this ripple effect, one woman claimed she made an impressive US$16,000 selling handmade friendship bracelets, all thanks to the fervor of Swift’s “Eras” tour.

Revenge spending in action

Given the extravagance of these numbers, experts can’t help but wonder where the desire to spend so much is coming from. Some feel that this is post-Covid revenge spending in action. With real-world events restricted, virtual experiences, like Roblox concerts, became huge during COVID-19. Now, fans are eager to experience them firsthand. 

Swifties and the BeyHive have not hesitated to invest heavily in concert experiences, even purchasing secondhand tickets for more than US$1,200. They are also getting their nails done, friendship bracelets made and bejewelling and bedazzling their outfits. In fact, when Beyoncé prompted her fans to dress in silver for her birthday concert, e-commerce stores like Etsy saw huge demand and, subsequently, profits. 

What’s surprising is that people are shelling out massive amounts even as the world faces inflation. Clearly, the rising cost of living is not stopping people from having a YOLO (you-only-live-once) moment and going all out to make the most of these concert experiences. 

Yes, revenge spending is happening—but why with these particular concerts?

Swift and Beyoncé, undoubtedly among the most famous stars of the decade, have managed to create a portfolio of songs that spans generations. On her “Eras” tour, Swift is performing her top songs from her 17 years in the industry—hit after hit with some underdogs for the hardcore Swifties. 

Revenge spending in action
Beyoncé and her daughter Blue Ivy on stage during the “Renaissance” tour.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, Beyoncé brought her daughter Blue Ivy on stage during the “Renaissance” concerts, adding some “in-house” star power. Plus, it has been years since their last tours—five for Swift and seven for Beyoncé. There’s nostalgia, extravagant three-hour performances with costume changes, and for Swift, simultaneous new music video releases happening because of her album re-recordings (like the “I Can See You” music video featuring Taylor Lautner). 

Most importantly, however, it’s the timing. For two years, people found their solace in virtual concerts and song releases. They made do with any semblance of experiences they got. But now, they see top singing sensations in person and enjoy it with their loved ones. And they are willing to spill their wallets for the same.

Here’s the thing: these concerts are not just a result of an emotional upheaval among fans or revenge spending exclusively. Concerts of this scale result from meticulous planning and take months to plan (Rome wasn’t built in a day), much like launching a successful startup. As Miss Swift aptly put it in one of her songs, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

Also read:

Header image courtesy of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé’s Instagram


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