Taylor Swift performing at the Eras Tour. Image from: TalentRecap.com
Earlier this month, economic developers and tourism officials in four cities across North America celebrated a unique win: they were announced as the site of one of Taylor Swift's 15 new North American dates for the 2024 extension of her Eras Tour, a concert tour that has taken over pop culture like no other. Why the cause for celebration? Not only do they now have the opportunity to see firsthand what may become the highest-grossing music tour ever (the fiasco of trying to get tickets is a whole other story), but their regions will be on the receiving end of the Taylor Effect: a projected economic impact of $5b across all tour stops, a sum greater than the economies of more than 35 countries worldwide.
Music has long gathered the masses for shared experiences of listening to hit artists, dancing in the street or at a park during a seasonal concert series, or experiencing the culture many multi-week festivals bring to different geographies worldwide. These organized concerts and music festivals are more than just a time to let loose, though. Live performances represent a material economic impact in local communities, regions and states, and even whole countries. Impacts take many shapes and forms, from boosting the tourism economy to building community fabric to providing meaningful cultural experiences for local residents and tourists alike.
Oxford Economics, a global economic forecasting and analysis firm, suggests the impact of the Concerts and the Live Entertainment Industry in the United States is over $130b, accounting for 913,000 jobs, $42.2b in wages, and $17.5b in fiscal impact captured by governments, ranging from the federal government to municipalities. The firm cites that a $100 purchase of a concert ticket from an out-of-town visitor can add up to almost $350 in additional spending. This impact is felt deeply in destination communities hosting annual music festivals. For example, New Orleans experiences over $350m in regional impact from the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which attracts 475,000 annual attendees, 53% of which are tourists. At a smaller scale, noted festivals like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival attract around 12,000 total attendees but still generate $1,050 in economic impact per person, totaling just short of $10m in total local impact.
Vendors at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Image from: tellurideblues.com
Live events and music festivals also sew the fabrics of communities, bringing diverse demographics together to experience the many facets of unique cultures. For example, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival celebrates the region’s populations of Creole, Native American, Isleño, and various other cultures through music, food, and educational tents. Hawaii’s Aloha Festivals expose over 1m attendees annually to Hawaiian traditions and practices across the state’s 6 islands. The newer Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn celebrates alternative Black artists through exposure to music, film, fashion, and art over the course of a 2 day festival in the Greenpoint neighborhood. These festivals and numerous other music-oriented events bring people to culture; not only do attendees learn about different traditions and histories, but cultural bearers and vendors also gain the opportunity to directly benefit from the sales of albums, cuisine, physical artworks, and more.
Music festivals can also serve as a model for inclusivity, celebrating the musicians, artists, and cultural bearers of numerous different backgrounds in a safe, controlled manner. For the physically disabled, many concerts and festivals have adopted specific areas for viewership and listening that provide a comfortable, accessible space for all who hope to attend. For those who may struggle with anxiety and health issues in the presence of larger crowds and loud music, some festivals have begun to adopt guarded, quiet spaces that allow individuals to relax and reset in critical moments of need. These practices create a space where all can feel welcome and entertained, opening up live music to the masses.
Concerts, festivals, and other live events are a key addition to the basic economic makeup of any place. These gatherings drive economic productivity, bring people together, and create reasons for people to both visit and even live in a new place. The celebration of culture is an additional perk that helps drive both quality of life and place as a byproduct of these events. As economic developers and tourism officials think through their plans for the coming years, starting new events and leveraging existing ones is a great way to satisfy residents, tourists, and cultural bearers alike.
Looking for assistance with quantifying the impact of your event or festival? Fourth Economy has ample experience working with both government officials and private festivals to better understand what live events give to different economies. Please contact us at [email protected] for more information.