Taylor Swift’s Eras tour is about to hit Sydney and Melbourne, where her seven concerts are expected to gross $140 million.Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
Earlier this week at the Grammys, host Trevor Noah – perhaps bravely – made a joke about Taylor Swift. “As Taylor moves around the room, the local economy around her improves,” he said, gesturing to her. “Look at that.”
It wasn’t entirely a joke. It is estimated that Swift’s Eras tour generated $5 billion in the US economy; the US Federal Reserve even singled her out for boosting the nation’s tourism industry. “If Taylor Swift were an economy,” said Dan Fleetwood, the president of QuestionPro, the research firm that made the estimate, “it would be bigger than 50 countries.”
Her impact is already being felt in Australia, where Sydney and Melbourne are busy preparing for her arrival next week. According to state government modeling, Swift’s seven concerts in the two cities – three in Melbourne and four in Sydney – are expected to generate $140 million.
More than 85% of hotels and motels in the city of Melbourne are booked during her first two shows; Similar capacity is expected in Sydney. Qantas added an additional 11,000 seats on flights to both cities. Australian bead sales are reportedly booming as Swifties prepare friendship bracelets to exchange at her shows. (Some fans are reportedly outraged that they are only allowed to bring as many friendship bracelets as they can wear on their arms, but this was the call from Swift’s team.)
‘It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before’
At the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where Swift is expected to play in front of the biggest crowds of her career – about 86,000 people a night – construction is well underway on three huge merchandise tents, which officials hope will ease the pressure inside light up.
Swift’s Eras tour has broken attendance records at venues everywhere from Nashville to Brazil. Her Australian shows are unlikely to break national attendance records – Ed Sheeran set a new record at the MCG last year with 109,500 – because her large stage and long catwalk will leave less room for fans.
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Yet the Eras tour remains one of the largest operations the MCG has staged. Adjacent Brunton Avenue will be closed for over a week as trucks deliver parts of Swift’s stage and then drive them away. More than 12,000 square meters of turf is in place to repair damage to the ground ahead of the AFL season. More than 5,000 MCG employees will be working at each concert.
“We’ve never had staff numbers like this before,” says Josh Eltringham, general manager of the MCG’s venue and events services, who has worked on the Swift concerts for 18 months. “The amount of infrastructure that is coming, you just have to look at the marquees – we’ve never had that before because the demand and the hype is so real. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and, I think, everything we’ll ever see again.”
In Sydney, around 300,000 Swifties are expected at Accor Stadium over four evenings. Concertgoers are being urged to leave their cars at home, putting extra pressure on parking infrastructure as another 100,000 people are expected to attend nearby Blink 182 shows on the same nights.
Both cities deploy extra trains and buses, although only Sydney offers free public transport as part of the ticket purchase. Final figures are yet to be determined, but Transport for NSW has confirmed hundreds of additional train and bus services will run to the area each night.
“The four-night concert series is expected to be one of the largest yet in the precinct and we want Swifties to enjoy this experience,” said Craig Moran, executive director of Customer Journey Management at TfNSW, who asked concertgoers to “look ahead to plan”. , allow sufficient extra travel time and, most importantly, be prepared for crowds and queues for transport, especially after the concert”.
The fight to stop Taylorgating
While some Swifties around the world have gone out of their way to get good seats – including some in Argentina who used an extended timetable to queue up for five months – Accor Stadium and the MCG are hoping to stop ticket holders from jumping too early to appear. The MCG is instructing ticket holders not to queue outside the stadium before 2.30pm on the day of each concert and said all early attendees will be moved to nearby Yarra Park. The gates of both stadiums open around 4:30 PM.
Earlier this week, Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan announced plans were in place to prevent what she called ‘Taylorgating’ at the MCG – fans without tickets gathering outside to attend the concert. Outside the MCG and Accor, police, emergency services and security personnel will be on hand to escort Taylorgaters, who will be moved if they drink or set up tents. Both locations have urged people to stay away and stressed that there will be no screens outside the locations broadcasting what is happening inside.
But there is a sense that everyone involved knows they are fighting a losing battle: on Sunday Allan said: “We know there is also the experience that we all around the event.”
If the first night in Melbourne is too chaotic or unsafe, MCG management will work with police to reassess what they do at the next show, Eltringham said.
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“I hope some do [listen to us],” he added. “Of course some people won’t and we’ll be prepared for that.”
Additional merchandise stands have been set up outside the stadiums in Sydney and Melbourne. It may seem like a lot of hassle, but Swift merchandise is highly sought after. At her shows in the US, where she made an estimated $300 million from merchandise sales, there were reports of people camping out for days, hiding under vans and spending thousands to buy certain items – such as a specific blue sweatshirt that only buy at her shows and became extremely popular.
“A band hoodie will always cost you $100, but what she does [that is unique] is that she makes everything in limited editions, which makes you think you’re going to miss something,” says Dr. Georgia Carroll, the world’s only dedicated Taylor Swift academic. “It’s not a trick, it’s clever marketing – but you end up spending a lot of money if you want to be one of the fans who has everything.
Expenses as ‘fan identity’
As the Eras tour toured the US, one estimate suggested that while every $100 spent on a live performance would typically generate $300 in additional expenses on things like hotels, restaurants, merchandise and transportation, Swifties spent $1,300.
Part of this stems from their devotion to her, but also from her habit of releasing multiple versions of one item: for example, more than twenty versions of her album Midnights are available for purchase, with additional songs and different covers.
“If another artist sold eight different vinyl versions of the same album, people would think they were ripping us off. If it’s Taylor, it says, ‘great, I’ll buy them all.’ It’s part of the fan’s identity in a way that no one else has really mastered,” says Caroll.
However, for Accor and the MCG staff, it’s about people being safe and having a good time. Eltringham had some sage advice for Swifties: stay hydrated and don’t forget to eat breakfast.
“We see a lot of excited people who forget to take care of themselves – they come here and then they start feeling sick and they miss the show,” he said. “So my message to the people who come is: take care of yourself.”