One for the money, two for the show— Champagne problems, Evermore

Gargee Dixit


Image credits: Original Content

For more than a decade Taylor Swift has been a global superstar and icon. She presides in the hearts of many teenage girls, in their phone covers and of course in their diary entries. Today, she is a huge economic force to be reckoned with. 

The Eras Tour which began in March of this year and is set to go on until November. It is a 3 hour long set, encompassing all the stages of her life spanning 10 albums. The tour is expected to gross more than $1 billion in sales worldwide and around $4-5 billion  in economic impact. That is larger than the GDP of 50 countries. This will be the first tour to gross more than a billion dollars. Her new movie, which is the recording of her Eras Tour, has already made over $26 million in pre-sales in North America. A recent quote from Northeastern University  said “Taylor swift is a weird intersection of capitalism and emotion” and this article will explore that idea.

For the Eras tour particularly, she used Ticketmaster (which is a platform like Bookmyshow) to host the sale of her tickets and the website crashed due to the unprecedented amount of transactions. Tickets got sold out in the pre-sale event and then showed up on the black market immediately (tickets on average were selling for $3801 on the resale market). Swift also had the option to opt out of dynamic pricing, ticket prices change according to demand and supply ,but she didn’t. The policy could work in a perfectly competitive world where you  slowly decrease the demand with a rise in price due to lack of supply but it comes off as unfair and predatory when only 25% of the tickets on average are released to the general public while the rest are through specific collaborations or reserved for credit card companies. To combat the activity of bots buying up tickets in bulk, Swift put up a system during her reputation tour in 2018 where if you buy merchandise from her, you get placed higher on the priority list to get her tickets. This increases her merch sales and helps identify bots. But this again benefits the people who can actually afford to pay $65 for a hoodie. In this highly competitive ticket buying frenzy, it’s not just fastest finger first, it’s fastest finger with the fattest wallet.

 On an average taylor swift fans spent around $1300 for one of her shows in the eras tour including travel, accommodation and food. This is frankly absurd. People are taking  loans to see her perform or are using their wedding budgets. Truly a late stage capitalism moment. Concerts were seen as an affordable luxury during economic recessions (like the lipstick effect) but now they are a huge financial burden for people. Peer pressure forces people to spend even more. It’s not enough that you’re spending hundreds of dollars on tickets, you also have to spend money on costumes, friendship bracelets to trade at the concert. People are ready to forgo in some cases 10 months of savings in order to see her live. What kind of dystopian black mirror episode are we living in? The extremities of consumer culture is clearly manifesting through Taylor Swift. Her recent tour is an extreme example of how far mindless consumption can go. On an average there are 72000 people in one of her shows and she is set to perform 146 shows worldwide. That’s around 10 million tickets for 100 million monthly listeners. (we haven’t even taken into account many people who have gotten tickets for multiple shows and how she extensively tours the US and part of Europe but never Asia ). This lack of supply in concert tickets along with her increasing fan base has generated a frenzy of celebrity worship and consumer culture surrounding her. Fans don’t seem to stop and think about the amount of money they are spending on her. Mindlessly consuming her products (and then regretting, in a few cases)  because they have an emotional connection with her.  She performed in 20 cities across 27 dates. Glendale, Arizona where the tour initially started named themselves ‘Swift City’ for that weekend. She was made honorary mayor in Santa Clara and they renamed themselves ‘Swiftie Clara’. Cities renaming themselves after her in hopes of attracting fans and the money that they bring shows how much economic leverage she actually has. She has the power to make or break cities. Quite literally. In Seattle, the concert caused seismic activity which was close to an earthquake of 2.3 magnitude and she was celebrated for it. That’s a whole lot of economic leverage in the hands of a private citizen. When you factor in the strong devotion of her fans and their ride or die attitude towards her, the blend of parasocial relationships and money is extremely unsettling to say the least. All this power in the hands of one person is dangerous. And the concerning part is that almost all of it is soft power. You don’t even realise the amount of sway/ power she holds and no one really stops to question it. 

 Image source: “Look what you made me do” music video

Swift maintains a down to earth, rags to riches apolitical persona. Her political activism seems too shallow like she started speaking up for social issues when it was no longer a threat to her popularity or financial security. Her recent PR nightmare was the carbon emissions report published by yard. It had a list of top 10 celebrities creating the most carbon footprint via private jet flights  and Taylor Swift was on top of the list with 8293 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted which is more than 1184 times the average persons’. Her PR team’s response was just that “she lends out her private jet to others so it’s not just her emissions’ “ which is such an inadequate response failing to acknowledge her impact. For the longest time, the solution to climate change has been framed as the personal responsibility of the consumer to reduce their emissions (reducing waste, recycling, reducing car travel etc.)  The blame on the consumer is in itself problematic (most carbon emissions are created by corporations and not individuals) and even such a blame holds double standards when it comes to celebrities or high networth individuals like Elon musk or Jeff Bezos, and they are never really held accountable for it. Their followers justify it by saying they’ve “earned it” by working hard and how their time is more valuable. One question. How could one person’s time (held to astronomical standards only by their wealth) be more important than the entirety of the earth? With the growing trend of private jets, they are simply used for short distances to avoid traffic jams or to have ‘a new level of comfort’. This appears to be extremely environmentally irresponsible when you factor in that only 1% of the population is responsible for half of the global carbon emissions associated with flying and she or anyone on the yard’s list faced no repercussions for it 

Swift is notorious for making remixes of her singles in order to rake in more streams for a song and get it nominated for awards or get to the top of billboard’s hot 100. ( e.g. the many remixes of her song willow).This again ties into the monetization of art and artists having to oblige to decisions that may be financially correct but not what the artist wants to do. In her comeback song “Look what you made me do” Swift talks about people being obsessed about her reputation and how that affected her but then monetises and makes money off of the same reputation she created.  During the Eras tour, the vintage merch (hoodies and tshirts) appeared to fade after just a single wash. Fans were particularly mad because they paid around 65$ for a single t-shirt or a hoodie. This seems like she doesn’t actually care about her fans like she claims she does but instead just wants to profit off of her fan’s emotions. 

Her era’s tour particularly has pointed out the vast economic impact of concerts now that the world is opening up post covid. Some people have also raised questions about the growing trend of parasocial relationships and economic spending. At the end of the day Taylor Swift is a millionaire with a net worth of $740 million and she truly can’t/ doesn’t care about every one of her fans so in my opinion  the devotion to her in terms of just sheer time and money spent on her seems irrational. The internet has made people forget that most celebrities are mere facets constructed to monetise off of your attention and love. They frankly do not deserve this level of devotion. Taylor swift is an example of that.  She is  a product of unbridled capitalism. She often voices her opinions on popular social issues while being a beneficiary of this very system that she claims apprehension against. Capitalism commodifies everything and converts it into a profit making product— including our emotions. Celebrity worship and devotion is one such product.  She inadvertently has become a mascot for American Capitalism and the Mindless Consumerist culture that it propagates. In modern pop culture, if one is not breaking records or coming up with new music constantly, they  are left behind. Swift has to constantly reinvent herself and offer new content in order to keep up her livelihood. She is merely a cog in the consumerist machine, rewarding her for taking decisions that strengthen the status quo.  Living up to her lyrics, Taylor swift is truly “one for the money, two for the show”.

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