Taylor Swift’s Eras tour is about to hit Sydney and Melbourne, where its seven concerts are expected to generate $140m.Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
Earlier this week at the Grammys, host Trevor Noah – perhaps bravely – made a joke from Taylor Swift. “As Taylor moves around the room, the local economy improves around her,” he said, winking at her. “Look at that.”
It wasn’t a joke at all. Swift’s Eras tour is estimated to have generated US$5bn in the US economy; the United States Federal Reserve even noted her for stimulating the national tourism industry. “If Taylor Swift were an economy,” said Dan Fleetwood, president of QuestionPro, the research company that made that estimate, “she’d be over 50 countries.”
Its impact can already be felt in Australia, where Sydney and Melbourne are busy preparing for next week’s arrival. Swift’s seven concerts in the two cities – three in Melbourne and four in Sydney – are expected to generate $140m, according to state government modelling.
More than 85% of the hotels and motels in the city of Melbourne are booked during the first two shows; a similar capacity is expected in Sydney. Qantas added 11,000 extra seats on flights to the two cities. Sales of Australian beads are reportedly through the roof, with Swifties preparing friendship bracelets to exchange at their shows. (Some fans have reportedly been upset that they can only bring as many friendship bracelets as they can wear on their arms, but that was Swift’s team call.)
‘It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before’
At the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where Swift is expected to play to the biggest crowds of her career – around 86,000 each night – construction is well underway on three huge merchandise marquees, which officials hope to soften pressure within.
Swift’s Eras tour broke 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 with 109,500 last year – as her large stage and long runway will leave less room for fans.
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However, the Eras tour remains one of the biggest operations at the MCG. Nearby Brunton Avenue will be closed for more than a week as trucks deliver parts of the Swift stage and then cart it away. More than 12,000 square meters of turf are on hand to repair the damage to the ground ahead of the AFL season. More than 5,000 MCG staff will be working at each concert.
“We’ve never had a staff like this before,” says Josh Eltringham, the MCG’s general manager of venue and event services, who has been working on Swift’s concerts for 18 months. “The amount of infrastructure that’s coming, you just have to look out at the marquees – we’ve never had anything like it before because the demand and the hype is so real. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and, I think, nothing we’ll ever see again.”
In Sydney, around 300,000 Swifties are expected at Accor Stadium over the four nights. Concertgoers are being asked to leave their cars at home, putting extra pressure on parking infrastructure as another 100,000 people are expected over the same nights at nearby Blink 182 shows.
Both cities are providing additional trains and buses, although only Sydney is offering free public transport as part of a ticket purchase. The final numbers are yet to be determined but Transport for NSW has confirmed that hundreds of extra train and bus services will run to the area each night.
“The four-night concert series is expected to be one of the biggest to date and we want Swifties to enjoy the experience,” said Craig Moran, TfNSW’s executive director of customer journey management, who concertgoers were asked to “plan ahead. , leave plenty of extra travel time and, most importantly, be prepared for crowds and queues for transport, especially after the concert”.
The battle to stop ‘Taylorgating’
While some Swifties around the world have gone to great lengths to secure good spots – including some in Argentina who used an elaborate timetable to do so over five months – Accor Stadium and the MCG are hoping ticket holders to discourage from turning too early. The MCG is ordering ticket holders not to line up outside the stadium before 2.30pm on the day of each concert and said any early attendees will be moved into nearby Yarra Park. The gates of both stadiums will open around 4.30pm.
Earlier this week the Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, announced plans to ban what she called “Taylorgating” at the MCG – fans without tickets gathering outside to experience on the concert anyway. Outside the MCG and Accor, police, emergency services and security staff will be on hand to manage Taylorgaters, who will be moved on if they are drinking or setting up tents. Both venues pleaded with people to stay away, stressing that there will be no screens outside the venues 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 we have experience too approx 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 of them do [listen to us],” he said. “Of course some people won’t and we’ll be ready for that.”
In Sydney and Melbourne, additional merchandise stands have been set up outside the stadiums. It might seem like a lot of faff, but Swift merch is very popular. At her shows in the US, where she is estimated to have sold US$300m in merchandise, there were reports of people camping out for days, hiding under delivery trucks and spending thousands to buy certain items – like a particular blue sweater that was. sold only at her shows and became very popular.
“A band hoodie will always set you back $100 – but what does she do [that is unique] does she make everything limited edition and that keeps you from thinking you’re going to miss out,” 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 those fans who have everything.
Spending as ‘fan recognition’
While the Eras tour was rolling through the US, one estimate suggested that while every US$100 spent on a live performance would typically generate US$300 in ancillary spending on things like hotels, food, merchandise and transportation, Swifties were spending US$1,300.
Part of this stems from their enthusiasm for her, but also from her practice of releasing multiple versions of a single item: more than 20 versions of her Midnights album are available to buy, for example, with extra tracks and different covers.
“If any other artist sold eight different vinyl versions of the same album, people would think they were ripping us off. When it’s Taylor, it’s like, ‘great, I’ll buy them all’. It’s part of the fan’s identity in a way that no one else has mastered,” says Caroll.
For Accor and the MCG team, however, it’s all about keeping people safe and showing them a good time. Eltringham had some sage advice for Swifties: stay hydrated and remember to eat breakfast.
“We see a lot of excited people who forget to take care of themselves – they get here and then start feeling sick and miss the show,” he said. “So my message to people coming is: take care of yourself.”