Entertainment trifecta boosts U.S. economy

Chicago tourism officials announced some good news in July: The city had set a record for hotel rooms occupied.

The James Beard Awards were held in the windy city that month, as was a national meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. But the real driver of the city’s tourism boost was a Pennsylvania native who has been jump-starting economic activity all summer: Taylor Swift.

The hyper-popular singer-songwriter’s Eras Tour has been selling out stadiums and generating outsized tourism activity since it kicked off in March. And because Swift often plays multiple, sold-out dates, as she did in Chicago, her legions of fans — Swifties — fill hotel rooms, crowd into restaurants and scarf up all manner of the artist’s merchandise, leaving the sound of ringing cash registers competing decibel-wise, if not melodically, with “Shake It Off” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

Taylor Swift arrives at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

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The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia sang a similar tune earlier in the tour, crediting Swift’s three-day stay at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia in May with boosting regional economic activity. In fact, the market research firm QuestionPro estimated the popular musician’s international tour could add $5 billion to the global economy.

Swift is taking a breather before continuing the international leg of the tour in November, but a concert film is due in American theaters next month. And if there were any doubt as to the dollars that will generate, advance ticket sales broke several records the day the movie was announced.

It may seem like Swift is single-handedly powering the economy, but she has a few powerful entertainment allies.

In fact, Beyonce’s Renaissance World Tour, also launched in May, is eclipsing even Swift’s eye-popping receipts. The celebrated singer-songwriter last week captured the title of highest-grossing female tour of all time, topping $460 million in sales. And that’s before shows have even wrapped. The tour has American dates running into October.

Beyonce’s global economic impact — felt in everything from hotels, airlines and restaurants to fast-fashion clothing outlets and designer nail technicians — has even been given its own name: The Beyonce Bump.

Beyonce and Swift haven’t just been generating wealth, they’ve been sharing it. Beyonce’s BeyGOOD Foundation is pouring millions into the cities she’s performing in, supporting small business and community foundations and providing student scholarships. Swift has focused on food banks along her tour, providing support while raising awareness about hunger in the U.S.

As economically significant as Beyonce and Swift have been on tour, the summer’s economic picture wouldn’t be complete without a pair of women who have been just as consequential on the big screen: Greta Gerwig and Barbie.

The cinematic blockbuster “Barbie” — and, to a lesser extent, the biopic “Oppenheimer” — also moved the economic needle in a summer where entertainment spending propelled the economy.

Director Gerwig’s lavish romp, which opened on July 21 — the day before Swift began a two-day stay at Seattle’s Lumen Field while Beyonce prepared for two days at Soldier Field in Chicago — has earned more than $1.3 billion to become Warner Bros.’s highest-grossing movie ever.

The impact of this strident trifecta was noted in the upper echelons of financial observation:

“Women Own This Summer,” the Wall Street Journal crowed, “The Economy Proves It.”

Better yet, between Swift’s upcoming concert film (and talk of a similar “Renaissance” movie), upcoming concert dates, and the inevitable bump Oscar recognition will likely bring to “Barbie,” experts say the economic benefits are far from over.

“(T)he ‘Renaissance’ tour … will continue through the fall, and Taylor Swift will be back in North America for added shows in the fall of 2024,” wrote Alana Valko at BuzzFeed. “So, this economic boost might carry on well past the summer, and at least for now, we pretty much have women to thank for keeping us out of a recession.”

That may be overstating matters. Then again, it may not.

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