Will Taylor Swift provide a £1bn boost to the UK economy?

<span>Taylor Swift will kick off the UK leg of her Eras tour in Edinburgh in June, before playing Liverpool, Cardiff and London.</span><span>Photograph: Kevin Mazur/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management</span>
Taylor Swift will kick off the UK leg of her Eras tour in Edinburgh in June, before playing Liverpool, Cardiff and London.Photograph: Kevin Mazur/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Taylor Swift has long been credited with an outsized influence on music, celebrity culture – even politics. But reviving the UK’s flagging economy may be too much to ask, even of the sequinned megastar.

Research published this week by analysts from Barclays pointed to the extraordinary spending surge that ensues when Swift touches down, and suggested she could bring a £1bn boost to the UK.

Swift will kick off the UK leg of the Eras tour in Edinburgh next month with three nights at Murrayfield Stadium, before playing Liverpool, Cardiff and London – and returning to the capital in August for a final five dates.

Barclays’ analysts reckon the average Swiftie will spend £848 on the experience, once the costs of accommodation, food and drink, and the all-important tour merchandise are taken into account.

She is not the first music star credited with creating economic ripples: when Beyoncé toured Sweden last year she was blamed for an unexpected blip in inflation, as the price of hotels and restaurant meals temporarily rocketed.

Swift does seem to be in a league of her own when it comes to economic pulling power, with recent estimates suggesting she rakes in $17m (£13.5m) in ticket sales for every gig, against $10m (£7.9m) for Beyoncé or the Rolling Stones, for example.

The Barclays analysts’ spending estimates were based on a survey of 200 people about their plans – some of whom had not yet secured Swift tickets but hoped to do so. At the very least that suggests not much weight should be put on those figures.

Even if the £1bn could be taken at face value, some economists are sceptical about whether Swift will really be a one woman economic boon for the UK economy – not least as, however much she spends on private jet landing fees, she is likely to take much of the tour revenue back home with her.

“We think the idea has been overhyped, especially for economies like the UK,” says George Moran, European economist at Nomura.

He points out that splashing the cash on seeing Swift live is not a net boost to the economy, if her super-loyal fans are squeezing spending on other things to afford their night out.

“You’re probably having to cut back somewhere else: maybe it’s a birthday present for your child, and you would have bought them something else instead,” he says.

His main scepticism, however, is that while the mooted £1bn would be a vast sum to emerge from the activities of one phenomenally talented woman, it is a drop in the ocean compared with the size of the economy. “£1bn is very very small in relation to UK GDP,” he says.

It usually takes a nationwide event – such as a widelywatched football tournament – to show up in official measures of economic growth.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported early last year, for example, that sales of beer in pubs as the nation tuned into the men’s World Cup in November 2022 had helped the UK to skirt recession – temporarily, as it turned out.

Swift’s arrival does appear to coincide with a slightly more optimistic era. While the cost of living crisis is far from over, particularly for low-paid workers, average real wages have begun to rise, perhaps freeing up resources for the occasional treat.

And her fans’ willingness to show up in their thousands reflects another recent trend Swift is tapping into towards spending on experiences rather than goods.

During the pandemic, especially in the early lockdowns, households whose income was protected by furlough, or who remained in paid work, splurged on stuff – from home gym equipment, to new TVs and kitchen gadgets.

Many then cut back on spending, as inflation surged over the past two years, with the cost of essentials including food and fuel rocketing.

As inflation starts to ease, households appear to be more willing to spend on hotels, restaurants and live experiences – including blockbuster concerts. “People are prioritising services much more than they had before,” says Moran.

That means not only Swift’s mega-stadium gigs, but everything from live sporting events to a slew of summer festivals.

Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said that meant Swift was in tune with “the changing nature of the British economy”. But while she would bring a welcome dose of glamour, she was not the answer to our economic woes.

“We need an economic strategy, not just a Taylor Swift strategy,” he said.