How Taylor Swift’s UK Eras Tour is Changing Merchandise Culture and Boosting Local Economies

Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour in the UK isn’t just about sold-out stadiums and chart-topping hits. It’s shaping up to be a major economic driver, with fans eager to express their love not just through ticket sales, but also through pre-tour merchandise purchases. This trend raises an important question, is pre-tour merch the new norm?

Traditionally, concert merchandise sales have been dominated by on-site purchases. Fans would queue up at merchandise stalls inside the venue to grab a t-shirt or poster as a memento of the night. Google Trends data suggests a potential cultural shift in this traditional model. Searches for ‘Taylor Swift merch’ surge well before the tour dates, which suggests a growing desire to wear the merchandise to the concert, enhancing their overall experience, rather than to just buy it there.

Taylor Swift merchandise statistics

The first round of tickets went live in July 2023, during which we can see a surge in searches for ‘Taylor Swift Merch’ in the UK. This is 29% up on the previous highest level in November 2021, which was following the re-release of Red (Taylor’s Version).

This was then surpassed in November 2023, when 2 additional London dates were announced. With search interest for ‘Taylor Swift Merch’ increasing by 89% compared to July. Reaching the highest point it has ever been.

Sales tapered off after these announcements, but they’re creeping back up with search interest in May following an upward trajectory towards November levels and surpassing July’s. This suggests fans are now looking for merchandise ahead of the upcoming shows in the Summer.

Overall shift in merchandise culture

Although it’s not quite as extreme, similar can be seen for The Weeknd, in December 2022 tickets went on sale in for the UK part of the After Hours til Dawn Tour, and we can see a spike in search interest in for ‘The Weeknd Merch’ at this exact same point.

Following this the next biggest peak was June 2023 ahead of the concerts, and July when the concerts happened. Search interest then tapered down over the subsequent months.

Based on this data we can only assume that Taylor Swift merchandise sales are likely going to increase as we head into June, and that doesn’t even factor in merchandise sold at the event.

Cultural factors shaping pre-event purchasing

Several cultural factors contribute to this shift. The rise of online shopping has made it easier for fans to buy merchandise from the comfort of their homes. Social media also plays a crucial role; fans love to share their concert outfits and preparations online, driving the desire to purchase and showcase their merchandise ahead of time.

Research indicates that Gen Z and younger millennials are driving changes in retail habits. These groups are increasingly purchasing concert merchandise before events to incorporate these items into their personal style and social media presence ahead of the events. According to GWI, Gen Z is particularly influential in shaping retail trends, with many using social media to discover and purchase products, including concert merchandise, well in advance of events? (GWI) (Porch Group Media).

Additionally, this behavior reflects a broader trend of detailed concert planning among younger consumers, who value the opportunity to showcase their fandom and style online before attending the event. This shift suggests that concert merchandise is no longer just a souvenir but a fashion statement and a part of the overall concert experience.

The Eras Tour’s economic ripple effect

Many will have seen the headline that the UK tour will inject close to £1B into the UK economy, so the question is where is this money going and how can small businesses benefit from big events like this.

Direct Economic Boost

Ticket sales: This is the most obvious direct benefit, with ticket prices ranging from £58.65 right up to £600+ for VIP packages.

Merchandise sales: The Eras tour so far has generated $200 million in merchandise sales as of November 2023, with the UK set to increase this even further.

Accommodation & Travel: With fans travelling to see the shows, hotels, AirBnBs, and transportation services will see a direct boost from the tour.

Food & Beverage: Pre-concert meals and post-show drinks generate revenue for local restaurants and bars near venues.

Local Businesses: Souvenir shops, tourist attractions, and local retailers in host cities benefit from increased foot traffic and in turn sales.

How small businesses can benefit

Small businesses benefit from the tour in various ways, such as creating special tour-related products (within copyright regulations), offering themed promotions, or partnering with local venues for events. For instance, local cafes might create Taylor Swift-themed menus or shops could stock unofficial fan-inspired merchandise (within copyright regulations) or city-specific souvenirs or experiences to cater to visiting fans.

If you’re not local to the host cities, you might need to get a bit more creative when it comes to capitalising on the benefits of the tour. We came up with some of the following ideas: 

  • Viewing parties for fans who can’t attend the concert (or sponsoring these events).
  • Hosting or sponsoring local fan meet-ups
  • Contests or giveaways targetted towards fans 
  • Tour prep kits offer kits specifically designed for concert goers, it could include anything like portable phone chargers, branded water bottles, and comfortable travel accessories. Even better if you can add your product into this mix and/or partner with others.

How other bands can learn from Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s strategic approach to merchandise and event planning offers valuable lessons for other bands and artists. Band merchandise and live events have proven to be substantial revenue streams, often surpassing earnings from music streaming. Here’s how other bands can leverage these insights to boost their own profitability.

Merchandise as a major revenue stream

Pre-Event Merchandising:

  • Taylor Swift’s Strategy: Swift’s proactive merchandising approach, evidenced by the 89% surge in searches for ‘Taylor Swift Merch’ ahead of her UK tour, demonstrates the potential of pre-event sales. Fans are eager to purchase and showcase their gear before attending the concerts.
  • Lesson for Other Bands: Capitalise on pre-event excitement by releasing exclusive, limited-edition merchandise well before the tour begins. Use social media to generate buzz and create a sense of urgency.

The Financial Impact of Merchandise:

  • Revenue Comparison: Merchandise sales can significantly outstrip streaming revenue. For example, Swift’s Eras tour has generated $200 million in merchandise sales as of November 2023. In contrast, streaming platforms often offer lower payouts per stream. 
  • Industry Data: According to Business Insider Spotify generally pays between $.003 and $.005 per stream,  this means you’d need roughly 3,333 streams to make £10. Compare that to merchandise, if buying in bulk and selling at a reasonable price, you could likely make more selling a single T-shirt. Additionally, revenue from live events can amount to much more compared to streaming.

Looking at the data and Taylor Swift’s approach it’s clear that live performances and merchandise are critical to the financial success of bands today. Additionally this helps to build community amongst fans and provides promotion with fans essentially acting as walking bilboards.

What is the new normal?

The rising trend of purchasing merchandise ahead of concerts signifies a cultural shift in fan behaviour, driven by the convenience of online shopping and the influence of social media. Taylor Swift’s UK tour not only exemplifies this change but also brings a substantial economic boost to local businesses. By preparing and leveraging these opportunities, small businesses can significantly benefit from such large-scale events. Remember, it’s not just about the music; it’s about the entire fan experience.

If you’re a band looking for merchandise for your next tour or gig? Find out more about band merchandise with A.M. Custom Clothing.