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Swiftonomics Comes to AU: Taylor Swift Econ Class Debuts in Fall

One-credit class designed by students will analyze the economic impact created by Taylor Swift and Eras Tour

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Taylor Swift's Eras Tour Midnights Era set. Photo credit: Paolo VillanuevaTaylor Swift's Eras Tour Midnights Era set on August 9, 2023. Photo credit: Paolo Villanueva

When Megan Wysocki (BA political science and economics ’26) and Mackenzie Shultz (BA economics and journalism ’26) were offered an opportunity to design a one-credit economics class as part of the Department of Economics Student-Designed Course Competition, they did not hesitate. Megan came up with the idea of a Taylor Swift-themed class and invited Mackenzie to collaborate. 

“My classes here at AU made me fall in love with econ, and of course I was already a huge Taylor Swift fan,” Megan says. “Many other universities are creating Taylor Swift classes, but mostly in subjects such as sociology or literature. I figured that this was a unique topic and an opportunity to capitalize on an academic trend. My hope was to get people more interested in an economics course by focusing on someone as popular as Taylor Swift.”

Mackenzie agreed. She thought that designing a class could be a fun way to get more involved in AU’s econ program, while making economics more understandable to other students. “We chose Taylor for three reasons,” she says. “First, Taylor is so famous right now and has many fans, especially at AU. Second, news outlets have discussed the economic impact of her tour, so we had a great starting point with Ticketmaster and monopolies. Third, many other schools have Taylor Swift classes, but we had not seen an economics-themed class.”

And, of course, Megan and Mackenzie are big Taylor Swift fans. Megan saw Swift’s Eras Tour in new Jersey in May 2023 and loves watching Swift’s concert movies, including the Reputation and Era Tour films. Mackenzie has seen Swift in concert three times, most recently at the Eras tour last spring. “I got to see her in the hometown we share (Philadelphia), and it was truly amazing,” she says. 

An Economy Built Around Concerts

The economics department’s Student-Designed Course Competition was launched in January 2024 to encourage students to bring their individual perspectives and interests to the field of economics. In the past, for example, students have expressed an interest in learning about issues like indigenous economics and crypto currencies, but there was no clear space in the curriculum to explore these topics. The competition was developed in response to this need.

Megan WysockiMegan Wysocki

As Economics Department Chair Kara Reynolds notes, "I think as faculty we get tied up with the issues that we think are important and sometimes forget that these might not be the same issues that students really care about. Economics impacts so much of society, and the competition was designed to help the department discover what students want to know about economics.” 

Megan and Mackenzie’s course (ECON-396-01) will analyze the vast economic impact created by Swift and the Eras Tour. Topics include job creation, tourism, Swift’s impact on consumer and media markets, and concepts surrounding corruption and entertainment monopolies. Economic concepts (including the “winner take all” economy, market power, the role of intellectual property rights, and economic spillovers/positive externalities) will be applied to specifics of the Eras Tour, including Ticketmaster sales schemes, concert attendance and local spending, and popular media distribution. Lastly, the course will explore how Taylor Swift, as a female, is viewed from business and popular culture perspectives.

Mackenzie ShultzMackenzie Shultz

“Mackenzie and Megan did a fantastic job designing a sample syllabus for the course,” says Reynolds. “As a Swiftie myself, I was happy to sponsor the submission, and I’m looking forward to teaching the course in the fall. Taylor Swift is a fantastic musician and an extremely savvy businesswoman who has conquered the music industry. The economic lessons from her career extend far beyond the individual artist.”

The Swiftonomics Phenomenon

So, what is the economic impact of Swift, who just last week joined the ranks of the world's billionaires, according to Forbes' World’s Billionaires list?

Taylor Swift's Speak Now Tour, Photo credit Eva RinaldiTaylor Swift's Speak Now Tour. Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi

Megan says it’s monumental. “Every city on the tour sees economic boosts through hotel bookings, road toll payments, public transportation demands, and so much more. Taylor’s team pays to utilize the stadiums, which helps the local economy,” she explains. “The tour can even create an economic boom in areas that may not be big for tourism, like Glendale, Arizona, or Indianapolis, Indiana. Concert goers will spend money, travel on toll roads, require lodging, and so much more. Further, all these efforts to run a concert take lots of manpower, which creates jobs!”

Mackenzie adds that Swiftonomics is more relevant now than it has ever been. “Understanding why these concerts are so expensive and popular is immensely important. (Now other artists' concerts are seeing the same issues of immensely high prices and fights over tickets). This is unprecedented, especially with Ticketmaster acting like a monopoly,” she explains. “Although the price rise that occurred because of inflation was out of anyone’s hands, the huge increase in fees was a decision by the company that has not been challenged because no one comes close to competing with them.”

Taylor: The Takeaway

Taylor Swift surrounded by crowd at the Minneapolis Eras Tour. Photo credit: Michael HicksCrowd at the Minneapolis Eras Tour. Photo credit: Michael Hicks

Megan stresses that she wants students to walk away from the class with an appreciation of women in the music industry. “Entertainment is a brutal industry full of highs and lows for artists, and massive economic considerations are at stake. I want students to see how a single artist can create positive economic and social change.”

Most people don’t stop to consider the more academic implications of Taylor’s work, says Megan. “Her current tour and extreme popularity have had massive economic impact. I think that learning about her impact from an academic perspective will bring about a greater appreciation for her work. Economics tends to be a very divisive topic – you either love it or hate it. My hope is that this class will get more people interested in the field.”

Mackenzie, who first fell in love with economics back in high school, says she wants to give her fellow students a new appreciation for the field. “We wanted to make economics more interesting for everyone, especially those who learn better when applying theory to real life situations.”

For More Information about ECON-396 Swiftonomics 

Any student who has completed Principles of Microeconomics can register for the fall 2024 class, which can be found in the schedule of classes under ECON-396-001 “Swiftonomics: Economics of Taylor Swift.”

The course is available on Eagle Service! Students can search and register for ECON-396. “Swiftonomics” is the only section of this course for the fall. The course will be Wednesdays, 11:20 a.m. -2:10 p.m. from September 18 through October 16.