Let’s face it: the 2020s have sucked, with a coronavirus pandemic that shuttered businesses, including our beloved music venues, and kept people isolated in their homes. Even with the rollout of vaccines and COVID-19 case rates declining sharply to the point where the disease is now in the rearview mirror for the majority of people, our big return to normalcy was somewhat deflated because of rising costs and a divisive political climate. And while politicians and economists continue to process the past few years and assess how to move forward, the entertainment industry seems to have found the right women.
It turned out to be a not-so-cruel summer for the United States economy as Bloomberg Economics reported that the country will see significant growth in the third quarter thanks in part to a strong showing this season from an entertainment industry propelled by women. Tours from superstars Taylor Swift and Beyoncé as well as the blockbuster film “Barbie” will help boost U.S. growth to as much as $8.5 billion in the third quarter, and the two singers’ tours alone may add $5.4 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
With such figures coming from female-driven art, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to have women take the reins and lead us to a much-needed renaissance — and USC Professor Jonathan Taplin is all for it.
“I think what’s happening is there’s a big cultural shift going on, and the women are putting forth a vision of rebirth and vulnerability,” says Taplin, who has seen his fair share of cultural milestones, having served as a tour manager for Bob Dylan and The Band in 1969 and as an executive producer to Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz,” widely considered the greatest rock documentary ever made.
Taplin, who is releasing a book called “The End of Reality: How Four Billionaires are Selling a Fantasy Future of the Metaverse, Mars, and Crypto,” said now is a perfect time for women to usher in a new era of positivity and empowerment, noting that Europe’s Renaissance period during the 14th century arrived on the heels of the bubonic plague. (Note: The four billionaires, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Andreessen and Elon Musk, are all male.)
“In come the women, whether it’s Brandi Carlile or Taylor Swift or Karol G with this very positive, happy, upbeat view of life [after COVID],” Taplin adds. “There’s a good future. People don’t want to hear all the time that the world just sucks. … Beyoncé’s tour is called ‘Renaissance,’ which literally means rebirth. And Taylor Swift talks about hope, finding yourself and going through a journey of terrors and sweet dreams. It’s very vulnerable. Audiences want this positive, vulnerable-seeking vision that the women have.”
Underpinning this is the fact that women are a major economic force in a capitalistic world driven by spending. According to a report titled “Finding Alpha: The Trillion Dollar Female Economy” from San Francisco-based investment firm Cake Ventures, women across the globe have influence or control of 85 percent of consumer spending, which adds up to $31 trillion a year.
Several economic reports in the past year lend credence to the notion of women as “super consumers” such as that put out by the California Center for Jobs and the Economy, which projected Swift’s six concerts at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium would bump Los Angeles County’s GDP by a whopping $320 million. “The Eras Tour,” which Pollstar first estimated would become the first tour to cross $1 billion, also impacts state economies as the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity credited Swift for its highest-ever hotel revenue figures in a fiscal year with $308 million.
“The female marketplace has endless power, and more events exist today that appeal to that audience than ever before,” says Cheryl Paglierani, partner and music agent at United Talent Agency. “Be it going to see superstars like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and SZA or newcomers like Jessie Murph or Flo Milli where young girls are screaming every word to every one of their songs, these artists have turned their shows into experiences that lift women up and give them a source of inspiration and fans have shown us this summer that they’re ready to buy tickets and support those who inspire them most.”
Beyoncé has been just as essential to local economies. Michael Grahn, chief economist at Danske Bank, said the start of her tour in Sweden contributed to a slight increase in inflation back in May with lodging and restaurant prices increasing 3.3 percent from the previous month. Yelp, a website and app that publishes business reviews, identified a trend the company referred to as the “Beyoncé Bump.” The company noticed a spike in searches for Philadelphia hotels, beauty services and restaurants the week the artist was in town. QuestionPro, a company specializing in online surveys, found that “Renaissance” concertgoers truly are crazy in love with “Queen Bey,” spending about $1,800 for their experience — $300 more than the average spent by Swifties — including an average of $400 on outfits for the event.
Though she arrived a little later to the party, Karol G joined in on the female-led movement with her “Mañana Será Bonito” (“Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful”) stadium tour and made history at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara and Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium. The Colombian star became the first Latin female artist to sell out both venues, and her two shows in SoCal grossed more than $25 million.
P!NK set milestones of her own with the “Summer Carnival” tour, breaking the record for the highest attended reserved seat concert at Detroit’s Comerica Park with more than 45,000 fans, and such feats inspire Nicole Barsalona, a successful artist manager and president of the nonprofit Women in Music.
“To be able to raise daughters and say, ‘Look at P!NK spinning around at Fenway Park — she is a mom, she is touring stadiums and freaking has her kids on the road with her. The power in that is mind-blowing to me, and I am so proud to be able to show my daughters the power of these women owning these stages, making these decisions, turning around and taking care of the women working with them and boosting the U.S. economy as an added bonus,” Barsalona says.
And then there’s “Barbenheimer,” which is not just the film event of the summer but one of the most unique phenomena to occur in any medium. The Greta Gerwig-directed “Barbie,” a feel-good flick based on the iconic Mattel toy, was released on the same weekend as “Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan’s three-hour biopic exploring the complicated life of the “father of the atomic bomb.” Rather than the two canceling each other out vying for box office supremacy, moviegoers embraced the juxtaposition of the films and watched both, bolstering an industry that has struggled to reconnect with audiences since COVID. “Barbie” opened to a gargantuan $162 million domestically, and “Oppenheimer” added $82.4 million, marking the first time two films opened with more than $80 million in one weekend.
People are still flocking to theaters to experience Gerwig’s charming film about female empowerment as it recently surpassed $1.34 billion worldwide to become the highest-grossing movie in Warner Bros. Pictures history, trampling the studio’s lucrative franchises such as Harry Potter and Batman. Gerwig also became the first woman in Hollywood to direct a $1 billion movie.
“I am so proud to witness this incredible phenomenon and see all the astounding numbers across the board in music and film,” said Marlene Tsuchii, a music agent and co-head of international touring for Creative Artists Agency. “The work of these female artists is impeccable, and it is being recognized and appreciated by so many. I honestly can’t say I have seen anything of this magnitude, and it is on all levels from the skyrocketing success of young upcoming female artists such as Sabrina Carpenter, Niki and beabadoobee to the superstars reaching billions in sales.”
For Barsalona, this unforgettable summer shows the power and influence art can have on people, and hopes it inspires both men and women to work together in empowering individuals, especially those who have long been underserved.
“For me, it is just a relief that these incredible creators use their art to champion and celebrate women, and start these conversations, rallying in a way that raises morale and makes you feel hope because that translates when we have decisions to make about what kind of society we are,” she said.