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Adrian Hausman, right, celebrates his purchase with his friends and fellow Taylor Swift fans after waiting in a crowded line outside Empower Field at Mile High to buy early merchandise July 13, 2023. Hausman and his friends were first in the early merchandise line, arriving at 2:30 a.m. to ensure their spot. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Melanie Murray hustles. When the 17-year-old from Hoboken, New Jersey, couldn’t get a ticket to the Taylor Swift concert in East Rutherford, she decided to perform Swift songs for people standing in the pop singer’s notoriously long merch lines.

“It kind of started as a joke,” she said.

Murray was slated to attend UCLA’s songwriting intensive this summer, but her afternoon in East Rutherford changed her mind. After experiencing a crowd full of supportive diehard fans of Taylor Swift — Swifties — outside of MetLife Stadium, she ditched the UCLA plan and built a schedule to follow Swift’s Eras tour, which landed in Denver on Friday. 

Pop stars have stans and rock stars have groupies, but Swifties are a different breed. More empowered, and more enterprising. It’s unsurprising, since Swift herself has a reputation as a savvy businesswoman who reportedly brings in more than $13 million per show, and whose tour as a whole is being compared to the GDPs of countries. Her two nights in Denver alone are estimated to contribute $140 million to Colorado’s GDP this year.

Of course, it’s not all about the money. It’s also about the community, the empowerment and the genuine connection her fans feel to the music. But it’s also about the money.

The positive shock

“We can easily see that we need positive shocks to the economy,” said Kishore Kulkarni, Distinguished Professor of Economics at Metropolitan State University. Positive shocks are events like the NBA Finals, or the Super Bowl, or the Democratic Party Convention, he said. “The Taylor Swift shock is just bigger.”

Swift has been selling out stadiums since her first tour in 2009, the Fearless tour, during which both her Staples Center show in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden show in New York set records for the fastest ticket grabs in either arena’s history (one and two minutes, respectively). 

Swift has since graduated from the basketball arenas, which host around 20,000 people at capacity, to football stadiums, which hold around 80,000 people. Her shows still sell out within minutes.  

a woman playing a guitar in front of a crowd of people.
Melanie Murray, 17, right, performs a mix of original songs and Taylor Swift hits to the crowd standing in line to buy early merchandise on July 13, 2023 in Denver. Murray has been traveling cross-country with the Swift tour, playing for fans before the concerts. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Her previous tour, the Reputation tour in 2018 that centered around her album of the same name, was the highest-grossing U.S. tour in decades. Her follow-up tour was canceled in 2020 due to COVID, but she continued to churn out her signature chart-toppers. 

The Eras tour launched in March from Glendale, Arizona, and sold more tickets at the Super Bowl Stadium than the Super Bowl did one month prior. On its third stop, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the tour broke the single-event attendance record at the arena where the Dallas Cowboys play. In Nashville, she set the single-event attendance record during her first show there on a Friday night, then proceeded to break her record twice over on Saturday and Sunday. Then she did it again in New Jersey, and again in Pennsylvania. 

The costs of these huge events are hard to quantify, since they are mostly qualitative, Kulkarni said. Denver residents might not go out for dinner on the weekend because the restaurants are overcrowded, but those seats will be filled by Taylor Swift fans. 

The most tangible downsides from the event will be traffic, pollution and “more beer drinkers on the street that day,” Kulkarni said. He added that the cost of ride-sharing and hotel rooms is expected to increase, though the latter shouldn’t affect local residents. “Overwhelmingly this is a good thing for Denver,” Kulkarni said. “And what’s good for Denver is good for Colorado.”

Tell me about the tickets

Ticket prices fluctuated as the Denver show dates neared, reaching highs upwards of $10,000 on the Monday before the show. 

Economists conservatively estimated that the two Denver nights generated $38 million in ticket revenues, based on Empower Field’s concert capacity and average ticket prices of $250. But the data doesn’t include the costs incurred by businesses due to Swifties calling out of work in order to painstakingly watch a Ticketmaster presale queue last November. 

a woman and two young girls sit on the ground pull colorful beads out of a plastic box
Bella Vogt, 20, center, and her twin sisters Kynnidi, right, and Kyndall, both 7, arrived around 4:30 a.m. to wait in line outside Empower Field at Mile High to buy Taylor Swift merchandise July 13, 2023. The three passed the time making beaded friendship bracelets to gift and trade with fellow Swift fans. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Bella Vogt, a makeup artist and Sephora employee, told her work she had “a family thing,” and spent eight hours refreshing her screen. She later confessed the reason for her absence. Nathan Yan, a software engineer and aspiring DJ with a long Taylor Swift catalog in the back of his van, posted on a company Slack channel that the conference room was reserved for any Swifties trying to score tickets. A group sat around all day, half-working, half-watching the queue. 

Those who persevered through the presale managed to buy 2 million tickets for the 52-night, 20 city Eras tour, the most Ticketmaster has ever sold in a single day. Along with approximately 12 million other fans who left disappointed that day, the surge of buyers overwhelmed Ticketmaster’s system, and eventually led to legal action and multiple levels of legislation

Vogt’s sick-day strategy didn’t pay off, and she wasn’t able to land tickets on that first attempt. She was, however, among a group who received “second chance” tickets from Ticketmaster weeks after the initial meltdown. 

During this process, Ticketmaster emailed verified fan accounts and asked them to provide a price range they’d be willing to pay. When Vogt received the email that her tickets were confirmed, she couldn’t believe it. She thought it was a scam. She still thinks it’s “surreal.” Two tickets for $600 each. Floor seats in section M, row 1, seats 1 and 2. On Thursday she said she hoped to touch Swift’s hand when she rushed toward the crowd during “August.”

The growing economy

Concertgoers spend an average of $1,327 on related purchases according to a report by the Common Sense Institute, contributing more than $200 million in direct consumer spending during the Denver concerts. Shelby Morse, spokesperson for Denver’s office of Economic Development & Opportunity, said the industries that benefit most from major stadium tour stops are hospitality, rideshare/pedicabs, parking lots and retail. 

a crowd holding umbrellas to block the sun standing in line in front of a sign that reads Taylor Swift The Eras Tour Official Merchandise
Taylor Swift fans started lining up for the pop superstar’s merchandise as early as 3:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 13, outside of Empower Field at Mile High. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

On Saturday afternoon, the makeup store Sephora at the 16th Street Mall was so busy that there were no representatives to speak with the Sun. “We’re so swamped, it’s bigger than our Black Friday sale,” one employee said over the phone before hurriedly hanging up. The makeup appointments were full well in advance — $60 for a full face, $90 for special designs — and the body glitter sold out Saturday morning.

Handmade outfits and make-up that reference Swift’s songs and music videos are a major part of preparing for the show. “We’re in the weeds. Like you won’t get half of the costumes that you see because they are so obscure,” said René Hurtado of Tempe, Arizona. “To be a Swiftie is to live as a Swiftie, you don’t just like casually know things.”

Hurtado’s outfit included a heavy denim jacket with a hand-painted list of Swift’s 10 albums down the back. It’s known as “Dave’s Eras Jacket,” and travels with the tour, from Swiftie to Swiftie, through the informal process of sending the wearer a DM on Instagram. She sent the Friday night wearer a DM offering to wait outside of Empower Field after the concert, and plans to go through her DMs tonight during a “focused, two-hour session” to decide who to send it to in Seattle, Swift’s next stop on the tour.

a woman taking a picture of a man in a jacket. the jacket says "The Eras Tour" and has a list of album titles on it.
Meghan Hall, 28, takes a photo of her fiancé Lewis Vaccaro, 28, in the hand-painted and sequined denim jacket known as Dave’s Eras Jacket outside Empower Field at Mile High on Saturday, July 15. The jacket started its journey at Swift’s East Rutherford concert and gets passed from Swiftie to Swiftie. Fans attending the concert find the jacket and have their photo taken wearing it. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Siblings Sandra and Carlos Damas flew into Denver on Thursday from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico. Carlos said their preparation for the tour began in November, when they scored their tickets, but that things really started ramping up in March. There were the plane tickets, the hotels, the outfits, the friendship bracelets. When we spoke on Saturday afternoon, his sister Sandra was shopping at Sephora for the right shade of red lipstick for that night’s concert. She bought body glitter on Amazon ahead of time.

Vogt, the make-up artist whose concert countdown started “six to eight months ago,” is using the demand for her skills to contribute to the Swiftie community. On Saturday she and her girlfriend met out-of-town Swifties in their hotel room to do their make-up for the Night 2 show. They charged $75 per person. “So that’s basically paying for our merch,” Vogt said from the merch line outside Empower Field on Thursday, where she had been waiting since 4:30 a.m.


Murray, the merch-line singer, is serious about doing things on her own — with the help of her parents, of course. She said that touring the country this summer has given her more self-confidence and independence, and also a small following. It’s taught her how to put herself out there, how to hustle and how to stay determined.

But she’s also still in high school. Her flight to Swift’s Minneapolis show was her first time flying alone. She says things like “moooom,” like a typical embarrassed teenager, when she’s talking about how her mom will approach anyone to “market” her. She’s kidding, though, and is quick to point out that she wouldn’t be where she is today — in Denver — without the support of her parents. 

Murray FaceTimes her friends constantly. She keeps a book with all of her song lyrics, and a scrapbook with trinkets from the tour. Her favorite piece that she’s collected so far is a bracelet that a Taylor fan made after seeing her perform at a merch line in Detroit. The bracelet has one of Murray’s original song titles on it. 

Some of the most fulfilling conversations Murray has, though, are with the really young girls, because she sees so much of herself in them. Taylor Swift was Murray’s first concert. She went to Swift’s 1989 tour show at MetLife Stadium when she was 9. She’ll remember that concert for the rest of her life, she said, and she still has the T-shirt from the show. It was way too big for a 9 year old. 

The afterglow

During the lead up to Swift’s concerts the word that everyone seemed to use was “surreal.” Fans had been waiting for this show for months. But what happens when the lights go down and Swift jets off to Seattle, then Santa Clara, California, and then LA? 

“I’ve heard it called PTSD: Post Taylor Swift Depression,” said Yan, the software engineer. 

Some fans, like Vogt, are heading to Seattle right alongside her. Murray isn’t sticking around for the afterglow, either. She flew to Seattle on Saturday, her eighth and final stop before heading home to New Jersey for the rest of the summer. The tour within the tour has been better than a summer internship, Murray said. 

“A big thing I’ve learned is just how to have a lot of self-confidence, and not really care what other people think or say. You put yourself out there and if people hate it, people hate it. If people like it, that’s a great thing,” she said. “As a performer, it’s really impacted the way I talk to my audience.” 

She’s sure she’ll remember this summer for the rest of her life, and the T-shirt she bought at her first concert finally fits.

Parker Yamasaki covers arts and culture at The Colorado Sun as a Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism Fellow and former Dow Jones News Fund intern. She has freelanced for the Chicago Reader, Newcity Chicago, and DARIA, among other publications,...