To answer this question, we gathered data from Pollstar on four large domestic tours from 2022-2023: Taylor Swift’s Eras, Beyonce’s Renaissance, Ed Sheeran’s Mathematics, and Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road. From 2022 through August 2023, at least three tours in seven different US venues overlapped. We used the tour dates to gather the percentage of attendees from more than 100 miles away at each performance from Placer.ai. Placer.ai uses phone tracking data from third-party apps to count attendees at an event and track their origin and from how far away they came.
We focused on tourists, which we define as people who come to concerts from more than 100 miles away because they import spending and generate new economic impact, as opposed to local attendees who already spend in the local economy. Venues that attract more tourists import have a larger economic impact.
The figure below shows the percentage of tourists for each tour in the seven cities, with at least three of the tours overlapping.
Source: Placer.ai, Pollstar, HVS
There is some variation by tour: Taylor Swift attracts the most tourists, while Elton John attracts the fewest, although Elton John did not play at Ford Field or Lincoln Financial Field on his tour. But more significantly, Nashville stands out as a magnet for tourist concert attendees, with more than half of attendees being tourists for all four tours. Far more than MetLife Stadium in the New York metro area (12%) and Gillette Stadium outside Boston (16%).
The figure below shows the average percentage of attendees who are tourists across the overlapping tours.
Average Percentage of Tourists
What accounts for the strong tourist draw of Nashville and Atlanta? Is it because they are popular music destinations or especially attractive cities to tourists?
To judge the quality of a city’s music scene, HVS used research from Clever Real Estate . They used data from the US Census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Indie on the Move to compare cities based on Google trends, the number of musicians, the cost of tickets, and the availability of concert venues to rank the top music scenes in the country. The table below shows the ranking of each of the seven cities identified below and the average percentage of attendees from more than 100 miles away.
Music Scene Ranking
Source: Clever Real Estate, Placer.ai, HVS
While Nashville’s music scene ranks first in the country due to its large population of musicians and higher wages for musicians, Atlanta only ranks 45th, well behind northeastern hubs Boston and Philadelphia. New York and Chicago ranked relatively low due to the high cost of living and cost of concert tickets. There is no clear indication that having a vibrant and successful music scene attracts more tourists to a city to see a concert. Other city attributes may drive concert tourism.
To measure the quality and attractiveness of a city, a potential decision factor for a traveling concert attendee, HVS used Resonance Consulting’s ranking of the best cities in the United States. Resonance produces these rankings annually and uses a methodology that evaluates a city in six categories: place, product, programming, people, prosperity, and promotion. This includes the quality of the natural and built environment, the city's key institutions and attractions, and the city's art, culture, entertainment, and culinary scene, among other considerations.
The table below shows the Resonance Best City rankings alongside the average percentage of tourists across tours.
City Quality Ranking
Source: Resonance, Placer.ai, HVS
New York, Chicago, and Boston lead the way in the Resonance city ranking despite having a relatively low percentage of tourists attending their concerts. Nashville, the leading tourist hub for concert attendees, ranks 28th, and Atlanta ranks 12th.
Like the music scene ranking, the Best Cities ranking does not correlate with the percentage of concert tourists. If people are not coming to a city for a concert because of the music scene and not because of the city’s allure, culture, and infrastructure, why do they travel to Nashville and Atlanta for a concert, not New York, Boston, or Philadelphia?
The simple answer follows from the laws of supply and demand. Market areas with fewer people and less disposable income allow tourists to pay less to attend these concerts than they would at home. Matching data on the population and income with the percentage of concert-going tourists supports our hypothesis.
Tickets are scarcer in larger markets than in smaller markets. The northeastern markets are much more populous than Nashville and Atlanta, so there is more local competition for tickets once they go on sale. The table below shows the total population within 100 miles of the city at each venue.
The median household income is also higher in the Northeast, so more disposable income is available for entertainment. High demand pushed ticket prices higher. The table below shows the median household income for the area 100 miles from the city.
Source: Placer.ai, Pollstar, HVS
When given the choice of where to travel for a concert, fans of Elton John, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Ed Sheeran predominantly choose to travel where tickets are available and inexpensive. Fans may appreciate the local music scene or the amenities a destination may have to offer, but when it comes to finding a place to watch a concert, the availability of tickets and cost remains the primary driver.
About Anthony Davis
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