What’s all the fuss about Taylor?

Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour - Melbourne, Australia
Taylor Swift mania has taken over Australia, but why do we care so much? Picture: Graham Denholm/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Australians have become utterly infatuated with pop superstar Taylor Swift, and still there are those who cannot fathom what all the fuss is about. So how does the Eras Tour madness compare with the spectacles of pop obsessions gone by?

Swift is halfway through a whirlwind two week tour Australia, performing her critically-acclaimed three-hour show for up to 96,000 fans a night in Sydney and Melbourne.

For those lucky enough to hold tickets to one of the seven shows, there is no need to explain what all the hype is about.

Taylor Swift Concert
Fans listen to the concert from outside the MCG after missing out on tickets. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jake Nowakowski
Taylor Swift Concert
At least 96,000 people attended each night of the Melbourne shows. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jake Nowakowski
Taylor Swift Concert
Fans pour into the MCG for the second night of the tour in Melbourne. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jake Nowakowski

It all seems exorbitant to the unconverted, but for those who have participated in a global phenomenon similar to Swift, this is all part of the fun of fandom.

Her fans have spent the equivalent of days glued to their laptops, watching the infinite countdown of the Ticketek portal for hours on end in the hopes the coveted tickets would reveal themselves.

They have injected millions into the nation’s economy – booking flights, hotels and shopping at local and homemade labels who released their own concert-wear collections.

One fan told UniLad she spent upwards of $30,000 on the tour so far.

The Beatles fans at Sydney Airport as band members arrive for 1964 Australian tour 11/06/64                         \nPeople / Fan                          \nTour/1964
The Beatles were met with screaming fans when they visited Sydney in 1964. Picture: Supplied
The Beatles fans at Sydney Stadium as band members arrive for 1964 Australian tour performance 18/06/64                         \nPeople / Fan                      \nTour/1964 \n Picture: Photo File
It was the one and only time the rock band visited Australia, and fans were overwhelmed at the spectacle. Picture: Supplied

When the Beatles touched down at Sydney Airport in 1964 for their first and only tour down under, the buzz was just as manic.

Women lined the streets of Sydney weeping and screaming, even passing out at the sight of the British heart-throbs.

People forget that in the early days, The Beatles equally benefited from and suffered under the criticism of the “boyband effect”, a criticism often delivered to artists with huge female fan bases.

RMIT fan studies PhD candidate Kate Pattison recently took part in Melbourne’s Swiftposium, an event that attracted academics from 78 international institutions, all dissecting the cultural impact of Swift.

Taylor Swift fans packed out trains to the MCG for her second concert in Australia. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Valeriu Campan
Friendship bracelets, costumes, merchandise have all been purchased – or made – to participate in the Eras Tour. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Valeriu Campan

“Fans are often looked at through a female lens,” she said.

“We mostly have these perceptions of screaming teenagers even though boys at football games are screaming, cheering, buying merchandise, getting overly emotional. We don’t treat them with the same kind of disregard as we do female fans.”

Ms Pattison said the largely female fan bases of massive stars like One Direction, Justin Bieber and the Backstreet Boys are often seen in a “denigrating way”, one that provokes confusion and anger from those who claim to not understand their success.

The fanbase is often discarded as crazed or obsessive, but Ms Pattison poses another perspective. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Valeriu Campan
Fans queued for up to seven hours to buy merchandise the concert. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

“I think for a lot of people just don’t even give it a chance because automatically they think it’s not worthy of discussion,” she said.

“I do think it’s gotten a lot better over the last year, we’ve had the Barbie movie, the Matildas, Taylor. We’ve had a lot of people embrace aspects of girlhood and not be ashamed of talking about them.”

While the Beatles were paraded around the city’s streets, the same scenes are a near impossibility for Swift’s fans, who thanks to her extremely private nature are unlikely to catch a glimpse of her in public.

From accommodation to merchandise, and additional flights to special champagne budgets, this is the eye-watering amount of money Australia stands to gain from Taylor Swift’s Eras tour.

The fanfare surrounding Swift has played out largely online, with fans congregating on social media forums and in the comments sections of viral videos of her Eras Tour performances.

Perhaps this can help make sense of the hordes of people who this week announced they “just don’t get it”.

“I think the community aspect of fandom is something that if you’re not in it, you don’t necessarily understand it,” Ms Pattison said.

Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour - Melbourne, Australia
Swift performs at Melbourne Cricket Ground on February 16. Picture: Graham Denholm/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – February 23, 2024, Transport chaos at the Olympic Park train station after Taylor Swift’s concert, as crowds of people are leaving. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Flavio Brancaleone

She said for a lot of women, Swift is seen as a role model, someone who has built an empire despite constant criticism.

“On paper, she is the most unrelatable person in the world but because her songwriting is so specific and the way she speaks to fans as somebody who is a friend, you do have that real aspect of closeness and relatability,” Ms Pattison said.

“A lot of people can relate to these ideas of heartbreak, friendship or high school struggles and that ability to have people connect with her and her music is something that people really have a respect for.”