The Relentless 'Experience Economy' Is Stronger Than Ever

Over two days, record-breaking earthquakes struck Seattle...

The quakes were localized to the city's major stadium, Lumen Field. They lasted for hours. And, curiously, they started at roughly the same time each night.

But the tremors weren't caused by shifting tectonic plates.

It was a Taylor Swift concert that shook the stadium. News outlets called it the "Swift Quake"...

Swift's two-night stop during her "Eras" tour caused Lumen Field to shake so much, it registered a 2.3 magnitude earthquake... So the nickname isn't an exaggeration. The reading shattered the stadium's previous movement record (when a Seahawks touchdown set off a 2.0 magnitude quake in 2011).

Events on this scale are rare. Not all artists can get their fans to shake the earth.

But if you think this passion for live entertainment is rare, too, think again. It has a powerful effect on the U.S. economy... And its strength today is far more than just a temporary surge.

Let me explain...

American experience-goers are a force of nature. They drive massive money flows. And the resulting "experience economy" is a huge part of what it means to be a U.S. consumer.

If you don't believe me, just look at the past year. People jumped at the chance to take part in three cultural moments...

  • Swift's "Eras" tour,
  • Beyoncé's "Renaissance" tour, and
  • The Barbie and Oppenheimer twin film openings (playfully dubbed "Barbenheimer").

All told, these events contributed an estimated $8.5 billion to U.S. gross domestic product ("GDP"). That's about as much as the GDP of Monaco... generated by just a few participants in the entertainment industry.

It might seem like this is a short-term burst of pent-up energy... After all, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the experience economy. Folks missed out on events like these for more than a year.

Most analysts expected the post-reopening spending bump – on things like "revenge travel," for instance – to be a one-time blip. But we're years past the pandemic shutdowns, and experience spending is still on the rise.

That's because this trend is much stronger – and has a much longer history – than you might realize.

Consumer spending as a whole has risen about 8% a year since 2000... Yet over the same period, spending on live experiences has surged almost 15% a year. The experience economy has nearly doubled the broader trend over the past 20-plus years.

Simply put, when it comes to live events, Americans' wallets are open.

There's one key reason for this: Unique experiences are scarce, by definition...

Cultural events like concerts and "Barbenheimer" can't be rescheduled. They're take-it-or-leave-it opportunities. If you don't buy a ticket, you've missed your chance to participate – and even if you can watch versions of them at home, you won't have the full experience.

Consumers won't stop chasing the latest experiences. That creates opportunities for investors. And more broadly, it's a big win for the U.S. economy.

So while the "Swift Quake" might seem like nothing more than a fun story, it's really part of a larger trend... one that has room to run.

Good investing,

Sean Michael Cummings

Further Reading

Consumer spending makes up roughly two-thirds of the U.S. economy. And that means it's going to be hard for a recession to take hold – because the average American has more cash on hand today than you might think... Read more here.

The experience economy has driven spending for a long time before the pandemic. But several other economic trends got a unique boost in the wake of COVID-19. And now, that boost is unwinding for some businesses. One retail giant that rode the stay-at-home rally isn't likely to live up to expectations in the years ahead... Learn more here.