The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Taylor Swift’s social and economic impact felt in Iowa City

Taylor Swift unites Swifties on the University of Iowa campus and boosts the economy with concert and NFL merchandise sales.
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Isabella Tisdale
Milly, Lily, and Remi show their friendship bracelets during the parTay event at Big Grove Brewery on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. The event was put on to support 29 local partner agencies of United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties. (Isabella Tisdale/ The Daily Iowan)

University of Iowa third-year Tori Ghyzel became a die-hard Taylor Swift fan following her first listen to the singer’s 2010 album “Speak Now.” She even got her older sister in on the fandom, too, with a good part of their conversations surrounding the country-turned-pop icon.

With her sister’s encouragement, Ghyzel has since created the UI’s first and only student organization dedicated to Swift. The organization acts as a place for the icon’s devoted fans to unabashedly share their love — where they don’t have to feel like their passion for the singer is annoying.

At the UI, die-hard Swift fans — known as Swifties — will be able to listen to the artist’s music, play games inspired by the artist, and analyze her latest wardrobe choices and song lyrics to predict when her next album will be released.

During the organization’s October meeting, group members made friendship bracelets, which is inspired by a lyric in the 2022 album “Midnights,” to celebrate the release of Swift’s album, “1989 (Taylor’s Version).”

“We have just realized that there are so many activities you can do based on her music, like how people predict her outfits or her surprise songs,” Ghyzel said. “There are just so many different aspects to look at…it has turned into almost a hobby.”

Swift’s national influence is represented in Iowa City by enthusiastic fans like Ghyzel and the Swift-themed social events sweeping across the downtown area.

Socially, the singer has unified masses of people with her work. The themes of her songs are highly relatable – groups of people can dissect how her pieces connect, and fans wearing her merchandise can identify each other on the street.

While many celebrities use their platforms to promote certain political ideas, Swift has been selective about when she shares her affiliations with the public, which has also helped unify her listeners.

The 2020 Netflix documentary about the singer, “Miss Americana,” recounted an instance when Swift published an Instagram post persuading her followers not to vote for Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) during the run for Senate in 2018. She also urged her Tennessean fanbase to register to vote.

Swift’s atypical use of her platform received immediate reactions from followers, ranging from supportive to appalled. Though Swift may have lost some fans due to differing political opinions, in 2018, more than 169,000 people in the 18-20 age group registered to vote on the platform, according to The Washington Post.

“I think she is just kind of sticking to encouraging people to vote but not posting about her political views because she knows that it would divide people who would only think of her as one party or another, and I think that’s not what she wants to happen because she has the world at the tips of her fingers,” Ghyzel said.

What the public seems most divided about in regard to the artist half a decade later is not Swift’s political actions, but her attendance at sporting events. In July, when the star went public with her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce, Swift also started making appearances at his football games to support him.

Since then, viewership of NFL games by sports fans and Taylor Swift fans alike has spiked.

The Chiefs’ showdown with the Eagles this past Monday, Nov. 20, was the most viewed Monday night football game in 27 years because of Swift’s attendance the week before on Nov. 11.

Though the NFL is benefitting from the viewership, some football fans disapprove of the Taylor Swift coverage invading sports channels.

“My boyfriend is a really big football fan, and he’s like ‘This is so annoying’ — he likes her, but he doesn’t want her to infiltrate his football watching because to him that’s, like, his time for the boys,” Ghyzel said.

Despite personal afflictions regarding Swift’s fanbase crossover, the artist’s positive impact, especially economically, is undeniable.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia announced in July that the singer’s Eras tour could rake in as much as $5 billion for the U.S. economy, a statistic confirmed by market firm research software QuestionPro.

Swift’s popularity has encouraged more Iowa City businesses, like Big Grove Brewery and Gabe’s, to tailor Swift-themed events and activities. On Nov. 13, Big Grove Brewery hosted “ParTay,” a benefit for the United Way of Johnson and Washington counties themed around the singer.

Event organizer Libby Knudsen of Big Grove wanted to go all out. Food and drinks were inspired by Taylor Swift songs, there was a DJ spinning her songs accompanied by music videos, a disco
ball above the dance floor, goodie bags filled with Swift items, and a raffle for Swift-themed merchandise.

Though it was originally United Way organizer Katie Brown’s idea to pursue the Taylor Swift theme, whom Knudsen referred to as the “mastermind” behind the event, Knudsen helped bring the idea to fruition in Big Grove’s Taproom.

“Taylor Swift is so big right now. Her Eras tour, I feel, is like the talk of the town literally everywhere,” Knudsen said. “I feel like you’d have to be avoiding the news to not hear about it.”

Knudsen said the event was an overwhelming success and garnered such positive feedback that she plans to revisit the theme for future events.

“Anything Taylor Swift-themed I feel is just really big, and we had people here of all ages to celebrate which really made it special,” Knudsen said.

In September of this year, local music venue Gabe’s also hosted a Taylor Swift-themed event — a laser dance party. This is not the first time the singer has taken over the establishment. In May of 2022, the original Swift-inspired dance party, “The Taylor Party,” stopped at Gabe’s on its national tour, bringing the singer’s discography to Iowa City.

“My brothers make fun of me and my sister and that’s fine. But my dad will be like ‘Boys, you can hate her, but you can’t deny the fact that she is way more important and has way more social pull than anyone,’” Ghyzel said. “You might be annoyed by it, but you have to respect that, damn, a woman can do all that.”

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About the Contributors
Stella Shipman, Arts Editor
she/her
Stella Shipman is a junior undergraduate at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and minoring in Cinema. A former Arts Reporter, she loves reviewing shows and covering musical performances. She hopes to encourage more students to engage in the vibrant arts community of Iowa City. This is her second year working at The Daily Iowan.
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
(she/her)
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.