Can Taylor Swift Make America Care About F1?
Circuit of the Americas is banking on the world's biggest pop star to prop up the U.S. Grand Prix.
In what's best described as a musical Hail Mary, the organizers of the United States Grand Prix have revealed pop Taylor Swift will perform at Circuit of the Americas before this year’s Formula 1 race on October 23.
“The top performer in the world right now is Taylor Swift and she will perform on the Saturday before the race the following day,” Bobby Epstein, chairman of COTA, tells Forbes. “It will be a one-off show. Her only show in 2016. We think we can bring in 100,000 new people and put on the biggest show.”
It’s a reassuringly bright turn for the 2016 U.S. Grand Prix, which was only confirmed for the race calendar late last month. The event’s future has been in doubt since the Texas state government reduced its annual contribution to the race by more than $5 million. COTA's owners recently convinced appraisers to lower the track’s value enough to save roughly $13 million in taxes, enabling them to cover the gap.
Still, booking Swift is a bit of a risky move for COTA. Race organizers are paying what, according to Forbes, will be one of the highest fees ever for an individual performer. The musical acts at F1 races tend to be more in line with the tastes of the race’s traditional audience—less teeny-bop, more classic rock. Last year’s U.S. Grand Prix, for example, featured Elton John. Previous F1 races have included performances by Bon Jovi and KISS. But COTA's banking on Swift to bring new people into the F1 fold.
"How do we expand our audience? That's what this headliner does," Epstein says. "In the past, we have chosen headliners that are a great match with our existing demographic. But I don't need our existing demographic alone. We need the future. We think we will sell every ticket that we have got and it is because of the combination of both Formula 1 and Taylor Swift."
Epstein also notes he hopes bringing Swift to the race will get audiences who aren’t coming to the race to sit up and notice that, Oh yeah, there’s a big race in Texas every October.
“We could advertise that F1 is coming to every person in the country but only a million people would care,” he adds. “However, a hundred million in the US know Taylor Swift.”