Wordnerdery Sue Horner’s monthly tips on words and ways to reach readers – August 2023

Issue 126 – August 2023

A (taylor) Swift look at numbers

The odds of getting an access code to get Taylor Swift tickets were significantly better than the odds of winning Lotto 6/49′s Classic Jackpot, which are approximately 1 in 14 million.

If you use numbers to make a point, it’s not enough to just list the numbers. Especially when they are large or small numbers, you help your readers by giving context. For example:

“According to pest control service Pest Protection Plus Inc., as of December 2022, the raccoon population is estimated to be around 200,000 in Toronto. To put that into perspective, it’s more than the human populations in both Oshawa and Barrie (independently), according to the most recent census data.” – Mahdis Habibinia

But what of Taylor Swift?

She won’t be in Toronto until November 2024, but the frenzy began the minute she announced the dates for her Eras Tour. You had to sign up to get on a waiting list to get a secret code to have a chance to buy a ticket. Tickets sold out. Now they’re only available on resale sites like StubHub. What are the odds?

The chances of getting a ticket in Canada were always going to be slim, says Caora McKenna in The Globe and Mail. To help readers feel "less bad" about missing out on the show, she calculated the odds of getting an access code for Eras tickets in Toronto, “based on The Globe and Mail’s Very Unofficial Math.”

She says by one estimate, 31 million people tried to get a wait-list code for ticket access. “If 75,000 emails went out, the chances of getting an access code…[are] 1 in 413…”

Since we don’t necessarily know what those odds mean, McKenna compares them to something those in Toronto know: lottery ticket odds. She says that made the odds of getting an access code “significantly better than the odds of winning Lotto 6/49′s Classic Jackpot, which are approximately 1 in 14 million.”

What about ticket prices? One source says even the least expensive tickets with a limited view behind the stage started at $1,261 U.S. The most extreme price was $50,000 U.S. I checked this week, and you’re in luck: there are two tickets left at this price. 😂

Obviously, that’s a lot of money. But how much?

Let’s say a young fan angling for a ticket makes money by babysitting, earning the Toronto rate of $18.50 an hour. Between August 2023 and November 2024, that fan would have to babysit about 2,702 hours – or 169 hours a month, which is 28 date nights, or nearly every night – to pay for the top ticket. Even the “cheap” one would take about 68 hours, or about four babysitting gigs a month.

As for how much the singer is going to earn, Business Today says an average 54,000 fans attend Swift’s concerts at every tour stop, earning the singer more than $13 million a night.

Let’s translate that into what she can buy. For that one night, she could buy the one-off Maybach Exelero from Jay-Z for $8 million. Then she could spend the remaining $5 million on a little pied-à-terre in Toronto. Current listings show a glamourous Art Deco penthouse suite covering the two upper floors of a discreet boutique building in Yorkville.

Not rolling in those circles, I might find it more relatable to know how many Honda Civics and modest suburban homes Taylor Swift could buy for that one concert. But that might be too depressing.

Have you seen any helpful explanations of large or small numbers? Please share. I’m always looking for good examples.

Related reading:

Live concerts can be good for your health (if not your wallet)

The core of Taylor Swift’s PR strategy is values-based messaging

Recently in the Red Jacket Diaries:

Looking for a creative boost? Try awful writing

More writing tips in links you might have missed, summer edition

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