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The Economics of Britney Spears

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The Economics of Britney Spears


The Economics of Britney Spears

The Economics of Britney Spears

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Britney Spears isn't just a pop icon and tabloid regular. According to Portfolio magazine, she may also be a major economic engine. Portfolio magazine's Duff McDonald discusses "the Britney economy."

(Soundbite of song, "Oops! ...I Did It Again")

Ms. BRITNEY SPEARS (Singer): (Singing) Oh, baby, baby. Oops, I did it again. I played with your heart, got lost in the game.


Britney Spears is many things to many people - mostly over-publicized even among those who can't seem to get enough news about her. But she might also be an economic engine in an ailing economy.

We're joined now by Portfolio magazine's Duff McDonald, who has written a recent article about what he calls the Britney industrial complex. He joins us from New York.

Thanks for being with us, Mr. McDonald.

Mr. DUFF McDONALD (Writer, Portfolio): Thanks for having me.

SIMON: What gave you the idea that this was an economic resource worth exploring?

Mr. McDONALD: It's hard to ignore Britney Spears. And a conversation happened in our office one day. Someone used the terminology that is becoming increasingly popular, which is train wreck. And someone else said, but, yeah, but think of the money that still must be being made off of her.

SIMON: Well, let's follow on that. How much and who's making it?

Mr. McDONALD: Our estimate, which we call a back-of-the-napkin calculation because it's so rooted in science, was 110 to 120 million a year. The Britney economy is - it'll be equivalent of, you know, 50- to 75,000-people strong company.

She is a gold mine for paparazzi. One of the agencies in Los Angeles estimated to - she alone accounts for 30 percent of their revenues.

SIMON: Kevin Federline, Britney Spear's ex-husband - now, do you count him as part of the Britney industrial complex, or is he subsidiary because (unintelligible)?

Mr. McDONALD: He isn't one of the three main spokes of the Britney industrial complex, which are the packagers, the paparazzi and the media. We thought of him more of in the sycophant portion of the industrial complex. He is pouring in about a million a year as a result of a bit sort of coming into the Britney orbit.

The media, we put at 75 million a year.

SIMON: There must be concern about a Britney recession.

Mr. McDONALD: The Britneyconomy is big enough to tolerate changes in its complexion. We talked to the people at Yahoo Search, and they said that for six of the past seven years, she has been the number one searched term on Yahoo, falling into second place, only once in 2004 when Paris Hilton briefly took the crown. But if you look at that, that's seven years. That's an economic cycle. So Britney - the Britney economy may be impervious to the overall economy.

SIMON: Duff McDonald at Portfolio magazine. You can find a link to his piece, "The Economy of Britney," on our Web site,

Thanks so much.

Mr. McDONALD: Thanks for having me.

(Soundbite of song, "Piece of Me")

Ms. SPEARS: (Singing) I'm Mrs. "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."

Unidentified Man: (Singing) You want a piece of me.

Ms. SPEARS: (Singing) I'm Mrs. "Oh my God that Britney's Shameless."

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) You want a piece of me.

Ms. SPEARS: (Singing) I'm Mrs. "Extra. Extra. This just in."

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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