Life in the 'Britney Economy'

Duff McDonald of Portfolio gives an economic breakdown of the so-called Britney Industrial Complex. McDonald says the pop star manages to stimulate the economy.

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TOURE, host:

Okay. Enough (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOURE: Britney Spears may look like a train wreck because she can barely dance, can't really sing, her career is cratering, her head is sometimes shaved G.I. Jane style. She's lost custody of her kids because a judge thinks Kevin Federline is the better parent. Who would have thought that?

ALISON STEWART, host:

That's rough.

TOURE: And all that makes a compelling argument - one might say an unassailable argument. But I bet George Bush loves Britney Spears, and even if Jenna and Barbara have never forced him to listen to her so-called music, she's a walking stimulus package. Britney rakes in $9 million a year from her myriad businesses. And the businesses based on her pump more than $100 million a year into the economy.

Duff McDonald is a contributing editor for Portfolio magazine. In the February issue, he gives an economic breakdown of the so-called Britney Industrial Complex. And he's with us now to explain how B.S. is stimulating…

STEWART: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Family show.

TOURE: Just talking about Britney.

STEWART: Those are her initials. I get it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOURE: Duff, what do you mean by the Britney Industrial Complex?

Mr. DUFF McDONALD (Contributing Editor, Portfolio): Well, we were sitting in our offices, wondering how we could get in on all the Britney Spears action as a business magazine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOURE: Keep her honest.

Mr. McDONALD: Someone, you know, the conversation actually went along the lines of almost what you just said. Someone, you know, just commented offhand that she was a train wreck. And someone also said, yeah, but, you know, even at this sort of new phase of her career, there's got to be a lot of people still making money off her. It may not be the same people that used to make money, but, you know, as you said, she's an economic force in her own right. And so we said -we just resolved to try and figure out just who and how much money was being made from her.

TOURE: Yeah. Break down for me who is making money from Britney, is Britney the biggest beneficiary of her career, and how this Britney economy has changed from before when she's making records and touring, to now when she's not doing those things.

Mr. McDONALD: Well, is she biggest beneficiary? Not in terms of sheer dollar amounts. Like other people - her, you know, what does an artist make for a record sale? Seven or 8 percent? Nine percent?

TOURE: Yeah.

Mr. McDONALD: The record company is clearly bringing in far for revenues than she is. But, you know, she might individually have done better than most. Now, so the way we broke it down is we looked at the traditional people who would make money, and we called them the packagers. And you might say that they're the people that are selling stuff that Britney wants to be sold, like her records, like her touring. And you know, add in stuff - you know, she has a line of perfumes with Elizabeth Arden that has sold nearly a hundred million dollars worth. And…

TOURE: But there's also the paparazzi making money off of her.

Mr. McDONALD: Yeah. So that - you know, group one is packagers. Group two is paparazzi, because, you know, you can't, look, walk by a newsstand and not seeing a picture of her on it. And one really shocking thing that we found out there is of the two major paparazzi agencies, one of them told us that Britney alone is 30 percent of their business.

TOURE: Wow.

STEWART: Wow. That's shocking.

Mr. McDONALD: You know, what happened to Nick and Jessica? Where are Brad and Angelina?

STEWART: Chump change.

Mr. McDONALD: Yeah. You know, yesterday's news.

TOURE: Isn't Beyonce doing more for the economy than Britney?

Mr. McDONALD: I doubt it. because Beyonce is probably selling more records. But if you then - if you look at who's paying the paparazzi, it's the media. And there's some crazy numbers there, too. If you put Britney on the cover of your magazine, if you're one of the tabloids, it'll sell, on average, 33 percent more than any other issue.

TOURE: Wow.

Mr. McDONALD: And we estimated with that - and, you know, it's not all attributable to her because there's obviously other things in each issue. But during a 78-week period, newsstand sales of tabloids with her on the cover sold $360 million worth.

TOURE: Wow. Duff, thank you so much. Duff McDonald, a contributing editor with Portfolio magazine.

That's the BPP for today. I'll be here tomorrow if Alison will let me come back.

STEWART: Absolutely. I'm so - my mind so blown over some of those numbers, when you really think about it.

We're online: npr.org/bryantpark. Hey, stop by our Twitter feed. We're there all day. Twitter.com/bpp. We'll talk to you tomorrow.

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