Taylor Swift: The European Conference Version

Taylor Swift’s globe-trotting Eras Tour continues to attract fans — and spark conferences about the artist’s social, musical, and economic impact. The latest, Tay Day, is being held in Liverpool this week to coincide with the megastar’s concert dates in the city.

Author: Casey Gale       

Blonde in white dress wearing long black gloves

No, Taylor Swift is not asking a question at one of the many academic conferences dedicated to her. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter was listening to a performance at this year’s Grammy Awards. (Sonja Flemming/CBS photo)

In whatever part of the world that Taylor Swift brings her Eras Tour to, it seems an academic conference about her is sure to follow. The first Taylor Swift conference Convene covered was held in the U.S. in November 2023 at Indiana University Bloomington after a sweeping U.S. tour, with the Swiftposium taking place in February 2024 at the University of Melbourne in Australia over Swift’s concert dates in the area. Now, as Swift has embarked on the European leg of her tour, the University of Liverpool is launching a European-based conference: Tay Day, a free, already sold-out event set to take place June 12, the day before Swift begins a three-day run of concerts at the city’s Anfield Stadium.

The event is hosted by the university’s Institute of Popular Music, which was founded in 1988 and marked the first music department in the U.K. to have a dedicated institute in popular music studies and research. Because a music department is organizing it, Tay Day stands out from its fellow Swift conferences by including unique musical elements, such as “Critical Karaoke,” which involves “writing a song-length essay to the music of the author’s choice,” said Catrin Owen, Ph.D., University of Liverpool’s media relations manager, humanities and social sciences, “which they will perform to an audience.”

The event, Owen said, was inspired by “Bey Day” — a conference Sam Murray, Ph.D., a professor at the Institute of Popular Music and organizer of Tay Day — hosted in honor of Beyoncé in 2016 while teaching at Cardiff University.

“Tay Day is designed to be a step up from that, uniting academics from various backgrounds and disciplines with students, fans, and critics,” Owen told Convene. “Tay Day will also enable fans who didn’t manage to get their hands on tickets to Taylor Swift’s live shows to take part in celebrations through this free event.”

This isn’t a typical academic conference — making it inclusive and accessible to everyday fans and scholars alike, Owen said, was critical when it came to planning Tay Day. “We’ve included a more interactive element, including a participatory Eras workshop where fans can discuss their favorite Taylor Swift era, as well as [an exhibition] with posters about Taylor Swift,” she said, which includes presentations like “Taylor Swift Through the Lens of Cymru: Reading Folklore and Evermore as Embodiments of Welsh Musical Legacy in the Pursuit of ‘Hiraeth’” and “Assessing the Authentic Reputation of Taylor Swift.” Academic sessions include several music-focused topics, like “Stealing from Swift: Analyzing the Musical Borrowing of and from Taylor Swift,” by Alex Lowe of the University of Liverpool’s Department of Music and “‘Cowboy Like Me’: Taylor Swift as a Post-Country Artist,” by James Barker of the International Centre for Music Studies at Newcastle University. The event also features a practice-based, music-focused research roundtable, “How (and Why) to Write the Perfect Taylor Swift Musical.”

“Within the presentations,” Owen said, “we’ve made a real effort to include talks from students and postgraduate students, as well as more established academics from a variety of different disciplines.”

In Swift fashion, the Institute of Popular Music event organizers Murray and Amy Skjerseth, Ph.D., released an Easter egg–laden statement emphasizing the importance of holding pop culture- and music-focused academic conferences.

“The musical, social, and economic impact of Taylor Swift is undeniable, and that’s why we’re really looking forward to starting a conversation about how Taylor is both Miss Americana and an anti-hero,” they said, “to understand her style and her wildest dreams, and to discuss her reputation.”

Casey Gale is managing editor of Convene.

Become a Member

Get premium access to provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence.