Pop starlet Taylor Swift dropped her new single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” this week, proudly declaring in her new single that the old T. Swift was dead. Unfortunately, at the time, we didn’t know that she might take ticket sales as we know it down with her. While much of the mainstream culture has been fired up over her new song, its subsequent music video, and all the drama that came along with it, Taylor Swift’s announcement of her new ticketing system dubbed “Taylor Swift Tix powered by Ticketmaster Verified Fan” flew more or less under the radar. However, regardless of your thoughts on Swift, this new system could create a reverberating effect across the music industry and affect pretty much all lovers of live music.
While Swift and Ticketmaster claim that the system is designed to stop scalping and ensure bots don’t get their hands on tickets to her highly in-demand show, whether this plays out, in reality, is still up for debate. Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program was launched earlier in the year to more-or-less positive reviews—the Verified Fans program uses an algorithm to differentiate humans from bots, while also giving fans the ability to register before hand, become verified, and unlock a code that allows them to purchase tickets. However, Swift’s take on the Ticketmaster Verified Fan program with “Taylor Swift Tix” eschews this original model, instead asking fans to partake in “boosts,” such as buying merch or engaging with the singer on social media, to ensure their place in the virtual ticket line for a show and to increase their chances of getting tickets during a competitive on-sale.
As the ticketing site notes, “Watch the latest music video, purchase the album (for the greatest boost), post photos and engage on social media. Check the Taylor Swift Tix portal for the newest boosts and activities you can do everyday.” Each action identified as a boost holds different weight. If you pre-order her CD for the largest boost, Consequence Of Sound points out that you must buy the CD from a big-box nationwide chain like Target or Wal-Mart instead of a local record store, and if you do pre-order, it comes to a grand total of $63.03 if you’d like to receive the album with “timely shipping” on the day it comes out. If you happen to not be willing to drop that absurd amount of money on a CD, generously, Taylor Swift offers her fans the opportunity to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and engage in lower-level boosts, such as watching her new music video or tagging the singer in social media posts (we are unsure at this time if the algorithm for Taylor Swift Tix will check to make sure the posts are positive, but, if not, I’m sure they’re working on that next).
While this program notes that fans don’t *have* to buy anything or flood Taylor Swift’s Twitter with adoring 140-character love notes, they are open about the fact that engaging in those actions increasing fans’ chances of getting tickets. While this new system is supposed to prevent scalping, the reason fans hate scalping is because fans get boxed out of shows and the remaining tickets get sold at such a mark-up. While we’re clearly all about getting merch from the artists you love and supporting them as artists, suggesting that fans buy merch—with absurd shipping costs—as a means to increase the odds of getting tickets clearly stacks the system toward richer fans with immediate expendable income and defeats the purpose of trying to get tickets immediately into fans hands for face value. Hopefully, bands in our scene that sell out shows quickly, don’t pick up on this new system. To close this out, we’ll leave you with the first two lines of Taylor Swift’s new single: “I don’t like your little games / Don’t like your tilted stage.” Indeed, Taylor, indeed.