Opinion: A concert mom’s take on Taylor Swift and Ticketmaster

Editor’s note: Amy Bassi (@bassab1listen)) is professor of sports studies at Manhattanville College and author of “One Goal: A Coach, a Team, and the Game That Brought a Divided Town Together” and “Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete,” among other headlines. Opinions expressed here are his alone. Read more opinion on CNN.


In the midst of the Taylor Swift ticket craze that has dominated my life — and the lives of millions of others — for the past week or so, I keep thinking about how my mother, when I was only 15, lied to get me in a Ramones show at a theater in Albany, New York, all those years ago.

She drove my friend and I to the show intending to read a good book in the parking lot, but ended up walking in with us when we were stopped at the door for being underage and without ID. After we finally got in, a lovely bouncer took one look at us and said to my mom, “You can go back there and hang out, I’ll keep an eye on them.”

While I remember every detail of that epic show, perhaps most especially the moment Joey Ramone handed me a guitar pick, more important to me now is my mother’s heroic example of parenting set.

Now, flash forward more decades than I’m willing to admit, I’m the mom of the 15-year-old concert-goer, navigating the world of tickets and transportation and “merch” and advising on how to best spend it—won money for the babysitter. I’m lucky I’m not alone in this endeavor, as my best friend in life, the one I’ve seen more shows with than anyone else, has her high school girlfriend. The four of us, together, are now concert mates.

It was an amazing experience. I loved every second of watching our girls battle for position in the pit at the Harry Styles show as we watched from the bar (hint: there’s no line at the Madison Square Garden bar at a Harry Styles concert). Eventually we too joined the cacophony of feather boas and sequins that make up Harry’s House, marveling at his connection to his audience and the diversity and strong community that is his fan base.

Indeed, just as we once joined the thousands of voices that poured out of a U2 show chanting “40” long after the band had left the building, our girls are part of a generation of fans who seem to care about the ‘ from each other, with special yells at the young woman who walked into the MSG bathroom and announced she was in “Harry’s House” alone and the legion of people who immediately yelled, “Stay with us!” – No questions asked.

While it’s worth it, none of it comes easy, exemplified by the legions of parents and fans who are unable to get tickets to these shows, either due to exorbitant pricing strategies or limited, unfair access.

When Taylor Swift dropped “Midnights” on Oct. 21 at, well, midnight, and then delivered another version, “Midnights (3am Edition),” three hours later, I knew school wasn’t going to be easy for millions of kids. the next day. day. In fact, midnight album releases — especially when there’s a test the next day — are a virtual party for our boys, making me hope Swift’s next album might be called “Saturday Afternoon” or something along those lines.

When Swift announced the Eras Tour on Nov. 1, a well of apprehension grew in my stomach. Her first tour since 2018, her oeuvre now includes so much material she’s never played live, with so many fans never getting a chance to see it. My one experience with Ticketmaster’s “verified fan” process, designed, presumably, to keep scalpers out, had gone bad; I received the email telling me that I had been chosen, but I never received the text with the code.

My experience the week before Taylor Tuesday heightened my doubts in the system: Ticketmaster crashed twice in my attempt to get tickets to Louis Tomlinson, a star who doesn’t have anywhere near the kind of fanbase to rival “Swifties “. Every time I threw “general admission” tickets into the cart—no seats assigned—he would tell me that another fan had “got” them and that I had to try again. How could that be, I wondered, if the tickets were general admission?

Alas, it didn’t matter: For Taylor Swift, I was waitlisted, whatever that means. My sister was put on a waiting list. My niece was put on a waiting list. But, behold, my bestie has arrived.

“I have a code,” he wrote. “I have a code.”

We knew it was still going to be difficult. Really, really hard. But we’ve been doing this together for so long. It used to be that it wasn’t online codes: we slept outside record stores and in parking lots, handed prized bracelets to keep our place in line hoping for the best seats we could get for Prince, U2 and Def Leopardo. One particularly cold morning, my social science teacher showed up with donuts for all of us; he cheered once we had tickets in hand.

Getting tickets today is a much more solitary experience revolving around laptops and phones, computerized and mechanized with virtual waiting rooms and queues and the so-called dynamic pricing system that Ticketmaster uses to vary ticket prices based on demand . We scoured Tik Tok and Twitter for tips and hacks, appreciating posts from those who expressed stress at being the only member of a friend group who received a code. We had already canceled our Tuesday morning calendars and were ready to fight, knowing that an online bookmaker site had estimated that around 2.8 million Eras tickets would be sold, which gave us a slightly better but still minuscule chance of get tickets.

“Good luck – don’t hesitate but also take your time but also be super fast. I believe in you,” her daughter wrote minutes before the presale aired.

No pressure there. No pressure.

In short, he took them. They’re not great seats, they’re not on the night we wanted, and she was faced with a “sit down, we’re securing your verified tickets” message countless times before finally receiving a confirmation email in her inbox. But when reports surfaced about what happened in the day, we felt as lucky as mothers might feel, especially when heartbroken fans and their parents started sharing their experiences: tickets snatched from their trolleys, website crashed and error code after error code flashing on people’s screens.

“I’m officially done telling anyone I have Taylor Swift tickets,” a neighbor wrote me, the only other person I know who has tickets. “I feel like I might get mugged on the street.”

As Ticketmaster shrugged off initial outrage Tuesday by declaring “an unprecedented historic question” and thanking fans for their “patience,” people started asking questions. Why issue more codes than tickets? Why create more entry points than capacity?

So while I plan to stay in the trenches with my daughter, trying to support her love of music like my mom did for me, change must be on the horizon for the rampant monopoly that sells concert tickets to teenagers . With ‘Swifties’ getting increasingly angry at the star herself – a generational artist, in fact, who has already made such an impact on the industry as a whole – on Tik Tok, often quoting ‘I’ve never heard the silence so strong” from the song, “The Story of Us,” some lawmakers, from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, are making headlines about the issue.

“Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically drive companies to innovate and improve their services,” wrote Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and consumer rights, in an open letter to Michael Rapino, CEO of Live Nation Entertainment (who oversees Ticketmaster). “This can result in the kinds of dramatic service failures we’ve seen this week, where consumers are the ones who pay the price.”

That price just went up, way up. When Ticketmaster announced the cancellation of the Eras Tour’s scheduled public sale on Thursday, claiming “insufficient inventory” after a “staggering number of bot attacks” during the presale, my heart broke at the thousands upon thousands of fans now officially left empty-handed, and the parents and grandparents and friends who tried so hard to get them there.

I’ve had those days, too: Coming home because spending a night in a parking lot wasn’t enough to get me a ticket to the show.

We have to do better.

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