The agony and ecstasy of scoring last-minute face value Taylor Swift tickets
By Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN Business
When Julia Thomas woke up at her home in Cleveland last Saturday, she spontaneously decided to drive 15 hours roundtrip to the Taylor Swift concert that night in Nashville, picking up her sister in Cincinnati along the way. But they were missing one thing: tickets.
Like so many Swift fans, she couldn’t get tickets on Ticketmaster when they went on sale last fall, nor could she afford the four-figure price tag listed for them on resale sites. About halfway through the drive, however, her sister found $350 floor seats after refreshing various Swift-focused Twitter accounts: Ticketmaster had just dropped a handful of last-minute tickets at face value on its website.
“We seriously just got super lucky,” she told CNN. “We made it to Nashville with about an hour to spare before the concert started.”
Thomas is one of many devoted fans who closely monitor a mix of Twitter accounts dedicated to alerting fans when Ticketmaster releases a new batch of Swift tickets after the initial sale.
Ticket drops are not new. They’re ostensibly due to additional seats being added to a venue, or if tickets are returned. But these drops have become an obsession among Swift’s most devoted fans, who are struggling to find tickets for the artist in the face of Ticketmaster’s broader ticketing snafus.
Ticketmaster has been under scrutiny for fumbling the online sales to the mega-star’s latest tour, in an era where it already completely dominates the live event industry, leaving few, if any, alternatives. In November, “Verified Fans” were sent a presale code — but when sales began, heavy demand snarled the website and millions of Swifties could not get their hands on a ticket. Presale tickets for Capital One card holders brought similar frustration — and then Ticketmaster canceled sales to the general public, citing “extraordinarily high demand” and “insufficient remaining ticket inventory.”
In testimony before Congress, Ticketmaster parent company Live Nation President and CFO Joe Berchtold partly blamed the ticketing incident on bots. He also emphasized that Ticketmaster does not set ticket prices, does not determine the number of tickets put up for sale and that “in most cases, venues set service and ticketing fees,” not Ticketmaster.
Ticketmaster and Live Nation are currently face a lawsuit from Swift fans across the country for “unlawful conduct,” with the plaintiffs claiming the ticketing giant violated antitrust laws, among others. A preliminary hearing was held in March; Ticketmaster has denied the allegations.
Millions of fans are still unable to buy tickets. In recent weeks, however, Ticketmaster has been sending out more Verified Fan codes to people who were originally selected from the pre-sale to purchase from leftover tickets. For people without codes, Ticketmaster is also doing routine ticket drops ahead of shows.
It’s not unusual, however, that thousands of fans are trying to secure the same tickets at the same time. Sometimes the seats are purchased by bots and scalpers, and reposted to third-party sites like StubHub within minutes.
Ticketmaster did not respond to a request for comment about its ticket drops.
But that’s not deterring Swift fans. Some are spending hours searching for tickets online and driving long distances to concert venues without a ticket in hand, even if it risks ending in heartbreak.
How to find ticket drops
Molly Ramsey, an 18-year-old fan from Bristol, Tennessee, said she recently stumbled across the Twitter account @erastourticks, which often tweets about Ticketmaster’s drops. “My family [last weekend] took the gamble to drive down the 5 hours to Nashville to see if we could get face value tickets,” she said.
After nearly nine hours of refreshing Ticketmaster, she secured four tickets right before the show started. “We were sitting outside of the stadium while the openers were playing, but as soon as our payment went through, it was an out-of-body experience,” she said. “My sister started screaming and dancing.”
In a nod to Swift’s hit song “Anti-Hero” and the rush to find drop tickets, the Twitter account — which has about 22,000 followers — recently tweeted: “It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero aka @Ticketmaster.”
A similar site, @concertleaks, has been connecting its 62,000 followers to last-minute Swift tickets. The account was originally set up years ago to post concert setlists, merchandise, and tickets for various artists, but has evolved to help connect followers with ticket drops, too.
Another Twitter account called @ErasTourResell, which has 120,000 followers, has gained significant traction working with resellers who want to sell their tickets at face value. The account is run by longtime friends Courtney Johnston, Channette Garay and Angel Richards. The trio of twenty-somethings aim to make Swift tickets as accessible to fans as possible without them overpaying or getting scammed.
“So far we’ve posted somewhere between 2,700 and 3,000 tickets, all for face value,” the trio said in a DM conversation on Twitter. “It’s truly so rewarding seeing these tickets go to real fans for face value when the resale market has insane prices with people making three times the profit. It’s also been amazing to meet people who follow the account at shows, especially if the only reason they were even able to attend was through our account.”
They spend hours, in between working and going to school, sifting through daily submissions to make sure the tickets are real. The group encourages buyers to ask for video proof of tickets, to pay only via Paypal Goods and Services due to its protection plan and to never pay over the face value. (They also said they don’t make any money off the process, and do it only to help fellow Swifties, but they do have a Ko-Fi account where people can donate funds for food or coffee).
“Surprisingly, the vetting process has gone immensely well and smoothly because by now we know what a sketchy screen recording looks like or what a forged or hacked email can look like,” the group said. “It’s all about being able to catch the super small details — what color an image is supposed to look like, what link is clickable, where that link has to take you, what message is supposed to pop up at any certain point.”
But getting these tickets isn’t easy. After an alert for tickets is posted to their Twitter page, many users say they never hear back from sellers, and it’s unclear how they select a buyer from the hundreds of fans who reach out to them.
“It has definitely gotten harder with our amount of followers increasing,” the friends behind @ErasTourResell told CNN. “Some [sellers pick] based off of the first direct message and mention, and others go for someone with a touching story so it truly varies. Having our notifications on helps as we tend to do a little warning and tease before posting most tickets.”
Beyond Twitter, many fans are turning to sites such as Reddit, including the R/Taylor Swift page, for play-by-play details on Ticketmaster drops. Some say they’ve spotted them several times throughout the day but most frequently about 30 minutes before a show starts. (Tickets have even appeared an hour into the show.) Others suggest using Apple Pay to expedite the payment process and avoid losing tickets while typing in credit card information.
A lesson in patience
Despite these massive efforts, not all fans find luck online.
Katy Blackman, 33, from Birmingham, Alabama, said she spent all day in a Nashville hotel last weekend refreshing the site. Only once did she manage to get a single ticket into her online shopping cart, but it was gone before she could check out.
Still, she headed to Nissan Stadium that night and stood in the parking lot alongside hundreds of other fans without tickets trying to get in. When the lights dimmed minutes before Swift took the stage, the crowds scattered; she was nearly the only one left, still refreshing Ticketmaster.
“All my searching and combing Ticketmaster and resell sites was worthless,” she said. “But then all of a sudden, a random girl came running up to me truly seconds before she came on and said, “Hey, wanna come in with me?”
The stranger had just scored last-minute tickets and had an extra to sell. “A miracle happened,” Blackman said. “My new friend and I sang every single song. We cried, danced, hugged. It was worth the absolute hell to get there.”
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