Taylor Swift’s Controversial Ticketing System Favors Her Wealthiest Fans

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More than ever, touring has become the easiest and most dependable way for artists to make their money. Take a look at the list of the biggest money-makers from all of last year and you’ll notice that most of their millions of dollars of revenue was raked in through massive, multi-city concert excursions. In an era where royalties on songs don’t bring in anywhere close to what the did back in the golden age of CDs, or hell, even vinyl — before it became cool again — and where you can only make so many corporate endorsement deals, the concert ticket has become the hottest commodity in the music industry.

Someone who recognizes this reality of course is pop superstar Taylor Swift. Her most recent outing, the 1989 tour sold out stadiums across the globe and netted the singer something around $250 million from the stops in North America alone. It’s practically a given that her next tour will command an even greater amount of demand among her most ardent fans as she grows her pop star appeal for Reputation. With that in mind, it appears that Taylor is looking to maximize those profits even more and has partnered to create a new program with Ticketmaster to make that happen.

The new system is called “Taylor Swift Tix powered by Ticketmaster Verified Fan” and its unlike anything the concert industry has seen before. Ticketmaster explains the whole thing as an anti-scalper, anti-bot program.

Taylor Swift is committed to getting tickets into the hands of fans… NOT scalpers or bots. So she’s collaborating with Ticketmaster #VerifiedFan to create an exclusive program to help YOU get the best access to tickets in North America, in a really fun way.

A closer look reveals more than just fun as a goal, however. The verified fan program indeed seems like a system set up to weed out bots and would-be scalpers. Bruce Springsteen is using the same set-up for his hotly anticipated intimate run on Broadway later this year. Once you register for Swift’s shows however, you’re taken to something called the Taylor Swift Tix portal where you can boost your chances to even purchase a ticket in the first place by doing activities like watching the video to her new single “Look What You Made Me Do,” sharing a photo of her customized UPS truck on social media, and most importantly of all, buying more stuff.

That’s right, Swift is dangling the chance to spend money to come out to one of her shows in the face of her fans, but only if they are willing to promote her brand, pre-order her new album Reputation, and purchase special merchandise. The biggest boost you can receive definitely requires spending money, and we’re not talking chump change either.

After fans pre-order their copy of Reputation on CD — from Target naturally, with whom Swift has already partnered to roll out two special collectors magazines — if you want to make sure that you receive it the day that it comes out, and really, why would you buy it otherwise, you’re going to be pay around $50 to ensure timely shipping, from UPS. Factor in the cost of the disc itself and you’re looking at $60 per CD. That sound you hear is a long-retired Sony Music executive laughing his ass off. Oh, and you can also purchase that $60 CD up to 13 times for maximum boost potential. For fans who fulfill that quota, we’re at almost $800 on CDs alone.

I registered into the program and without any activity, I’m currently sitting on a waitlist in a crowd of untold thousands clicking, watching and shopping their way to priority status. Maybe I should start watching both the official and lyric videos for “Look What You Made Me Do,” because after all, “Your boosts are automatically applied for up to five views, per day. Watch every day and receive your boosts.” I could check back tomorrow to see if the shop has been updated with new items and “scoop up as many pieces as you like” to get the “boosts to match.” To be clear, watching Taylor Swift’s videos on loop gives me a better chance of scoring a concert ticket… how do Youtube and Vevo feel about those record view-bolstering tactics?

It used to be artists toured in order to promote their newest albums, but Taylor Swift is flipping that dynamic in the most mind-bending way possible, to the point that if you even want to see her live, you almost have to purchase her upcoming record. If anyone had doubt that Reputation would smash some major records when it drops this November, this system should erase those completely.

Maybe this truly is the way of the future, where artists reap in extra benefits while ostensibly trying to keep coveted concert tickets out of the hands of scalpers. In language dotted throughout the site however, Ticketmaster repeatedly uses the word “fun” to describe the set-up. There’s honestly nothing fun about having to shell out additional hundreds of dollars worth of your own, or in the case of the legions of the singer’s youngest fans, your parents’ hard-earned income for the mere opportunity to spend even more on a ticket to her show. And even then, after all that clicking, and tweeting, and purchasing, there’s still no guarantee you’ll get in.

No matter how Swift or Ticketmaster try and frame it, this new system clearly is stacked in favor of the wealthiest among us, leaving some of her biggest supporters on the outside looking in. At least under the old way, a less well-off fan had a shot if they clicked in fast enough. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t this either.