When tickets for Taylor Swift’s first tour in nearly five years went on sale last November, Tina Studts, the mother of two young girls, thought she was well prepared.
Like millions of others, Studts signed up for Ticketmaster’s “verified fan” program for early access, and she logged previous purchases of Swift merchandise that were supposed to provide a “boost.” She even watched hours of YouTube tutorials about how best to sign in and pick seats during a high-intensity drop.
Her family had moved to Colorado from Kentucky in 2020, and adjusting amid a pandemic was tough, especially for her older daughter, Shannon, 15, who is autistic. But Swift had been Shannon’s “special interest” since elementary school, her mother said, and the vibrant fan culture around the pop star had provided a lifeline.
With the holidays approaching, Studts knew that tickets to the stadium spectacle of Swift’s Eras Tour, which begins Friday in Glendale, Ariz., would give Shannon something to look forward to. Her daughter’s best friend from back home in Kentucky was even planning a surprise visit to Denver so they could all attend together.
“It was the most obsessive thing I’ve ever done,” Studts, 51, said of training for her ticket mission. “I had this extreme self-imposed pressure to not disappoint my 15-year-old.”
But as the Ticketmaster calamity unspooled that day, her hope dissipated. Studts waited and waited for eight hours at work, clicking around fruitlessly while fielding anxious texts from her daughter. The next morning, Shannon “didn’t even want to go to school because she was afraid of seeing people who had tickets,” Studts said.
Their crushing experience matched the struggle of many Swifties — as the singer’s superfans are known — whose vocal anguish and collective online might, paired with Swift’s own public frustration, led to a canceled general sale and a congressional hearing. But what happened next was a welcome surprise to Studts and others who know pop fandom as a cutthroat (and pricey) battle royale — an arms race of haves and have-nots all jockeying for limited access.
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Instead of leaving one another to scrap it out on the official secondary market, where ticket prices were astronomical and scammers were salivating, some resourceful fans banded together, using their tight-knit community on social media to problem solve: From Twitter and Facebook to Tumblr and TikTok, on pages like @ErasTourResell and TS Tour Connect, volunteers created a network of spreadsheets, Google Forms and online bulletin boards to facilitate face-value sales and exchanges among fellow devotees.
“The fandom can be kind of crazy,” said Amanda Jacobsmeyer, 29, the founder of the TS Fandom Fund, a Tumblr collective that seeks to address, however incrementally, economic inequality among Swifties. “But it really is a community and we look out for each other. With Ticketmaster just completely failing at their one job, people have really stepped up to make sure that actual fans are in the audience.”
In a sea of bots, frauds and profit-seekers, most Swift fans involved are merely matchmaking and amplifying seemingly trustworthy deals for those in need, rarely touching the money or tickets themselves.
Their only motive, Jacobsmeyer said, is altruistic enthusiasm: “We want Taylor to look out and see people who actually know the words to these songs, and we want to be surrounded by the people who make up our community, not just randoms.”
Looking for tickets became “like my second job,” Studts said. “It felt like this puzzle to solve.” But with the help of the @ErasTourResell Twitter account, where tickets were vetted and announced by city, she was able to secure four seats with no markup in time to surprise her daughters on Christmas morning.
“It’s really refreshing,” she said of the fan efforts. “I can’t believe that somebody would voluntarily spend this much of their time to make sure that we can get to the concerts. They just love seeing Taylor fans not getting screwed over by scammers and not being overcharged three or four times over.”
Long a struggle for followers of the most popular live acts — I need a miracle, goes the ancient Grateful Dead fan prayer — landing hot concert tickets without taking out a second mortgage has only become more difficult amid rising prices and fees, post-pandemic demand and the continued consolidation of an industry that some lawmakers say is dominated by a monopoly. (The Justice Department is said to be investigating Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation, the concert giant that merged with the ticketing behemoth in 2010.)
Last month, amid extended hand-wringing about ticket prices, a leading Bruce Springsteen fanzine announced it would shut down after 43 years. To avoid a repeat of the Swift debacle, a more elaborately plotted set of staggered presales for Beyoncé’s new tour had rules and requirements resembling a brainteaser — with some fans opting still to travel to distant locations for easier, better deals. This week, it’s fans of the Cure feeling the pain.
“It’s like a lottery to get stolen from now,” said Holly Turner, 26, who recalled spending just $23 — on the day of the concert — for floor tickets to her first Swift stadium show in 2011.
By 2020, when Swift’s Lover Fest tour was planned to kick off, competition had turned steeper; Turner said she waited eight hours in a digital queue for those tickets, but had eventually gotten them. (The shows were later canceled because of Covid-19, only heightening demand for the Eras Tour, the singer’s first set of concerts since 2018.)
Still, on Tumblr, the niche social network where many of Swift’s longest-serving and most loyal fans congregate, ticket release days were known to be a time of shared nervousness and then celebration. But this time around, joy was in short supply. Even among those who had managed to get Eras tickets, a sense of guilt prevailed.
“Once the general sale got canceled, everyone just felt really, really distraught,” Turner said. “But the next day, after it set in, there was a lot of, ‘O.K., here’s what we’re going to do. Don’t give up hope.’”
Using her sizable Tumblr following of some 20,000 Swifties, Turner’s TS Tour Connect page became a hub for those looking to sell tickets they could no longer use — at fair prices — to other loyalists. “I don’t have the resources to confirm if a ticket is real,” she said, “but what I can do, because I’ve been in the Tumblr community for so long, is make sure that they’re an actual fan who’s selling.”
Risks abound regardless. Even as Jacobsmeyer was facilitating deals for others via the TS Fandom Fund, she lost $1,200 when she tried to buy tickets to attend Swift’s Nashville date with her sister from a Facebook group that turned out to be bogus.
“It’s ripe for scammers, but it’s also been very ripe for showing the good sides of the community,” Jacobsmeyer said.
Courtney Johnston, 24, of San Francisco, said she was inspired to start @ErasTourResell on Twitter after seeing similar pages dedicated to tickets for Harry Styles and other pop stars.
She then recruited Channette Garay, 24, and Angel Richards, 27 — who met through the online fandom and are now dating and living together in Connecticut — to lend a hand. The three fans estimate that they are cumulatively spending more than 40 hours per week, in between work and school, sorting through ticket submissions and trying to verify them via screen recordings and confirmation emails before blasting the listings out to eager Swifties.
With nearly 38,000 followers, the group has now helped arrange more than 1,300 deals and counting — a milestone they will celebrate when they meet up in Arizona to enjoy the opening night of the tour together.
“I get to play a small part in someone getting tickets that they never thought they would get,” said Johnston, who plans to attend eight shows in all. “That’s really cool to me.”
Garay and Richards, who have tickets to four tour dates, agreed. “At the end of the day,” Garay said, “honestly, we just love Taylor.”