Taylor Swift's Ticketmaster Scheme Is a 'Scam'

Critics are calling it 'pay-to-play,' 'almost a Ponzi scheme'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2017 1:28 PM CDT

Taylor Swift and Ticketmaster have teamed up to help ensure tickets to her upcoming tour go to her biggest fans, not scalpers. That's so nice, right? Wrong. The complicated process, which utilizes Ticketmaster's new Verified Fan service, asks fans to buy Swift merch or promote her music on social media to earn "boosts" to their place in line for tickets, all in the hopes that when tickets go on sale, they've boosted themselves to the front of the line and are able to snag seats at a show. Of course, buying stuff gets you a lot more boosts than simply watching Swift's music video or posting about her online, but even that doesn't actually guarantee you a ticket. Not surprisingly, many are calling the scheme "pay-to-play" and a "scam." A roundup of reactions:

  • "What Swift and Ticketmaster have essentially done is alleviate the stress and anxiety of dealing with scalpers ... by making Swift herself one," writes Donovan Farley at Consequence of Sound. "What else do you call someone who charges you more than the listed price for a ticket to a concert? Not only that, Swift is charging extra to ensure a place in line for tickets—not the tickets themselves." Farley also notes that fans who preorder Reputation for boosts and want to actually get it on the day it's released have to pay a $48.03 shipping charge, a "nonsensical move [that] seems aimed to appease UPS, one of Swift's many corporate partners."
  • And then there's the fact that fans are encouraged to buy multiple copies of Reputation to get more boosts (which Farley calls an "egregiously immoral" move). At Paste, Hannah Fleming notes the system is obviously skewed to the benefit of fans with money: "Wealthy Sally can purchase the album up to 13 times and get the golden ticket! Poor Sally can watch the video an infinite number of times and post on social media but frankly—she doesn't stand a very good chance."
  • "I also take issue with the fact that this whole thing is being framed as a way for Ticketmaster to weed out bots," writes Hazel Cills at Jezebel. "It would be one thing to have fans register and be vetted as non-scalpers before they buy tickets, but I’m not sure how getting fans to buy merch (one item is a $60 snake ring plated with 24K gold) does anything to stop bots (which, by the way, is not the fans' job, it's Ticketmaster's)."
  • Mashable's headline: "Taylor Swift's Ticketmaster scam is why she's capitalism's favorite pop star."
  • On his Lefsetz Letter, music analyst Bob Lefsetz calls the whole thing "almost a Ponzi scheme" and Swift herself a greedy, "hypocritical bully."
  • Digital Music News and BuzzFeed round up some of the Twitter reactions to the move, including one person calling it "disgraceful."
  • "Even the Swift-iest of 'Swifties' are having a hard time putting a positive spin on" this, writes Ben Rayner at the Toronto Star. "There's got to be an aggregate limit to how much the world at large ... is willing to buy into the Taylor Swift phenomenon, and we might finally be nearing it."
(More Taylor Swift stories.)

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