Picture your first concert: the excited rumble of the crowd as everyone files into the venue, buying a t-shirt to show off, and your stomach doing somersaults as the lights went out in preparation for your favorite artist.
As of late, thrilling experiences like that come at a higher cost than ever. Bots have posed a massive scalping issue to popular ticket-buying sites, including Ticketmaster, StubHub, and Live Nation. In some cases, tickets for entire arena shows have sold out within minutes. In 2015, U2 played a show at Madison Square Garden where a bot had bought over 1000 tickets in less than a minute.
To combat these scalpers, Ticketmaster has introduced a “Verified Fan Presale” to some artists’ shows. The idea is that only massive fans will be able to buy these tickets right as they’re released. Stars like Demi Lovato, Niall Horan, Kesha, Taylor Swift, and Harry Styles have all been on board. Each star takes a different tactic, too.
As a massive Taylor Swift fan, I was a little too familiar with how her Verified Fan Presale worked. However, the presale for stars like Harry Styles was a little more foreign to me. I decided to do some investigating.
I asked my friend Grace (the biggest Harry Styles fan you will ever meet) about the process of Styles’ Verified Fan Presale. According to her, the selection was random. Fans would sign up with Ticketmaster, put their information and their hope into their application and wait with fingers crossed.
And it worked (sorta?) — at least for the few lucky fans who received a code. For the countless other deserving fans of Styles who were left out in the cold, not so much: They still had to pay a scalper.
For Taylor Swift, her presale was another level of diabolical. Her codes did not go out at random. Instead, fans signed up with Ticketmaster and then competed for the top spot in their state with “boosts,” which varied from high boosts to medium and low ones. (Kesha had a similar setup.)
Low boosts included following Swift on social media, and let’s be real: What “verified fan” wasn’t already doing that? Other boosts included watching her music video, buying merch or the album, and using her reputation-themed Facebook filters. The bane of my existence is now her AT&T commercial (another video boost) which I have viewed way, way too many times.
If I had a dollar for every time I watched Taylor get into a choreographed fight with Andy Samberg, I could’ve just paid the scalpers.
It’s worth mentioning that the highest boosts were for buying the album and merchandise. So on top of the hundreds you’re willing to spend on a concert ticket, there were things to buy to ensure you got a code to even be able to buy the tickets. So, scalper problem solved, I guess? Not quite.
Call me a negative Nelly for poking holes in the beginning of this plan to stop the bots, but it’s still not working. I definitely applaud Ticketmaster for acknowledging the issue and taking steps to prevent it, but bots are still a salient and pertinent issue. There were still scalped tickets from both Styles’ and Swift’s presales that cost hundreds more than the face value. If scalpers can buy out stadiums in a few minutes, they can also just put the “Look What You Made Me Do” video on loop and scam the system. I hate to admit it, but they’re crafty.
While music fans of all demographics deserve to buy tickets for a fair and affordable price, the real people being hurt here are the youngest fans. Teenagers buying tickets to see their favorite ex-One Direction member or pop princess don’t have the means to buy tickets at crazy resale prices, nor do they have the money to buy boosts. It’s honestly cruel. In order to allow music to forge bonds between artists and their fans, and fans amongst each other, there needs to be more preventative measures taken against bots.