Editor’s note: Amy Bass (@ bassab1) is Professor of Mathematical Studies at Manhattanville College and authorOne goal: a coach, a team, and the game that divided the city together” And the “Not Victory, but Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete,” among other titles. The opinions expressed herein are her own alone. Read More Opinion on CNN.
In the midst of the Taylor Swift ticket mania that has gripped my life — and the lives of millions of others — over the past week or so, I keep thinking about how my mother lied, when I was only 15, to get me into a Ramones show at a theater in Albany. New York, many years ago.
She drove me and my girlfriend to the fair with the intent of reading a good book in the parking lot, but ended up coming with us when we pulled up at the door for being underage and without ID. After we finally got in, the sweet bouncer took one look at us and said to my mom, “You can go back in there and hang out—I’ll keep an eye on them.”
While I remember every detail of that epic show, perhaps especially the moment Joey Ramone handed me the guitar pick, what’s most important to me now is the heroic example of fatherhood that my mom set.
Now, fast forward more decades than I’d like to admit, I’m the mom of the 15-year-old party, navigating the world of tickets, transportation, and “goods,” advising on how best to spend the big-earning money babysitting. I’m lucky I’m not alone in this endeavor, as my lifelong best friend, with whom I’ve watched more shows than anyone else, has a girl in high school. The four of us, together, are now prom buddies.
It was an amazing experience. I loved every second of watching our girls fight for a position in the pits at the Harry Styles show while we watched from the bar (pro tip: no line at the Madison Square Garden pub at a Harry Styles concert). Eventually, we also join the cacophony of feather-and-sequin boas that comprises Harry’s home, marveling at his relationship with his audience and the diversity and strong community that is his fan base.
Indeed, just as we once joined the thousands of voices that came out of a U2 show singing “40” long after the band left the building, our girls are part of a generation of fans who seem to be looking out for each other, with shout-outs to the young woman who walked in. MSG bathroom and announced that she was at “Harry’s house” by herself and a legion of people who immediately yelled, “Stop with us!” – There are no questions.
While it’s all worth it, none of it is easy, evidenced by the legions of parents and fans unable to get tickets to these shows, whether due to exorbitant pricing strategies or unfairly limited access.
When Taylor Swift dropped “Midnights” on Oct. 21, well, midnight, and then made another version, “Midnights (3 AM Version),” three hours later, I knew school wasn’t going to be easy for millions of kids the next day. In fact, the midnight album—especially when there’s an audition the next day—is such a virtual party for our kids, that it makes me hope Swift’s next album will be titled “Saturday Afternoon,” or something to that effect.
When Swift announced the IRAS Tour on November 1, a hole of anxiety grew in my stomach. Her first tour since 2018, her oeuvre now includes a lot of material she’s never performed live before, with many fans who haven’t had a chance to see it. My only experience with Ticketmaster’s “Certified Fan” process, which is allegedly designed to keep scalpers out, was bad; I got an email telling me I was selected, but I didn’t get the text with the code.
My experience the week before Taylor’s Tuesday reinforced my suspicions of the system: Ticketmaster crashed twice in my attempt to get tickets to Louis Tomlinson, a star nowhere near as fanbase to rival the Swifties. Every time I threw “General Admission” tickets into my cart—no seat was assigned—he would tell me that another fan had “grabbed them” and that I needed to try again. I wondered how that could be if the tickets were general admission?
Sadly, it didn’t matter: For Taylor Swift, I was put on a waiting list, whatever that means. My sister got on the waiting list. My niece got on the waiting list. But, here he is, my best friend.
I texted “I have a code”. “I got a code.”
We knew it was going to be tough. Really, really hard. But we’ve been doing this together for a long time. Back in the day, it wasn’t Internet codes—we slept in front of record stores and in parking lots, getting prized wristbands to keep our place in line while hoping for the best seats we could get for Prince, U2, and Def Leppard. Once, on a particularly cold morning, a social studies teacher showed up with cupcakes for all of us; He cheered when we had tickets in hand.
Getting tickets today is a much more individual experience revolving around laptops and phones – computerized and automated with waiting rooms, virtual queues, and a so-called dynamic pricing system that Ticketmaster uses to change ticket prices according to demand. We combed Tik Tok and Twitter for tips and hacks, and appreciated the posts of those who expressed their nervousness at being the only member of the friend group to get a code. We’d already cleared our calendars on Tuesday mornings, and we were ready for battle, knowing that an online bookmaker estimated nearly 2.8 million Eras tickets would be sold, giving us a marginally better but still slim chance of getting tickets.
“Good luck – don’t hesitate but also take your time but super fast. I believe in you,” her daughter wrote a text message a few minutes before the pre-show began.
There is no pressure there. No pressure at all.
In short, I got it. They’re not great seats, they’re not the night we wanted, and she had to deal with the “sit ok we’re securing verified tickets” message countless times before finally getting an email confirmation in her inbox. But as news broke about what happened throughout the day, we felt as fortunate as moms feel, especially as devastated fans and their parents began to share their experiences—tickets ripped from their carts, website crashes, error code after error code flashing on people’s screens.
“I’m officially done telling anyone I have tickets to Taylor Swift,” a neighbor—the only other person I know who has tickets—texts me. “I feel like I might get mugged in the street.”
While Ticketmaster shrugged off the initial outcry on Tuesday by declaring an “unprecedented, historic request” and thanking fans for their “patience,” People started asking questions. Why issue more codes than tickets? Why create more than capacity entry points?
So while I plan to stay in the trenches with my child, trying to support her love of music the way my mother did for me, change must be on the horizon for the unfettered monopoly selling concert tickets to teens. With the “Swifties” growing irritable with the star herself — a generation artist, indeed, who’s already had such an impact on the industry as a whole — on Tik Tok, she often quotes “I’ve never heard silence so loud” from the song The Story of Us. some legislatorsfrom Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, are vocal about the problem.
“Ticketmaster’s strength in the core ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically drive companies to innovate and improve their services,” said Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, He wrote in an open letter By Michael Rapinoe, CEO of Live Nation Entertainment (which oversees Ticketmaster). “That could lead to the kinds of dramatic failures of service that we’ve seen this week, where it’s the consumers who pay the price.”
That price has gone up, and gone up a lot. When Ticketmaster Announce cancellation From the Tour Era’s scheduled public sale on Thursday, claiming “not enough stock” after an “amazing number of bot attacks” during pre-sale, my heart breaks for the thousands upon thousands of fans who have now officially left empty-handed, and the parents, grandparents and friends who have tried trying to get them there.
I had those days too – coming home because a night in a parking lot wasn’t enough to get me a ticket to the show.
We have to do better.