OK, FINE, that headline may be a hot fresh serving of clickbait — a number of people do want to go to Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour, enough that Team Taylor added seven dates this week, bringing the total number of Swift stadium dates this year to 51.
Many pop acts would dance for three hours in flip-flops through a bomb cyclone for those kinds of numbers, but two curious facts have come out of Swift’s hermetically sealed operation in the past few days. The first is that everyone can agree that this tour isn’t selling like expected (the New York Post even called it a “disaster,” because they also like when people click on their stories). Of those 51 dates, not a single one has sold out, and tickets for her 1989 tour were basically gone by the time you snuck into the Virtual Waiting Room.
But the bigger problem is that the ticket-buying method is a particularly wretched hive of scum and villainy, one that gives preferential treatment to those who purchase extra goodies, like Taylor Swift t-shirts ($50) or Taylor Swift snake rings ($60) or Taylor Swift flamethrowers (the kids love that one). The system is called Taylor Swift Tix, and it’s her proprietary version of Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system, which has been used by Hamilton and Springsteen on Broadway in an attempt to exercise some control of the secondary market. (“Secondary market” is the delightfully blank term music folks use when they mean “Greasy-haired moles who scalp garishgly marked-up tickets online from their ice cave in Slovakia or wherever.”)
This, in theory, is a fine idea. No one likes scalpers! Everyone hates scalpers. Scalpers hate scalpers! Trump probably hates scalpers! Russia probably hates scalpers, although if I’m being honest, most of the time I’m streaming pirated out-of-market NFL games it’s coming through Russia somehow. Ticket resellers represent a rung of humanity somewhere under people who smoke around kids and FM morning radio DJs, and happily we’ve exterminated most of that last group. Anything Swift or Springsteen or Stabbing Westward or Toad the Wet Sprocket can do to get around ticket bots is joyful happy news and should be met with optimism, at least until you realize that buying extra stuff puts you in a position to buy more stuff.
But it feels gross. It sounds gross. There’s no way to make it sound not-gross, even if the underlying logic — rewarding fans — makes some degree of sense. Swift has spent most of her 28 years mastering her public persona, stumbling only with the rollout of Reputation, which arrived in the height of the #MeToo movement, when her video about her 30-year-old feud with Kanye and the Kardashians seemed wildly out of place. It doesn’t matter what you buy to get preferential treatment — the entire concept is ready-made for internet scorn.
Happily, there is a solution for all of this, one that is obvious and glaring and delightfully nostalgic for a good chunk of us: We all agree to abandon buying tickets online, on the phone or through Ticketmaster’s Verified Taylor Swift Approval System and return to the idea of lining up at 8 a.m. outside a single Ticketmaster booth at the return counter of the J.C. Penny’s. Get in line, buy your tickets, the end. It’s simple, pure and effective. Sure, you’ll end up sitting in line for a few hours/days, but just bring an audiobook or a Game Boy or something.
The only way to make sure things are fair, that the biggest fans get the best treatment, that those who are truly invested receive the highest spots in line, is to abandon all this digital noise and make people get up at 5 in the morning to drive to a mall, like we all did in the magnificent old days, without presale codes or Fan Club Memberships or Visa Advance Onsales or what the hell ever. I did that once for “Weird Al” Yankovic tickets in Chicago, and got first row, center, seats 1-5. It worked then, it can work now. Your move, Toad the Wet Sprocket.