Four years ago this month, Taylor Swift was wrapping up her Reputation tour—marking the last time the record-breaking singer would take her live show on the road before a pandemic hit that left fans at home to enjoy her subsequent four new studio albums and two album re-recordings. Now amid the blockbuster rollout of a full-blown pop album, she’s set to retake the stage. The announcement of a worldwide stadium tour has sent TikTok, Ticketmaster, and her hordes of fans into an all-out frenzy. You see, this wouldn’t just be a chance to see Swift perform songs off of her new album Midnights, which is by some measures her most successful yet. Nor would it just be that plus the first chance to see her perform the songs from her duo of beloved pandemic albums, Folklore and Evermore, not to mention Lover, for which the planned 2020 world tour was canceled. No, because she’s Taylor Swift, she saw all of that pent-up demand and found a way to up the stakes even further. And so she announced that this tour would be about eras—“a journey through the musical eras of [her] career.” In other words, even if these four most recent albums aren’t your favorite, she’s teasing a chance to hear every song Taylor Swift has ever released. There’s something for everyone—and increasingly, “something for everyone” seems like it could also mean that there might not be tickets for everyone.
SwiftTok, what her fans have dubbed the corner of the internet where feverish theories about everything from music video Easter eggs to Gaylor conspiracies proliferate at a breakneck pace, took this and ran with it. Fans were allowed to sign up for Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system in the hopes of receiving a presale code ahead of today’s ticket sales. But this weekend, the hacks and crackpot theories spiraled out into a world of their own.
I am a regular inhabitant of SwiftTok—not by my own choice, but rather by some scheme imposed upon me by the algorithm. I’ve been an avid fan of Swift’s since her debut album, but I’ve always found the Easter egg hunts to be dizzying and far too much effort. As I geared up this week for my own journey into what seemed like inevitable Ticketmaster purgatory, TikTok started peppering me with its best advice for securing one of these coveted seats.
It started innocently enough. Friends forwarded me videos they thought might be helpful come Tuesday morning, like this clip explaining some basic Ticketmaster tenets. Never refresh the page while waiting in the queue, have your presale code handy, and always search for “best available” seats rather than trying to click around on the map. I’ve been slow to re-enter the world of concerts, so a general refresher on the intricacies of this hell site was welcome. Another TikToker, who’s seen Swift 12 (!) times, offered suggestions for finding the seats that offer the best view at your stadium of choice.
But then, warring factions started to break out over some of these simple words of wisdom. While some TikTokers sternly warned against ever refreshing your Ticketmaster page, others fought back by saying, “You do need to refresh, you just need to know which page to refresh.” Huh. Which one is it? (There are apparently three pages: the waiting room, the queue, and the page to buy tickets. You’ll want to refresh the waiting room, according to this TikToker, when the clock strikes. Like I said, dizzying.)
From there, SwiftTok begins its departure from friendly (if contested) tips to intricate conspiracy theories you need a postgraduate degree to parse. One video suggests that buying every new remix Swift drops of “Anti-hero” (there are four) will bolster your spot in the queue. Which apparently isn’t that farfetched, as some fans received a “boost” for being “loyal fans” this weekend, seemingly being rewarded for spending inordinate amounts of money on branded merchandise. This shouldn’t come as a surprise—as Slate’s charts columnist Chris Molanphy has written, Swift is a genius not just at songwriting but at mastering industry tactics for wringing every last bit of sales out of your fans. It’s once the videos start conjecturing that her (pretty standard, and still to be confirmed) stage setup is actually meant to look like the hands of a clock (to match her Midnights motif) that SwiftTok has officially lost me.
By the time Tuesday morning finally arrived, my head was swimming with Ticketmaster hacks, codes, and presale links. I spent the night pre-filling my credit card information on the site and strategizing. I would be the breadwinner for my team today (everyone else was stuck in meetings). “You’re on your own kid, lol” they texted me last night.
So, I set up my war room: two laptops side by side, logged into the waiting room right at 9:30 a.m. I briefly stepped away to fuel up with coffee, only to receive frantic messages from a friend whose site was already crashing, showing her the dreaded 404 page. I ran back to my screens, sighing with relief as I saw the countdown still ticking: 15 minutes left. Right as the clock struck 10, I received a flurry of good luck texts. “Thank you, soldier,” I wrote back to one friend, alongside a salute emoji. I was ready for battle.
Immediately, Ticketmaster sent me into a queue, with the comforting claim that about “2,000+” people were ahead of me. The loading bar crept forward at a snail’s pace. Game over. That “+” seemed to be putting in a lot of the work here—how do you compete with thousands of Swifties who surely knew some Ticketmaster hack you didn’t catch wind of before it was too late? Surely, the algorithm hadn’t served me the one trick that allowed 2,000 people to somehow skip ahead of me.
But then the bar kept loading. Until there were 598 people left. Two minutes later: 316. 100. Then 1. The Ticketmaster site played a ridiculous little jingle and … I was in. As soon as I saw the page with the stage map, every single hack escaped my body. In a state of panic, I clicked on two seats across from the runway at center stage. Each time I clicked on a pair, the tickets were snagged by some other eager fan. But then I scooped up two more and hit purchase.
It all happened in a matter of minutes, and it was just as I remembered Ticketmaster to be: slightly chaotic—but also pretty straightforward. Sure, you can’t rely on the site not to crash, but when it works, it works just fine. We all love to hate on Ticketmaster—this past month even an unpopular President Biden, with his eyes on the midterms, tried to score some last-minute political points by taking aim at Ticketmaster fees—and with good reason! They peddle exorbitant surcharges, institute a deeply unfair “dynamic pricing” system, and never seem to get their site or app working well enough, even when they have had months to prepare. But even a broken system, when it works for you, doesn’t seem so bad.
Unfortunately, not everyone had it so easy. At 1 p.m. this afternoon, after hours of outages, the company released a statement saying they’d been met with “historically unprecedented demand,” with millions trying to grab tickets. A second presale for Swift tickets set to begin at 2 p.m. this afternoon has now been rescheduled for the same time tomorrow. It seems as though Ticketmaster should’ve known that arguably the biggest pop star in the world, who has stayed off of the road for four years, would break their site with her return.
But for now, this remains the system we’re stuck with, and until we find a better one (AOC has assured us that she’s working on it), the best we can do with this broken system is figure out how to work it. No wonder there were so many TikToks. All I can suggest is to seize any advantage you can—and if you’re in line, stay in line.