This article contains spoilers for Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour.”
Last week, Taylor Swift embarked upon her incredibly controversial “Eras Tour.” That’s the one that had her fans suffering late last year, attempting to secure tickets via Ticketmaster, an experience so fraught with problems that the Department of Justice had to step in. Now, in an attempt to cater to the leagues of fans that were unable to get tickets—and to satiate international fans, who weren’t even offered tour dates outside the U.S.—fan-run Swiftie social media pages have begun to post set lists and key snippets of musical numbers showing the artist’s choices of costumes and choreography. Fans are spoiling the “Eras Tour” on purpose, and gladly.
Since social media gained steam, the practice of circulating live music’s precious moments has been a point of much deliberation and discourse amongst fans. Possible downsides are obvious: It is incredibly annoying to see one person’s Instagram story basically turn into a live concert you are not currently attending, and it can be mildly annoying to stand behind someone holding a phone up at a show. And if you do have plans to attend at a later date, TikTok and Twitter clips of the concert’s best moments ruin a lot of the surprises—the stuff artists put in to answer the question Why hear it live for hundreds of dollars when I can just listen to it for free in my bedroom? There are a few Swifties who are vocally decrying the inescapability of “Eras Tour” spoilers on social media, but on the whole, these critics are surprisingly hard to find. In fact, what’s more common—or maybe my Twitter algorithm prefers positivity, though I highly doubt that, judging by what else it serves up—are fans who are nothing but thankful for the dozens of angles of Swift’s myriad costume changes throughout her set.
The concert spoiler discourse has pivoted from blame to self-preservation and precaution. Where once scoldy anti-spoiler messages dominated internet stan circles, now the majority of the spoiler discussion is made up of empathetic memes and jokes about the difficulty of avoiding them. Plenty of Swifties have openly announced that they’ve decided to mute specific accounts and tags on Twitter, but the best (if the most impractical) method of anti-spoiler survival is to simply stay off social media until your tour date arrives. Already, fans of Beyoncé with tickets to her upcoming “Renaissance” tour, which kicks off in just a few months, are planning on muting everything Beyoncé-related until it’s their turn to bask in her disco glory. I, for one, will certainly be muting certain social media profiles—including those of my closest friends who are seeing the tour weeks before I am—and topic tags until I am in front of Beyoncé herself.
Navigating this new era of abundant concert spoilers is a bit easier than it used to be. It helps that stan accounts are being open about their spoiling intentions—labeling their posts with spoiler warnings, for one. Some Twitter users have even gone so far as to tell people to prematurely mute their accounts to avoid showing videos and photos. It’s comforting to see fans embracing spoilers and taking it upon themselves to arm themselves against them instead of getting angry that they exist in the first place. It is, of course, highly unreasonable to expect excited fans to sit on prime footage and content for what could be many months before a tour finishes. But the most comforting part about this pivot in stan culture is that it allows us to focus on equitable accessibility to live music. Instead of being annoyed by people posting set lists and videos for themselves and those who can’t attend, we should be more focused on tackling the barriers that limit that attendance.
In the Swifties’ case, it’s widely believed that Taylor Swift fans were mistreated by various predatory selling practices that not only tricked certain fans into falsely believing they’d have access to presales but also made the ticket prices so expensive that fans who had the chance to buy them were forced to pay an arm and a leg. But any update to ticket sellers’ practices would still result in some devoted fans being left out—for some artists, there aren’t enough venues or tour dates in the world to tend to the entirety of their staggering fanbase.
But why stop with Twitter threads of costume changes and fan-generated Instagram livestreams? Why don’t artists make the concert, in its entirety, accessible to people who don’t have an opportunity to witness it? It’s understandable to theorize that if the full tour is offered online, fewer people would be dying to show up. But that might not necessarily be true. British pop-rock band the 1975 livestreamed the November New York stop of their 2022 “At Their Very Best” tour for free on Twitch for fans who couldn’t attend. Bootleg recordings of that livestream could—still can!—be found on various sites. Then, after the end of the U.S. leg of the band’s tour, the livestream was made officially available for constant rewatching on Amazon Prime. Though the livestream was announced months after U.S. tickets had gone on sale, it was made available before some international dates were announced. Not only did it offer something for fans who missed out on tickets, but also, even though one could access the show with no need to pay money or leave the comforts of home, plenty of fans with tickets to later dates still did just that.
What helped bridge the gap is the particular way the 1975 conducts their shows: unpredictably. Even if you went to one stop of the tour, you might have heard a few different songs than the band played at another stop. You might have seen the band’s lead, Matty Healy, perform any number of random, eccentric acts, from kissing random fans one night to getting a tattoo onstage or eating raw meat the next. When it comes to a carefully orchestrated set like Swift’s “Eras Tour” performance, I’m not expecting much to change from city to city. However, small changes, such as different outfits, slightly altered musical arrangements, and even varying vocal ad-libs, have been enough to gratify the ticket-buying fans of plenty of pop stars from Beyoncé to Rosalía. Obviously, nothing compares to witnessing these slight alterations in person, and I’ve already waxed poetic about the irreplaceable experience of seeing your favorite artist live. But I have also been on the other side of the fence, grateful for glimpses of tours (and one-off performances in Dubai, perhaps?) that I was unable to attend. I’m the person who begs her friends with concert tickets: “Please, just record one song for me.”
When it comes to stars like Taylor Swift, there’s never a doubt that the fans will show up. But what about the fans who can’t? Tour spoilers are a side effect of social media growth and fan excitement, sure. But they are a big deal because of live music’s lack of accessibility. Instead of being angry about someone spoiling a tour because they want to share the experience with less lucky fans (or, less altruistically, because they want to look cool on TikTok), we could think about the fact that there isn’t a dedicated space for those fans to turn to for live content that isn’t made up of blurry short videos proliferating across your Twitter feed. The Swifties are showing the way.