Industry News

Ticketmaster defends Taylor Swift’s fan incentive scheme

Ticketmaster has defended Taylor Swift’s Verified Fan scheme that some followers criticised for giving wealthier fans an advantage over others in securing tickets for her upcoming tour.

Verified Fan, which was launched earlier this year, has already been used in sales for major tours featuring acts such as Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran and Twenty One Pilots.

The platform asks those hoping to buy tickets to provide personal information including their phone number, email and social handles. Verified Fan then assesses whether they are human, looking for clues like past ticket-buying history and social posts, and lets ticket-buyers know if they’ve made the cut.

In announcing the Reputation Tour, Swift and Ticketmaster released a video (below) that said fans are invited to participate in “boost activities” which will “improve their place in line” for when registration closes on November 28. Fans can, for example, watch Swift music clips for free, but the video suggests they can also move up to ‘Priority’ category by going to ‘Shop the store’ to buy merchandise or by purchasing the singer’s album.

David Marcus, Ticketmaster North America executive vice president, said: “It’s up to the artist to decide how they want to order their pool [of verified fans]. With Ed Sheeran, it’s first come, first served. Everybody [who is verified] gets a passcode and is invited in to buy a ticket. Maybe you’ll get a ticket and maybe you won’t, but at least you’re not competing against a scalper or a bot.

“Contrast Ed with Taylor Swift, who said, ‘My fanbase buys every single thing I put out, they watch my videos and they just want to be all-in; how can I build a campaign that rewards them for that behaviour?’ So we built a custom portal on top of the Verified Fan engine that orders that pool of people into a line, based on their level of engagement.”

He added: “It’s really easy for the press to take a shot at that and say, ‘Only the rich fans get in’, but that’s not actually true. Somebody who streams her video, shares on Facebook or Twitter and invites friends has just as good a chance of being at the head of the line as somebody who buys an album.

“There are going to be fans that take extreme steps to get to the front of the line, but for the most part there’s no difference between somebody who spends money on her music and somebody who spends their time promoting on her behalf. It’s just a way of getting people engaged.”