Earlier this week, I was contacted by a reporter from a major newspaper to discuss Taylor Swift’s Verified Fan program and her merch program that “boosts” fan’s place in line for buying Swift swag like digital albums, magazines and a $60 Rose Gold Snake ring.
The reporter asked me, “Is what Taylor Swift doing moral?” which I thought was an interesting question — since when has morality ever been relevant in the music industry? What I think he was trying to ask is whether it’s kosher for Taylor to ask fans to buy merch, watch her videos and tweet pictures of her on the side of UPS trucks in order to boost their chances of getting tickets to her shows.
And to that question, my answer is quite simple — yes, it’s totally legit. And it’s smart.
Taylor is going to be announcing the dates for her Reputation tour in November, around the same time her new album comes out. Demand for her tickets will far outpace supply. So what is a young starlet like Taylor to do?
She could just put the tickets on sale and watch them get swallowed by bots and scalper scumbags who will then sell them at insanely inflated prices. Or she could price them to market, charging $500 to $1000 per ticket and endure a flood of terrible press and isolate her fans. That’s not a great option.
Or, she can use Verified Fan and rely on Ticketmaster’s technology to effectively weed out scalpers. Does it eliminate all brokers? No. Many professional resellers still get through, but it does prevent a lot of basement brokers from buying up four and eight-packs and flipping them for a quick buck.
But even if she uses Verified Fan, there’s still a supply and demand problem. Let’s say five million people sign up for a chance at the one million tickets that will be available on her upcoming tour. Even if Verified Fan weeds out 97 percent of the scalpers, it still only has one million tickets to sell, meaning four million people will end up disappointed.
That’s why she’s created a gaming system to help fans boost their place in line. And look — no one has to buy any of her merch for a chance at tickets. Fans can sign up for Verified Fan, do nothing – and still get a crack at tickets when she comes to town.
And like I said — the merch is optional. That’s far more respectable than the ticket + album bundling many artists are forcing on their fans. It’s something I wrote about when I was a columnist at Pollstar (pre-Leiweke takeover). In an interview with Dan Steinberg from Emporium Presents, we discussed the increasing practice of acts charging $3 to $6 extra per ticket to include their album as a digital download with their concert. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
“As a ticket buyer, you see it as part of the gross ticket price and you just think that we’re giving you the album,” he added. Steinberg said the once-rare practice is growing, while actual downloads of albums are shrinking.
Only 25 percent to 35 percent of fans actually download the album, and fans who pay cash aren’t told they purchased an album and given download instructions.
“Bands used to tour to support the albums. Now the acts are touring so they can sell albums and make it mandatory for us to pay them,” Steinberg said. He said it’s often band management that insists on including a “free album” with every ticket – not only does it bring in revenue but juices an album’s position on the charts.
Unless someone comes up for a better way for true Taylor fans to get their hands on tickets, they should shut their mouth holes. Offer an alternative; don’t just criticize Taylor. As the old adage goes — everyone has the right to an opinion, but not everyone has the right for me to acknowledge their opinion or even pretend to acknowledge their idiotic ideas.
Ok, that’s it for me. Rant over.
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