What Really Happened During Pre-Sale? A Look into Taylor Swift, Ticketmaster and the Eras Tour


Elaina Freeman, Writer

When Taylor Swift annouced Midnights fans across the world were ecstatic at the thought of a new album. For years, fans have been asking for new music from Taylor.  However last year, Taylor gifted fans with re-recordings of her albums Fearless and Red.  Despite being more than satisfied with the re-recordings, fans longed for more. They couldn’t wait for the day an album of new, original music was finally released. This day finally happened on October 21, 2022 when Midnights her tenth album was released. The long awaited album quickly blew up and broke a number of records. On the first day it was released, it was streamed 184.6 million times.  For at least a week, songs from Midnights occupied the top 10 spots on the Billboard Hot 100. For the first month since its release, the catchy melodies and lyrics of Midnights were inescapable.  

In the years since Covid, in person concerts have slowly been allowed to happen again. Many artists successfully went on full tours over the course of the last year. Artists such as Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo both went on full tours this past year. Many people assumed that Taylor would be the next to embark on a tour of the same magnitude. The last time fans were able to see Taylor live was in summer of 2018. Since her Reputation Stadium Tour, Taylor has released four more albums, each with songs fans were dying to hear live. 

On November 1st, Taylor finally announced her long awaited tour. The Era’s Tour will take fans through the entirety of Taylor’s discography. This promises to be a tour designed to appeal to the hardcore Swifties and the most common listeners. 

Then disaster struck! During the course of presale, everything went wrong.Ticketmaster went into shock due to the high volume of people fighting for tickets.  Fans were stuck in the que, trying to get tickets for hours. For the presale, Taylor’s team released codes to ensure fans of a better chance of actually buying tickets. However, most fans with a code did not even get into the seating map, let alone buy tickets. Ticketmaster agreed to add a second day of presale, with promises that it would be better than the previous day. Unfortunately, the same problem occurred. The only thing I can compare this situation to is the hunt for the Golden Tickets in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.  In this case instead of getting a private tour of a candy factory, people are fighting to see Taylor Swift in concert.  

After the second day of disastrous presale, everyone was trying to figure out what went wrong. Like the day before, very few people actually walked away with tickets. The sale made headlines across the country,causing the story to get ample coverage.  People across the country were asking themselves the same questions; What happened during the sale and who is responsible for the disaster that followed? 

As the story floated around the internet, many people took to social media to express their anger. After going through the two day nightmare, fans were not only angry with Ticketmaster, but were angry with Taylor on a personal level. People across the country waited for Taylor to respond to the situation.  After the first day of presale, fans hoped Taylor would apologize but Taylor was nowhere to be found.  When the same thing happened the next day, many fans began to lash out at Taylor. However, Taylor decided to stay silent.  At this point, many presale fans decided to just give up. However, a large majority of people still had hope that by the general audience sale the problem would be fixed. The night before the sale was scheduled to take place, Ticketmaster made the decision to cancel the sale completely. By canceling the sale, this prevented the thousand plus people that did not get a presale code from getting tickets.  A large number of fans were counting on the general sale to try to get tickets.  For Ticketmaster to cancel the sale completely, it was taking away the opportunity from countless people. With the decision to cancel the general audience sale, Ticketmaster released a statement that said “Due to the extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand, tomorrow’s public on-sale for Taylor Swift|The Eras Tour has been cancelled.”  This not only caught the attention of Swifties but of  people worldwide. 

The situation detailed above was stressful for all those involved. To be able to fully cover this story, I knew that it was imperative to interview real customers about what they went through. The first person I interviewed was my older sister Joy Freeman. I thought it would be interesting to get Joy’s perspective as a long time Swiftie and also as someone who works in the music industry as a publicist/music journalist. She understands the concert industry in depth from her time working as an employee at a label, doing full in-house marketing for artists, and currently runs full PR campaigns for independent and signed artists.

Elaina Freeman: Can you describe what happened when you try to purchase tickets for the Era’s Tour?

Joy Freeman: “My friend and I went in super prepared for the ticket buying experience. We both had been selected for presale and had received codes. She logged in on her phone and work computer, and I logged in on my laptop at home. We were both in the queue once the clock turned 10am, but immediately were placed behind 3000+ people. I moved through the queue fairly quickly, but once I got in my selected tickets were stolen from my cart or I was given an error message. I tried for hours, refreshed, and changed my settings to no avail. A few times my friend and I were able to get tickets into the checkout screen successfully, but when we went to put in our card information we received an error message.We were really disheartened, but tried again the next day because she had a Capitol One Card. Once again, I moved through the queue quickly but my friend was stuck. I continued to get the same error message for at least two hours, until I refreshed the page and was kicked off of Ticketmaster entirely. It even said the event didn’t exist! Somehow , my screen refreshed, brought me back to the cart and bypassed the queue, and I was able to select and purchase my seats. My friend never got out of the queue. “

EF: In purchasing tickets for other concerts, have you ever seen anything like what happened?

JF: “Absolutely not, which is probably why I was so disappointed and surprised by this experience. I’ve been going to concerts religiously since I was about 9, and this past year I’ve made it a habit to see one show or more a week. I have extensive experience buying tickets for everything from DIY shows to stadium tours. I’ve secured tickets pretty easily for every show I’ve ever wanted to go to, especially if I purchased them day of through Ticketmaster.  I didn’t always get the seats I wanted, but I always walked away with something.”

I then went on to talk to Joy about what she believes needs to improve within the industry as someone who has worked inside it . 

EF:From your experience, what do you think needs to improve when buying concert tickets

JF: “Ticketmaster needs to be separated from Live Nation, and we need to allow space for smaller, local companies to take the reins. In-venue ticketing is a thing of the past, but it would make these situations so much easier.Side note, but the culture around concerts has become very bizarre post-Covid. Crowds no longer know how to interact with artist appropriately, and the demographic seems to skew really young. There is an expectation that a concert is like a party or a novelty experience to attend, which has been perpetuated by Harry Style’s recent tours specifically with fans buying tickets for ten plus shows and camping out for months prior (yes, months!). There is a sense of entitlement to tickets, and I think that also made this entire issue way worse. Most of the complaints I saw came across as really tone deaf online. Obviously it is sad for those who didn’t get tickets, and the process was completely unfair, but nobody is “owed” tickets for being a fan of somebody. At the end of the day, the concert industry is a business.“

I then interviewed freshmen Stella Osburn about her experience,not only as someone who bought tickets, but as a long time fan. 

 EF: Can you describe your experience trying to buy tickets for the Era’s tour?

Stella Osburn: “When we went to use the pre-sale(code) it was a really long wait and then once we got in, it would say that the tickets were taken.” 

EF: From your experience, what do you think needs to improve when buying concert tickets?

SO: “I think they need to be better prepared for a large number of people. I also think that they should set prices lower so people don’t have to worry about the price as much”. 

The events detailed above are not the end of the story, they are merely the beginning. After the cancellation of the general sale, Taylor finally spoke about the events. ““It goes without saying that I’m extremely protective of my fans.  We’ve been doing this for decades together and over the years, I’ve brought so many elements of my career in house. I’ve done this SPECIFICALLY to improve the quality of my fans’ experience by doing it myself with my team who care as much about my fans as I do. It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse.There are a multitude of reasons why people had such a hard time trying to get tickets and I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward. I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this demand and we were assured they could. It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them.And to those who didn’t get tickets, all I can say is that my hope is to provide more opportunities for us to all get together and sing these songs. Thank you for wanting to be there. You have no idea how much that means.”

Taylor’s statement did not make many fans feel better about the situation. Multiple news sources are stating that “many fans believe that the statement came too late. “  The damage was already done, the bridges were already burned. With the general sale canceled and Taylor releasing her feelings on the situation, it appeared that nothing else could be done. A month went by and the situation itself had died down. People were not as vocal about their complaints about the sale.  For some, there was a silent grudge held against anyone lucky enough to say they had tickets. Fans went on with their lives and for the most part,moved on from the situation entirely. 

A month ago, the fight for Taylor tickets began again, when Ticketmaster decided to give certain fans a second chance to purchase the remaining 17,000 tickets. Fans were chosen to be able to re-attempt buying tickets based on a few factors.  The three deciding factors were fans that had previously purchased tickets to Lover Fest but could not attend due to the pandemic, had boosts(earned from pre-ordering Midnights merchandise) or from having a pre-sale code for the Era’s tour and not being able to purchase tickets.

With the new opportunity to purchase tickets available, this just strengthened the argument that this sale should be opened up to the public, not just those with access. With the reopening of tickets, I decided to ask both Joy and Stella about the merit of not reopening the general audience sale.

EF: Do you believe it was fair for only re-selected fans to be given a second opportunity to purchase tickets, without opening up a general audience sale to the public?

JF:”I do wish they had opened up a general sale. However, I understand why they couldn’t. They lied and oversold seats they weren’t supposed to sell, so the amount left over was far too small to meet the demand. General sale would’ve overwhelmed the servers again, and the site definitely would have crashed. I know Taylor’s team requested pre-sale fans be prioritized, and it makes sense to allow a smaller group in because it makes the process easier. None of it is ideal, but they had to do what would work to not break the site again.”

SO: “I think that it was fair for Ticketmaster to leave it to just pre-sale. This way it ensured that the fans who really wanted tickets and were prepared to buy them, actually got them. I do think that next time, they should include a general sale.”

To answer my original question about who should take responsibility for the incident, I do not think that a singular entity is responsible. I think that Ticketmaster is responsible for a large part of the damage that was caused.  As the source for tickets, they should have been better prepared for the amount of people that showed up.  Ticketmaster did not handle the situation the right way. However, I do not think that they are 100% to blame for the situation. With every concert,  there is always a possibility of bots going in, buying everything available and reselling the tickets for a large markup.  As Ticketmaster is the primary source for purchasing all events and concerts, this situation could’ve happened to any artist, at any time. For future tours, Ticketmaster should look to The Era’s Tour to prepare. For Swifties, this time period will be remembered  “All Too Well”.