A Detailed Explanation on Why Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour Is a Total Disaster

A pissed off Taylor Swift fan
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Taylor Swift is an extremely successful and talented artist, and has earned and deserves all of the accolades, recognition, and wealth that comes with it.  It’s important that I first make this clear.

Because it is not my intention to offend Taylor personally when I agree with and explain why so many industry observers and journalists are 100% correct in describing the rollout and on-sale of her Reputation Tour a total disaster.

It is the current best example of how not to sell tickets to a large tour.  No one wants to be this case study, especially an artist who otherwise is poised and sets such an excellent example to her young fans.

The ticket ecosystem is complicated, multi-layered, and involves many players.  Because touring and sold-out concerts have unseated the sale of albums as the biggest piece of the pie, selling tickets is now what it’s all about.  In stumbling hard to grab the entire pie — initial sales and all resale of tickets — the Reputation Tour was doomed from the start.

Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’ Tour Is a Flop: Half-Filled Stadiums, Thousands of Unsold Seats, 0 Sellouts

Hopefully, as time goes by, some of the restrictions will be relaxed so that all of the tickets can sell and all the seats at shows will be full.  Because, arguably, that’s what matters – full seats at shows.

Since the dawn of tickets to live events there has always been a vibrant secondary resale market.

It’s become a place where even original sellers — the primary market — sell off ticket inventory that they may have held back earlier. Or, a place where they try to quickly sell tickets as the show approaches, at a price they are willing to accept (but that might be less than the price printed on the ticket itself).

I’ve grown tired of calling this the ‘face value’ because it’s really nothing more than a made-up number that has absolutely nothing to do with the supply and demand of tickets.  That’s what really informs true market value.  Think of home prices and how they fluctuate.  When you sell your house, there is no ‘face value,’ but instead a list price that considers a variety of factors, and it can go up or down based on the market.

But let’s get back to Taylor Swift.

She, or more likely her management, was sold on an experiment.  This experiment could either rake in tons of money in high-priced tickets, album sales, clothing sales, viral Facebook and Twitter marketing, and sold out shows — or become a total PR nightmare and bust.

Taylor’s 1989 Tour was a huge success by all accounts.  It sold out virtually every show in a matter of hours.  Tickets were reasonably priced at the on-sale, there were no major headaches for fans to make their purchase.  And there was a good supply of tickets on the secondary market for others to buy later in time.

It worked.  Not so much with the Reputation Tour.  In the press and on social media, fans are generally accusing Taylor of being greedy.  While there is a lesson in this for Taylor’s team to learn, fans should point their ire at Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan Program.

Taylor Swift’s Lawyers Just Got Their Asses Handed to Them — by a Blogger

The National Association of Ticket Brokers and many others in the industry supported the passage of the federal BOTS Act last year.  It’s a law that bans the use of software that basically cuts in line and buys up all the tickets before any of us have a chance to buy tickets.

Ticketmaster was chomping at the bit to roll out its new BOT-fighting program called Verified Fan.  It made sense at the time, but really we now all clearly see this was a ploy.  As Ticketmaster executives openly brag, Verified Fan isn’t only about keeping the BOTS out.   It’s also about commandeering all ticket sales – primary and secondary.

A total chokehold and massive cut of the action with every “swipe” of a credit card.

95% of Taylor Swift’s ‘Verified Fans’ Just Got Shafted

Verified Fan requires people who want tickets to sign up in advance to receive a code to verify they are a fan and not a software program, and if they are alerted on a certain date, at a certain time, they can use that code to gain entry into Ticketmaster’s walled garden to buy their tickets.  But, with Taylor Swift, they were then encouraged to “boost” their chances of getting tickets if they also bought merchandise.  Buy an album, maybe we’ll offer you better tickets.  Buy a t-shirt, now you have a real shot! Many fans describe doing this, only to then be offered $1,200 tickets.  Many others are crying foul saying they waited hours and hours to get a Verified Fan code, only to be shut out online.

Not a single show on the tour sold out when tickets went on sale.

Sales are sluggish.  And it’s not because Taylor Swift isn’t hugely popular.  She remains a smash hit despite the horrible PR she is suffering because of all of this.  The failed on-sale of the Reputation Tour is entirely because of the Verified Fan scheme.

So now what?

Ticketmaster’s PR spin machine enters.  Audaciously, they suggest everything is fine, nothing to see here, please move along. They say everything is going exactly as planned, that slow sales are part of how Verified Fan is supposed to work in order to keep BOTS and resellers out.

Ticketmaster, do you really think it’s working?

Sure, even without a sold-out show and sluggish sales, the dollars of all that merchandise boosting and high-priced tickets sales may equal the same as a normal sell-out or even exceed it.  But at what expense?  What will this short-term greed mean for the long-term?  What about the mom or dad who stayed home to buy some tickets for their child’s first Taylor Swift show, waiting to buy tickets, who spent an additional $150 “boost” that they might not be able to afford in order to get a better shot at tickets, only to be offered nothing, or even more painful, offered a $4,000 set of four tickets?

Coming back full circle, the ticketing ecosystem has a lot of players in it, and they are all capitalists aiming to make money.  And with the number of live events increasing, there is more money being spent and therefore more to be made.  Capturing the spend is okay, but at what cost and how much of it should be captured by one company?

By the sheer fact that there are more tours and more stops on tours, Ticketmaster as the world’s largest ticketing company will already reap more profits for its shareholders even if it changes nothing at all.

But the temptation to use the new federal bot law as trojan horse to foreclose competition in the entirely legal secondary resale market has bred a new form a greed, disguised in a nefarious program called Verified Fan.

Perhaps Ticketmaster has nothing to lose with this experience.  They aren’t the artist putting it all on the line or suffering the PR nightmare. T icketmaster is so big and so powerful in this industry that even by causing this mess, they won’t likely suffer much if at all.

For her next tour, Taylor’s management will more than likely be right back at Ticketmaster’s office to discuss dates, access to LiveNation venues, use of Ticketmaster Resale program, and more. All will be forgiven, because Ticketmaster has a monopoly and chokehold on artists.

So there you have it.  The explanation for why despite Taylor Swift herself being a monumental success, the on-sale of her Reputation Tour is a failure.

Blame Mr. Monopoly and his experiment, not Taylor.


Gary Adler is Executive Director and Counsel of the National Association of Ticket Brokers, and an attorney with Clark Hill PLC in Washington, DC

43 Responses

  1. Non-bias please...

    I mean I love this publication and all but it is so funny that when Jay-Z’s tour was tanking all you guys did was bash it and say negative things. Now Taylor Swift’s tour is in the tank and you are making every excuse in the universe as to why it is not her fault. I’m as much as a Jay-Z fan as I am a Taylor Swift fan which means I am neither. But good Lord you guys are so obvious and it’s just too funny not to mention. Write-ups like this give away to people thinking that a certain privilege does exist in this country. And yes I took it there… I’m no Beyonce fan either but at least she is a married woman and carries herself with class. Taylor Swift is an outright whore and we all know it… I mean usually that many relationships in that little time usually means that is a whore. If that was Beyonce writing a million songs about a million ex’s you know you guys would look at it the same way. Some real double standard shit. Come on DMN I know you guys are better than that….;)

    • Non-bias please...

      As a matter of fact in one of the many articles bashing Jay-Z’s failed 4:44 tour you guys even tried to compared it to Taylor Swift’s successful tours. Now look you dumbasses.

    • jane

      please explain to me when dating people all of the sudden went from being what just about everyone does, to something that makes you a whore? That would mean everyone that is married, that has ever had a significant other, or even uses an app like tinder , falls into the “whore category”
      You really need to change that judgmental mindset. When will people learn that slut shaming ISN’T ok anymore, and it never should have been in the past.
      If you don’t like an artist, that is fine, but you took it to a whole new level of ignorant with that one

      • Earl Harbeson

        I think he may fell a little silly now. $266.1 million from the United States is not that bad

    • Jimmy

      Your comment is just another example of how fucked up the internet is. “Whore?” I know you are better than that…. 😉

    • Craven Morecock

      Serves her asshole fans right, why would you support this stupid white – she sucks

  2. Ticket Monopoly, anyone??

    Thanks for this background information. It’s true there with so many concerts, there should be more than enough for everyone to make their profit and thrive as a business, without making it difficult for the consumer looking for tickets. In fact, in these digital times, it should be easier, not more difficult. This isn’t the only tour proving Verified Fan need to get shut down. I don’t agree that Ticketmaster will be able to sweep this under the rug, however. I’m surprised the NY Attorney General isn’t investigating, this is his kind of lawsuit! Ticketmaster may have reached a bit too far this time. Verified Fan may be the self-inflicted wound the industry and ticket market has been waiting for. The monopoly is just too big, powerful, and abusive. It’s now directly hitting consumer pocketbooks…

  3. lolz

    Taylor Swift’s music is totally horrid. It’s not even music. And it’s probably the artists earning the most. There’s tons of good music out there that’s not even listened. They get all the pie. If they only made GOOD music but they don’t. So to cut it short, the music industry is a total joke.

    • Anonymous

      All too well. Enchanted. Speak now. Love story. Fearless. Long live. Should I continue?

  4. Verified Fan

    Gary Adler is the Executive director of the National Association of ticket brokers. A true journalist if there ever wasn’t was one. Verified Fraud.

  5. Me

    Sorry my rant is long. To the writer of this article, could you remove tour lips from taylors azz please. dont you love it when they write these bs aritcles, whenever something goes wrong its taylors management or her teams fault when it works its all taylors idea and ahe is a genius . Ill tell tou what taylpr swift is, a complete phony , talentless, childish woman, whos parents had to buy her a record label because she couldnt get a real deal. Most of her twitter fans and you tube views are fake bots she bought , she cant sing, cant dance, and her whole background story is al lie, not to mention she has tried to sabatage so many careers is disgusting. And a child can write a poem and take it to max martin to make a song out of it, and anyone with the money can pay the media to tell everyone how great they are,(which is probably what tgis article is example of) and if you have direct deals with all the major radio companies and streaming compnanies so your music plays non stop no matter how bad it is you will make money, and then theirs all the fake award shows, taylor is a greedy nasty spoiled rich brat who didnt work for nor does she deserve anything she has. And that is all there is to it .

  6. DB

    Gary Adler isn’t just a scalper, he is the king of all scalpers running a criminal organization called the NATB.

  7. WWOW

    The either is head of the scalpers group that Taylor Swift is fighting and beating the hell out of. SWIFT and her tour is the biggest winner this year.

    • Me

      Look out taylor swift social media team is poating in the commnets again she is sooooo fake

    • Yep

      If you go to the NATB site you will see that it is an organization for all the ticket scalpers around the world.

  8. Kimberly

    You are wrong in saying that the 1989 Tour has no headaches for fans getting tickets. It was impossible to buy tickets directly from Ticketmaster, they sold out immediately. And it wasn’t fans who swooped in and did that, it was scalpers. Immediately after the sell outs there were thousands of tickets available on stub hub, seatgeek, etc. That is where I was forced to buy tickets at triple/quadruple face value. Sure, I could easily buy from a third party, but the headache came in trying to explain to my husband why I was paying $600 plus for a single ticket.

    The Reputation Verified fan sale was amazing. I threw in some time every day doing Taylor-centric things (playing videos while multi tasking, tweeting, etc) and I pre-ordered albums for my family for Christmas, which I would have purchased anyway (and did so for previous albums without getting a reward for doing so). And when it came time for ticket sales, I scored amazing first row lower level seats by the stage for $160. These would have cost $900-plus from a third party for the 1989 Tour.

    As a fan, I’m extremely happy. I get two go to six shows this year because of the affordability and ease of the verified fan program.

    Business Week just did a fabulous write up about how well this worked for fans and how bad it was for scalpers. I’m a fan of anything that keeps money out of the hands of third party sites and scalpers. Sorry you feel the need to bash a program trying to fix things. Is the system perfect? No. But I’d rather give money to the tour then to scalpers who do nothing to earn the inflated revenue.

    • WWow

      Could not have said it better, I payed $160.00 each for 4 seats in front of the stage on the field. Something I have never been able to do because of scalpers.

    • Bri

      EXACTLY! The verified fan pre sale was a dream. The article mistakenly implies that fans were only offered expensive tickets when that was not the case. Fans had the ability to chose any seats in the venue except a block of floor seats reserved for the general sale.

      You weren’t required to buy anything to get a better standing in line either.
      I didn’t think I was going to get tickets for the 1989 tour because they sold out so quickly, it was purely a fluke that a couple days later I checked again and found some seats.

      If fans are willing to pay the money to buy tickets from scalpers why shouldn’t Swift’s team take matters to prevent people from making money off her tour.

    • Candace

      As a verified fan from Toronto, CA..I got my tickets for half the amount they are now to the general public. (purchase at @211…on sale for $465). To get high on the priority list I just did things that I would have done anyways as a fan. Like buy a t-shirt and pre-order the album…watch a few videos a day.
      I wouldn’t call Taylor greedy or money hungry.
      All the scalpers can keep hating while we keep shaking.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Did they really just do a ‘fabulous write up’? Guys, you really need to step up your fake comment game.

    • Christoph

      Thank you for this. I am fan as of the program as well. I DID NOTHING, but buy an album, tweet, and watch videos. It was fun to ‘work for the tickets.’ It kind of got me more excited about the ticket sales

      I got amazing floor seats for $190, when I payed $265 from Stubhub for the 1989 tour on the 3rd level.

      The shopping experience for the tickets was easy as well. She also gave us plenty of time to save up for tickets. Artists typically release tour dates and then the presale goes on sale the following week. She gave us 3 months to save and 1 month for the 2nd round.

      Taylor is willing to get her reputation 😉 ruined by dumb f*cks like who to try to ruin it.

      Give credit. She works with mr. monopoly because they are pros and have the resources to execute new programs like this.

  9. Paul Lanning

    1) She’s an entertaining talented performer/songwriter.

    2) Music fans are better off paying $15 to see any of the many other equally entertaining (although not world-famous) performers who appear nightly in clubs all across the U.S.

    3) The problems aren’t Ticketmaster’s fault.

    4) Scalpers also aren’t to blame, but they are not qualified to speak on the topic, because an effective solution would include their extinction.

  10. Randy Nichols

    Paul, I respect your argument that perhaps verified fan was a failure. That said, if the head of the ticket broker association is writing blind articles pretending to be a journalists it’s a rather good sign verified fan is working and scaring the scalpers.

    What I can’t understand is why a well respected publisher like yourself is trying to mislead readers to protect leaches trying to destroy our industry?

  11. Todd

    The process is anything but a “dream.” Ticketmaster you should give some counsel to your PR firm posting fake comments. We realize your clients (Taylor Swift) complain and you have to try and fix the situation but the copy of these fake comments are laughable. Ticketmaster + Dream was said by no one, ever. We tolerate you because your lobbying and political contributions keep lawmakers and attorneys general at bay. But come on. And we don’t have to like ticket brokers either. But blaming them for a problem they weren’t involved in? Scapegoat syndrome. Let tickets just sell. Price them high, price them low, see what the market will bear. Let the buyers decide. Who cares who these buyers are so long as the ticket sell and come show time, the arena is packed. Everybody wins. But man, instead of dealing with the real problem Ticketmaster is paying people to post fake comments to deflect blame? Clearly Ticketmonster does have too much money. Here they are, burning it. Ps, Ticketmasterget a new PR firm. These guys need some training! Amateur hour…

  12. Well....

    Let’s face it , she is greedy. She is trying to soak these “fans” Dr every last dime. it’s sad the blind following she has. Her fans call in bomb three to a radio station so obviously these nuts will drop tons of money to see a low talent, low personality idiot. It’s the general public that has lost interest in the BS

  13. Anon

    Pfft. I thought I’ve somewhow all of a sudden subscribed to the WWN.

  14. Bobby

    If you were to re-write this article now, it would be completely different. The tour will be far from a failure. The fact that the shows did not sell out was due to the ticket scalpers not getting tickets. This actually tells you a lot about the tour business model in general as most shows have empty seats due to left over tickets from scalpers. The scalpers sell the show out. However, this is incredibly flawed as several shows that she has performed have already sold out (without the scalpers) and she broke the attendance record at the University of Arizona Stadium in Glendale (60,000 people) that stars like Beyoncé have not done. In fact, Taylor is number 1 in terms of North American tour sales (averaging ~50,000 people per show) while a star like Beyoncé is number 3 (Averaging ~40,000 per show). A lot more goes into the calculation of tour gross than you cared to address during your journalism of this topic. This tour will break a record in gross earnings and you’ll look like a fool for not doing the math yourself… and I’m not even that huge of a fan to realize this. I just know how to do math.

    • 6

      This so called journalist is paid by Stubhub. The journalism is a corrupt profession.

  15. Shewon

    Grossing 8 million a show greatest grosses of all time.

  16. Sean

    Lmao, sorry the tour is a failure? Breaking records left and right and the only female artist to sellout in New Jersey 3 nights a row. Went to the Toronto show and she killed it! Great performance. She is also actually doing something about these ducking shitball scalpers and bot software “selling out” shows only to squeeze real fans for every last dollar. Amen T-Swizzle kee doing you!

  17. Dave Brooks

    Guess who has the highest grossing tour of the year? You guys are a joke.
    Taylor always wins

  18. foxy katie

    so this is pretty embarrassing for you in retrospect. every “prediction” about how this tour would flop was laughably incorrect.

  19. Thank You Gary and the NATB

    Gary, you’re the head of the NATB. You have such a vested interest in making sure this doesn’t happen again because all your members are ticket scalpers! This is hilarious now that the Financial Times just reported that T. Swift made $150 million more in tour sales just from doing this. That’s $150 million that your ticket scalping members missed out on and more millions that they’ll keep missing out on in the future. As a fan of music who hates ticket scalpers and would rather my money go to the artist and their label I am enjoying this moment way too much.

    Thank you for leaving your article published so I can get back to it in the future if I ever need a laugh.

  20. Chris

    Oh look what happened, Taylor extended her record of having the biggest US tour in history, beating out the Rolling Stone’s $245M gross. I thought her tour was a disaster?