Taylor Swift Ticket Trouble Could Drive Political Organizing

    27 November 2022

    Ticket sales for popular singer Taylor Swift's first live performances in years went very poorly this month —and her fans are angry.

    Swift's fans want people to know that they are not young anymore. They have jobs and resources. That is a powerful political driver, researchers say.

    The problems started November 15 when millions of young people tried to use the service Ticketmaster to buy tickets for Swift's Eras Tour. But their efforts resulted in computer problems, long waits and hurried purchases. Two days later, Ticketmaster had canceled the sale, saying there were not enough remaining tickets. Swift herself said she was upset.

    FILE - Taylor Swift receives the award for the Best Longform Video during the 2022 MTV Europe Music Awards (EMAs) at the PSD Bank Dome in Duesseldorf, Germany, November 13, 2022. (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)
    FILE - Taylor Swift receives the award for the Best Longform Video during the 2022 MTV Europe Music Awards (EMAs) at the PSD Bank Dome in Duesseldorf, Germany, November 13, 2022. (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)

    Ticketmaster, a company based in Beverley Hills, California, apologized. But now fans, who call themselves Swifties, and politicians have started acting on the frustration.

    U.S. House Representative from New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez directed Swift fans to the U.S. Department of Justice to make complaints. Several state officials have announced investigations.

    Stephanie Aly is a New York-based professional who has worked on community organizing for political causes. She thinks using groups of fans, called fandoms, for social progress is a good idea.

    "Fandoms are natural organizers," said the 33-year-old Aly. "If you find the right issues and you activate them and engage them then you can effect real change."

    For example, K-pop fans, who follow Korean popular music groups, organized to support the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.

    Aly and other Swifties who work in different industries have teamed up to create Vigilante Legal. The group is made up of people with experience in law, public relations, cybersecurity and other fields. It is targeting Ticketmaster by creating emails to petition top state lawyers, or attorneys general, and to provide antitrust information. Thousands have expressed interest in helping.

    "The level of anger that you've just seen in the country around this issue is astounding," said Jean Sinzdak. She is with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

    Sinzdak said the ticket problems are giving Swift's many young fans a direct line to learning how policy is created. The movement also is targeting young women who politicians often do not consider during election season.

    "Nobody goes out and thinks, ‘Let's target young women,'" said Gwen Nisbett, a University of North Texas professor. She researches the connection between political activism and popular culture. "Be it about abortion or student loans, that age group is super mobilized and young women are super mobilized."

    Being part of a fan community increases the chance of mobilization, Nisbett said. She has studied developments that took place in 2018. At that time, Swift, who had been non-political, gave her support to Democratic candidates for office on social media. Nisbett found that such social media efforts do not decide fans' votes. But they influence fans to look for more information and to possibly vote.

    This is not the first time fans or artists have targeted Ticketmaster. The band Pearl Jam targeted the company in 1994 although the Justice Department decided not to bring a legal case against the company. More recently, Bruce Springsteen fans were angered over high ticket prices because of Ticketmaster's pricing system.

    Aly noted that many of the members of her group did get tickets. But she said the issue is bigger than Ticketmaster.

    "...There are always enough of us to make a difference," Aly said. She added: "Your involvement may be the thing that pushes it over the edge that forces the government to act."

    I'm Dan Novak.

    Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.


    Words in This Story

    frustration –n. a feeling of anger caused by being unable to do something

    complaint –n. a written statement of dissatisfaction that might also call for some action

    engage — v. to get involved in something

    petition — n. a formal request to officials that some government action should be taken

    antitrust — n. related to legal efforts against unfair business methods that limit competition and control prices

    astounding — adj. causing great surprise or wonder

    abortion — n. a medical operation that ends a pregnancy by ending the life of the fetus

    mobilize — v. to get people involved in political activities or community events