Editor’s note: Amy Bass (@bassab1) is a professor of sports studies at Manhattanville College and the author of “One Goal: A Coach, a Team, and the Game That Brought a Divided Town Together” and “Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete ,” among other titles. The views expressed here are solely hers. Read more opinion on CNN.
In the midst of the Taylor Swift ticket mania that has dominated my life—and millions of others—for the past week, I keep thinking about how, when I was only 15 years old, my mother lied to get me. into a Ramones show at a theater in Albany, New York, so many years ago.
She drove me and my friend to the show with the intention of reading a good book in the parking lot, but ended up going in with us when we were stopped at the door for being underage and without ID. When we finally got in, a nice bouncer took one look at us and said to my mom, “You can go back there and hang out—I’ll keep an eye on them.”
Although I remember every detail of that epic show, perhaps especially the moment when Joey Ramone gave me a guitar pick, more important to me now is the heroic example of parenting my mother set.
Now, fast forward more decades than I’m willing to admit, I’m the mother of the 15-year-old concert-goer navigating the world of tickets, transportation and “merch” and advising on how best to spend hard-won childcare allowance. I’m lucky that I’m not alone in this endeavor, as my best friend, the one I’ve seen more shows with than anyone else, has a high school girlfriend of her own. The four of us together are now concert friends.
It has been a fantastic experience. I loved every second of watching our girls fight for position in the pit at Harry Styles’ show while we watched from the bar (pro tip: there is no line at the Madison Square Garden bar for a Harry Styles concert). Finally, we also joined the cacophony of feather boas and sequins that make up Harry’s house, marveling at his connection with his audience and the diversity and strong community that is his fan base.
Indeed, just as we once joined the thousands of voices who walked out of a U2 show singing “40” long after the band had left the building, our girls are part of a generation of fans who seem to take care of each other, with special shout outs to the young woman who walked into the MSG bathroom and announced she was in “Harry’s House” alone and the legion of people who instantly shouted, “Hang with us!” – no questions asked.
While it all feels worth it, none of it is easy, exemplified by the many parents and fans who are unable to get tickets to these shows, whether due to exorbitant pricing strategies or limited and unfair access.
When Taylor Swift dropped “Midnights” on Oct. 21 at midnight and then delivered another version, “Midnights (3am Edition),” three hours later, I knew school wasn’t going to be easy for millions of kids the next day. In fact, midnight album releases—especially when there’s a test the next day—are a virtual party for our kids, which makes me hope Swift’s next album might be titled “Saturday Afternoon” or something along those lines.
When Swift announced the Eras Tour on November 1st, a worry grew in my stomach. Her first tour since 2018, her oeuvre now includes so much material she’s never played live, with so many fans who’ve never really had a chance to see her. My one experience with Ticketmaster’s “verified fan” process, supposedly designed to keep out scalpers, had gone badly; I got the email that I was selected, but I never got the text with the code.
My experience the week before Taylor Tuesday fueled my doubts about the system: Ticketmaster crashed twice in my attempt to get tickets for Louis Tomlinson, a star who doesn’t have anywhere near the kind of fan base that can rival the “Swifties” . Every time I threw “general admission” tickets into my basket – no seat assigned – it told me another fan had “grabbed” them and I had to try again. How could that be, I wondered, if the tickets were general admission?
Alas, it didn’t matter: for Taylor Swift, I was waitlisted, whatever that means. My sister is on the waiting list. My niece is on the waiting list. But lo and behold, my best friend came through.
“I have a code,” she wrote. “I have a code.”
We knew it would still be difficult. Really, really hard. But we’ve been doing this together for so long. Back then, it wasn’t online codes – we slept outside record stores and in parking lots, getting precious wristbands to hold our place in line while we hoped for the best seats we could get for Prince, U2 and Def Leppard. Once on a particularly cold morning, my social studies teacher showed up with donuts for all of us; he cheered as we had tickets in hand.
Getting tickets today is a far more solitary experience, revolving around laptops and phones – computerized and mechanized with virtual waiting rooms and queues, and the so-called dynamic pricing system that Ticketmaster uses to vary ticket prices based on demand. We combed Tik Tok and Twitter for tips and hacks, and appreciated posts from those who expressed stress over being the only member of a group of friends to get a code. We had already cleared our Tuesday morning calendars and were prepared to do battle, knowing that an online bookmaker site had estimated that approximately 2.8 million Eras tickets would be sold, giving us a marginally better but still minimal chance of getting tickets.
“Good luck – don’t hesitate, but also take your time, but also be super fast. I believe in you,” her daughter wrote a few minutes before the presale went live.
No pressure there. No pressure at all.
In short, she got them. They’re not good seats, they’re not the night we wanted, and she had to deal with a “sit tight, we’ll secure your confirmed tickets” message countless times before she finally got an email confirmation in her inbox. But as news emerged of what happened throughout the day, we felt as lucky as mothers could feel, especially as heartbroken fans and their parents began to share their experiences – tickets were ripped from their carts, the website that crashed and error code after error code is flashing on people’s screens.
“I’m officially done telling anyone I have tickets to Taylor Swift,” a neighbor—the only other person I know who got tickets—wrote to me. “I feel like I could be mugged on the street.”
While Ticketmaster drew on the initial outrage Tuesday by declaring “unprecedented historic demand” and thanking fans for their “patience,” people began asking questions. Why issue more codes than tickets? Why create more entry points than capacity?
So as I plan to stay in the trenches with my child and try to support her love of music as my mother did for me, change must be on the horizon for the unfettered monopoly that sells concert tickets to teenagers. With “Swifties” growing increasingly angry at the star herself — a generational artist, yes, who has already had such an impact on the industry as a whole — on Tik Tok, often quoting “I’ve never heard silence quite so loud” from the song “The Story of Us,” some lawmakers, from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Senator Amy Klobuchar, getting vocal about the issue.
“Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticketing market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, wrote in an open letter to Michael Rapino , CEO of Live Nation Entertainment (which oversees Ticketmaster). “That could result in the types of dramatic service failures we saw this week, with consumers paying the price.”
That price just went up, way up. When Ticketmaster announced the cancellation of the planned public sale for the Eras Tour last Thursday, claiming “insufficient inventory” after a “staggering number of bot attacks” during the presale, my heart broke for the thousands upon thousands of fans now officially standing empty – delivered, and the parents and grandparents and friends who tried so hard to get them there.
I had those days too – returning home because spending a night in a parking lot wasn’t enough to get me a ticket to the show.
We have to do better.