Revenue / 01.08.19
The Highest-Grossing U.S. Tour of All Time Used Slow Ticketing
Something big happened in 2018: Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” tour was reported to be the highest-grossing U.S. tour of all time. The pop artist grossed $266.1 million and sold more than 2 million tickets domestically. Of note, she opted for the controversial “slow ticketing.”
It would be naïve, of course, to solely credit Swift’s success to her ticketing strategy. She is, after all, uncontestably one of the most popular artists alive, and her audience of young women consistently support her by attending her live events year after year. But this record-breaking domestic triumph is making front pages. It would be naïve not to examine this particular ticketing strategy.
How Did Swift Use Slow Ticketing?
“Slow ticketing” is similar to “dynamic pricing,” a hot topic we’ve explored on Access multiple times over the past year. Essentially, it’s pricing based on market demand. Instead of pricing tickets low early on and selling out immediately, only for scalpers and bots to swoop in and snag all the best seats in the house, artists like Swift and Jay-Z are increasingly starting to price high from the get-go. The theory is that this makes it more difficult for scalpers to gobble up and set aside as many tickets as they used to — thus, beating them at their own game.
And beat them Swift did. Again, the “Reputation” tour turned out to be the highest-grossing domestic tour of all time. It’s interesting to look back at an April 2018 article on Rolling Stone in which a “veteran promoter” was quoted as saying the tour was selling “terribly – the worst scaling and flexible pricing I have ever seen for a stadium tour.”
Of course, this change in pricing tactic isn’t without fan griping. For instance: “How come my friend, who paid for her ticket a month after I did, paid $200 less than I did? We’re sitting right next to each other!” In fact, we heard more about Taylor Swift fans’ grievances in 2018, it seemed, than fans of any other artist.
For her “Reputation” tour, Swift ticked many fans off with her decision to use Ticketmaster’s “Verified Fan” program, an AI-driven platform that requires buyers to register for ticket access in advance. The platform then grants fans access to tickets after rummaging through their social profile and other data, using their web activity to see if they are a true fan of Swift. “Verified fans” are sent a code that gives them limited-time access to acquire tickets. Swift sold up to 50 percent of her tickets via the platform, then released the remainder at market price.
Other artists are doing things differently. Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s stadium tour did not use a “verified fan” program like Swift’s, but it did price tickets dynamically. They stopped StubHub from grabbing much more than 2 percent of their tickets.
Whether compounded by “verified fan” programs or not, more and more artists are putting their tickets on sale earlier and at higher prices. This change is designed to compete with the secondary market — and so far, it seems to be working. In 2019, we might just see more artists take things slow.
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Tags: Stadium , StubHub