Die-hard fans put in hours of work to support their favorite artists. They’ll stream the artists’ music countless times, post about them online, buy their new releases in every format and give musicians marketing that money can’t pay for — all free.
The least they can get in return, some say, is priority access to concert tickets. But Ticketmaster doesn’t account for dedication when it selects buyers to participate in its Verified Fan system. Some fans want that to change.
“It just gets a little frustrating as a fan sometimes, feeling like there’s a lack of control,” said Kierra Robinson, a Paramore fan. “Most people don’t really like Verified Fan, because it’s based on nothing.”
A representative for Ticketmaster said in an email that “Verified Fan is not a measure of how big a fan anybody is, it is intended to help drive ticket sales to fans and not resellers.”
The Verified Fan system requires buyers to register for ticket sales using their Ticketmaster accounts, email addresses and phone numbers. Ticketmaster says that after registration, it confirms that the registrants aren’t bots and don’t have histories of irregular ticket-buying behavior. Then, Ticketmaster selects which buyers get access codes for sales and which are put on waitlists using a lottery-style process.
Subimal Chatterjee, a distinguished teaching professor of marketing at Binghamton University, said Ticketmaster has been clear that its objective with the Verified Fan system is to keep out scalpers. He said that Verified Fan doesn’t exist to “reward the committed fan” but that many consumers may have mistakenly thought so because of the system’s name.
Chatterjee said the system sets up the expectation that “if I become, somehow, a verified fan, I’ll get a ticket,” adding, “But that’s not Ticketmaster’s aim in this case.”
According to the Ticketmaster website, Verified Fan allows artists to “give their fans a better chance at buying tickets by creating an extra line of defense against bots and professional resellers.”
A Ticketmaster representative said about 5% of tickets from Verified Fan sales typically end up on the secondary market, compared to 20% to 30% during non-Verified Fan sales.
Still, fans like Sophia Lopez, who has seen artists like Harry Styles in concert, believe some people who sign up “aren’t even fans — they’re usually scalpers.”
Fans were optimistic about Verified Fan when it was rolled out in 2017, believing it to be a step toward ensuring real fans get tickets. However, as time has passed, they are becoming increasingly disillusioned. Kaylee Cordray said it is “so easy” for people to get Verified Fan access codes, whether or not they are huge fans of an artist.
Cordray, who is a fan of several artists, including Taylor Swift, was able to secure a Verified Fan presale code for Swift’s “Eras” tour. However, she said, many of her fan friends — even those more dedicated than she — didn’t get codes, making resale tickets their only option.
For years, fans have complained that the system doesn’t do enough to prevent resellers from participating in such sales. While Ticketmaster doesn’t measure fandom with Verified Fan, fans think doing so would ensure the right people would secure tickets — and create a lot more happy customers.
Lopez, who is a fan of several artists, including Styles, suggested Ticketmaster should allow fans to show “a history of purchasing merch, your Apple Music streaming history or your Spotify Wrapped or past history of buying concert tickets” to verify fandom.
“I wouldn’t feel as bad [getting waitlisted], because I know there’s probably people out there that have spent more time listening to his music, have spent more money on his merch, all of this stuff,” she said. “I feel like I would have a better chance than most, but I know there’s definitely people out there that have a better chance than me.”
She added: “General on-sale and stuff like that, it’s fine; anybody can do it. But the Verified Fan presales really should only be for fans.”
General on-sale and stuff like that, it’s fine; anybody can do it. But the Verified Fan presales really should only be for fans.
— Sophia Lopez, a fan
While incorporating streaming data and fan engagement is a popular suggestion among fans, Larry Miller, the director of the music business program at New York University, said there may be privacy issues in allowing Ticketmaster to have access to more of users’ data. However, he said, an opt-in process could address the issue.
“Maybe that would be a good thing,” he said. “It would surprise me if those conversations were not already happening between Ticketmaster and the [streaming] services.”
Spotify does offer exclusive concert ticket presale codes to top fans of certain artists, but Spotify presales aren’t typical during most big ticket sales.
Some Swift fans, including Cordray, believed the “Eras” presale should have used a similar boost system to the one used during Swift’s 2017 “Reputation” tour, which rewarded fans who bought merchandise or interacted with certain Swift videos with points that increased their chances of getting tickets. While the method was criticized for gamifying ticket-buying at the time, fans say it was a better way to ensure they got tickets.
“I think that would be more helpful than the way that we have it now,” Cordray said.
Ticketmaster has been widely scrutinized in recent months after the disastrous “Eras” tour presale, which led to a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine its outsize role in the ticketing industry. During the “Eras” presale, fans reported getting kicked out of the sale, hourslong waits to buy tickets and high fees.
Since then, artists have been experimenting with ways to ensure their fans get tickets. The singer Maggie Rogers, for example, held an in-person-only presale that required fans to go to their local box offices to buy tickets.
Ticketmaster said that at an artist’s request, it takes “certain criteria provided by the artist — including fan club membership, past merchandise purchases, or other artist-defined criteria — in an attempt to better identify fans who are likely to purchase tickets and actually attend the show for which they’re registering.”
Pearl Jam reserved 90% of tickets for its coming tour for its paying fan club members. The Cure made its tickets nontransferable to curb scalping.
Fan dissatisfaction at the ticket-buying experience isn’t new. Miller recounts his outrage as a 14-year-old camping out at the box office to buy Led Zeppelin tickets and missing out. However, he said, he believes Ticketmaster is working hard to “mitigate the kinds of gaffes that led to their public, very pointed questioning in Washington earlier this year.”
Still, with fan complaints about Ticketmaster and the Verified Fan process still rampant, Chatterjee, of Binghamton University, said it’s clear “something is broken.”
“It’s an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away. I’m sure Ticketmaster will come up with something in the next few months. If the Verified Fan doesn’t work, then something new,” he said. “But the bottom line is, of course, you know, there will be disappointed people. Because the sad truth is that the demand far, far exceeds capacity.”