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How does a Taylor Swift fan prove their love? Money

Swift’s business model is largely built on fan desire to meet her. How do you meet her? You prove you are the biggest fan – and you’ve made the sacrifices (and spent the money) to show it.

Taylor Swift Speak Now Tour Hots Sydney, Australia. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Taylor Swift Speak Now Tour Hots Sydney, Australia

In November 2022, Ticketmaster was forced to cancel the general sale for Taylor Swift’s North American Eras tour after unprecedented demand. More than 3.5 million fans had registered to try to get a presale code – a number far exceeding the number of available tickets for the 52 shows.

The story made international headlines and led to a congressional hearing into Ticketmaster’s processes.

Dates for the Australian leg of the Eras tour were announced today. Swift will be performing three shows in Sydney and two in Melbourne. Fans from other cities – and New Zealand – will have to travel should they wish to see her perform locally for the first time in over five years.

Tickets for the five performances will go on sale next Wednesday, with less than 500,000 seats available. While this may seem like a lot, the disappointment seen in North and South America is likely to also be seen here.

Taylor Swift fans are known for spending significant amounts of money on albumsmerchandise and concert tickets.

While being a fan is an increasingly expensive experience, there seems to be a particular connection between Taylor’s fandom and the expectation of consumption.

Handpicked fans

Swift shares a particularly intense connection with her fans.

Fans frequently engage in parasocial relationships with their celebrity objects of fandom, where they feel as if they honestly “know” the celebrity.

These relationships are often portrayed as problematic in both academic and popular discourse. However, the connections fans feel to their favourite celebrities can be a healthy expansion of their social world.

Swift is unique among celebrities in that she actively courts these connections.

By handpicking fans for “secret sessions” before album releases (often held in her own home) and hosting post-show meet and greets, over the past 16 years she has carefully built the illusion of these relationships as reciprocated friendship.

For these events, she memorises facts about each fan in attendance, surprising them with comments about new haircuts, academic achievements and relationship milestones.

She also has a history of sending fans surprise gifts in the mail, ranging from handwritten letters of support to gift boxes full of things she says “remind her” of the fan in question.

Performing fandom

Based on the North American performances, it appears Swift is not conducting meet and greets during The Eras tour. But fans believe there is always the chance they will be noticed and chosen to meet her.

When Swift’s official social media team, Taylor Nation, engage with fans – by liking, replying to, or retweeting their messages – individuals often put the date and type of interaction in their bio to broadcast the attention they received to others within the fandom community.

The belief among fans (which has never been confirmed) is that being noticed on social media puts you a step closer to meeting Swift in person – something many of the participants in my research into her fandom described as the ultimate motivation behind their engagement.

To be noticed, however, fans must participate in particular, approved ways.

The Taylor Nation twitter account retweets and engages with fans who have shared screenshots of merchandise receipts (from increasingly frequent, themed merchandise releases), pictures of themselves with multiple copies of albums, or particularly over-the-top displays of emotion and creativity.

This sets a baseline of what it takes to get their – and Swift’s – attention.

The hierarchy of fandom

Fandom communities are often discussed as spaces of friendship and community.

More realistically, they are hierarchical structures in which fans have their status elevated by participating in certain ways.

For Swift fans, these hierarchies are heavily tied to practices of consumption, including the purchasing of concert tickets.

The most expensive package for the Australian tour dates will set fans back A$1,249. For that price, fans will get an “unforgettable A Reserve floor ticket” and “exclusive VIP merchandise”.

If fans are just after a seat, A Reserve is listed at $379.90, dropping down to $79.90 for G Reserve.

Within the fandom, fans who travel to shows, attend multiple nights, or have seats near the stage are labelled “dedicated” and “committed”. Those who miss out on tickets often express their frustration at missing out to others who they don’t deem to be “real” fans.

North American fans have gone to great lengths to secure tour merchandise, even after they have secured tickets to the concerts. Fans have reportedly been queueing before sunrise, spending thousands of dollars and waiting in the rain to get their hands on limited-edition items.

The higher the levels of sacrifice reported, the more someone can project to other members of the fandom just how big a fan they are. This can result in increased attention and a reputation as someone who “deserves” to meet Swift.

In her song Karma, Swift sings “my pennies made your crown”. When tens of thousands of fans scream this back at her every night, they are reflecting the reality of Swift’s celebrity.

Swift’s business model is largely built on fan desire to meet her. How do you meet her? You prove you are the biggest fan – and you’ve made the sacrifices (and spent the money) to show it.

This first appeared in the Conversation

Written By

Georgia Carroll PhD Candidate in Sociology, University of Sydney