Show Me How Bad You Want It

September 25, 2017

It was a late October 2010 day in Charlottesville, VA and I couldn’t be more excited as I stood outside of the Jon Paul Jones arena. One of my favorite bands was set to perform later that evening, Muse. This would be my first time seeing them but I already knew what was in store. The British alt-rock trio had a reputation for putting on a high production, bombastic rock n roll set with crazy light shows and moving stage-pieces. Low overhead be damned, these guys always went balls out. A rarity in rock concerts these days. And people knew this. Muse journeyed across the great Atlantic to melt faces, and they knew just how to do it. At least that’s what the thousands of people attending this sold out show hoped for.

            Muse were at the top of their game. Riding high off of 2009’s The Resistance, they were poised to take their rightful place as rock legends. I had gotten to go to this show by happenstance. The radio station I was working for at the time did what’s known as a party bus trip. People win tickets and a ride to and from the show on a bus where you can legally get hammered. They needed a promo kid to help make sure things didn’t get out of hand. Enter, me. And I was excited. I’d been a Muse fan for years and knew that I wouldn’t be going if I wasn’t working where I worked. As was the case for 90% of the concerts I’ve attended in my lifetime. I’m not sure exactly what the price was for tickets, especially in our section (I could have spit a loogie on bass-player Chris Wolstenholme), but I knew my $8.00/hr compensation wouldn’t have covered it. So, needless to say, I was beyond excited. But not nearly as excited as the kid standing in line in front me.

            Let’s call this kid “Little Jimmy.” Little Jimmy was there with who I can only assume was his father, “Big Jimmy.” Little Jimmy looked to be about age 12, and Big Jimmy looked to be in his late 50’s. Long, flowing locks of grey hair kept in place beneath a weathered fedora. Body kept warm by his totally rad cowboy style leather jacket, complete with fringe, and his finest Wranglers. You just know Big Jimmy had been to a show or two. And he was just as excited as his son. Both of them jabbering back and forth about which songs they liked the most. “You’re about to see the only real rock band left,” Big Jimmy told Little Jimmy, in that dad way where an opinion stated with authority and wisdom comes out as fact. Debatable, but know isn’t the time for that. Little Jimmy’s response was as sweet as it was naïve: “We should be front and center. They should reserve those seats for the real fans!!” Big Jimmy gave the same chuckle with the same look in his eyes and thought behind them that I had. “Little Jimmy you’re a sweet idiot.”

 Merit-based concert going experiences just weren’t possible. In an age where scalpers use ticket buying bots to corner the market, getting the seats you want for an artist you love without spending a fortune on the secondary market is the unsolvable equation on the university chalkboard of every music lover’s life. Maybe you can win tickets in a contest. Maybe you know somebody who knows somebody that can hook you up. If only there was a way to hand it the way Little Jimmy exclaimed. But, Little Jimmy’s solution seems hardly a solution at all. How do you prove you love an artist in a way to that translates to ticket access? You can’t, right? Well, apparently the marketing team behind mega-ultra-otherworldly-superstar Taylor Swift have just Good Will Huntinged the hell out of that unsolvable equation.

In an attempt to provide for the common good against the forces of ticket scalping evil, T. Swift is making her fans prove how bad they want to be front and center for her shows. Fans of the “Look What You Made Me Do” singer can pre-register for her, as of yet, unannounced tour where they will then be given a wide variety of options to “boost” their chances at unlocking access to different levels of tickets. After choosing from a list of pre-determined cities, you can participate in a number of actions that provide a low, medium or high boost to your current ticket position. Everyone starts off on the waiting list, and you can “work” your way up to the priority level. And the actions have to have everyone on Swifts marketing team (and accounting firm) dehydrated from over-salivating.

The actions required vary from the exceedingly simply (watch the music video for “Look What You Made Me Do” up to 10 times a day for a medium boost) to the slightly more complex and strange. I, for one, will not be excitedly pulling over to take a picture of a “custom Taylor Swift UPS truck.” Not because I’m too cool for that, because I’m definitely not. That just seems to me like a high boost activity, and it only counts for a medium. And because I fail to see the reasoning behind the cross promotion. Is T. Swift gonna be mad when my shipment of Selson Blue I ordered from Amazon arrives via USPS? I doubt it.

You get low boosts simply for signing up for the mailing list and for referring your friends to the website. So simple, even a kid could do it! Of course, if you want the high boosts, you gotta spend that cash, baby! Buying merch and pre-ordering Taylor Swifts forthcoming chart crusher “Reputation” are the only two options that maximize your boosting power. What’s that sound? Sounds like the Taylor Swifts signature being scribbled on the deed to her 6th house. Not hating at all. Get yours Taylor, by all means. In fact, the whole concept is genius. These fans (or parents of fans, more likely), are going to buy the album and the t-shirts anway, this way just gives them the chance at a little something extra, the chance to get better tickets.

Now, after your ears are bleeding from hearing “Look What You Made Me Do” a thousand times and you’ve finally hunted down that elusive custom UPS delivery truck and you’ve explained to your friends a million times why your Facebook image is now a picture of one of Taylor’s cats with the “Reputation” artwork style covering it, what EXACTLY do you get from all of that? The opportunity to spend more money so you can hear T. Swizzle belt her spiteful tunes out yet again. As far as I know, you don’t win tickets. You don’t get a discount. All you are getting is the access to purchase tickets in the area your effort has deemed worthy. Which in and of itself is a kind of a discount, because if you tried to get those same tickets on StubHub or SeatGeek, you’re going to be paying through the nose. You’d have to either be a really big Taylor Swift fan, or a very dedicated parent, in order to do everything necessary to get up to Priority level and get access to those good seats. And that’s exactly the point. You really want to get up front? Now you can earn it. Now it doesn’t have to directly correlate to how big your concert budget is. Now, at least the tickets to the front and center seats can be reserved for the real fans. How do you like them apples, Little Jimmy?