Business

Taylor Swift fan frustration continues as RBC Avion ticket codes go fast — with a long waitlist

For the second time in barely a week, Canadian Taylor Swift fans have bad blood about being shut out of buying tickets to thus far the only Canadian stops on her world tour next year.

Marketing professor says cruel summer for fans is a misstep for the brand

Taylor Swift singing and pointing on stage.
Taylor Swift's world tour has caused a surge in interest for tickets wherever it goes. The six Canadian dates in November 2024 have been plagued by an imbalance between supply and demand. (Michael Tran/AFP/Getty Images)

For the second time in barely a week, Canadian Taylor Swift fans have bad blood about being shut out of buying tickets to what are so far the only Canadian stops on her world tour next year.

Tickets for six shows at the Rogers Centre in November 2024 went on sale Aug. 9, and demand for the shows was so feverish that it far outpaced supply. 

The #waitlisted hashtag was trending on X, formerly Twitter, as the vast majority of fans who had signed up for a code that would have allowed them to buy tickets, were put on to the waitlist. Music publicist Eric Alper says he thinks more than 30 million people signed up for the original ticket line, mostly because the Toronto dates didn't have the same limitations that other Swift concerts had. 

In many European stops, fans had to present ID to prove that they were the original ticket holders, and other countries limited purchases to credit cards domiciled in that country. Neither was the case for the Toronto sale.

"Ticketmaster and Live Nation didn't say only Canadians could apply for the codes, so that's the worldwide number," Alper told CBC News in an email.

Many of those left out by the original sale held out hope that they might be able to secure a spot when a second batch of tickets was released through RBC's loyalty program, Avion. The bank touted its "exclusive allocation of tickets" in a bid to get new members to sign up, and many did.

WATCH | A tale of two fans — one who got tickets, and one who didn't 

One fan got Taylor Swift tickets in Toronto. The other didn't

8 months ago
Duration 0:59
A tale of two Swifties: hear from one fan who secured four tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour Toronto show in 2024, and another who was waitlisted.

But codes for the Avion promotion all went out on Tuesday evening for tickets that go on sale on Wednesday, and once again the #waitlisted hashtag was trending.

Allie McGoey is one of them. She lives just outside Ottawa and describes herself as a Taylor Swift superfan. McGoey says it "broke her heart" when she was waitlisted the first time, so she signed up for the RBC program as a fallback option.

"I was hopeful because it's open to only Canadians," she said in an interview. "It took me about two hours to sign up because the site kept crashing."

RBC isn't disclosing exactly how many members signed up for the promotion — never mind successfully got ticket codes — but told CBC News in an email they've seen "incredible momentum and interest over this recent period and expect that to continue."

Social media is full of people complaining about being waitlisted for a second time, and McGoey says it's been another unpleasant experience. She says local Ottawa radio station CIHT-FM 89.9 has been hosting a contest every Tuesday with Taylor Swift tickets being the prize. "If you're the 89th caller you get tickets," she said. "I called 104 times and didn't get through once."

McGoey says she is on a group chat with about 25 other avid Taylor Swift fans, and despite signing up multiple times on both lists, not a single one of them got a ticket.

Unprecedented demand

Dean Budnick, the co-author of the book Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped says the concert ticket industry has always been murky and vulnerable to the vagaries of supply and demand, but he's never seen anything like what has happened in the current Taylor Swift tour.

"There's nobody you can compare it to," he told CBC News in an interview. "She is going to break the record for the largest grossing concert tour in the history of concert tours."

Screenshot of Allie McGoey's TikTok account
Taylor Swift fan Allie McGoey was crestfallen to be shut out of buying tickets to her favourite artist for the second time in a week on Tuesday. (Allie McGoey/TikTok)

He says the economic impact of the tour will be in the billions when it's all said and done, and that's remarkably going to happen despite clear evidence that Swift has left money on the table, based on what tickets are reselling for, at prices of 10 times or more than face value.

"There is is that buying pressure from fans [but] there's also that pressure on the system and inventory initiated by people who are well aware [that] if they can get a pair tickets, they can sell those for multiples of the original face value," he said. 

Ticketmaster is frequently blamed in these scenarios, he says, but they are able to control the market and set prices because they have a stranglehold on the industry from the ticket-selling software to the venues themselves. 

Budnick says the RBC Avion ticket sale isn't that different to previous partnerships on earlier legs of the tour, notably Capital One that had a similar pre-sale of tickets for the original 51 U.S. tour dates, and faced a similar surge in demand.

Deals with specific cards or programs are "historically a way pro scalpers bypass the system," he said. "They have multiple cards under multiple names and that's traditionally the way they get tickets themselves." 

A marketing misstep?

Neither Swift nor Capital One faced much "grousing" about the arrangement, Budnick says, but Joanne McNeish, an associate professor of marketing at Toronto Metropolitan University says the reaction to RBC's promotion online shows the gambit was a misstep.

"It feels so clumsy to me," she said in an interview, adding that instead of winning over new customers, Swift fans who signed up for Avion in the hopes of getting a ticket only to be left out are now having an negative emotional association with the brand. "I'll just go buy a lottery ticket because that's how much chance you have of getting these tickets," she said.

McNeish says it's notable that in all the chaos over securing tickets, the artist herself has managed to stay above the fray because of savvy branding.

"There's almost no criticism of Taylor Swift in all of the price discussion," she said, adding that fans today "are not talking about resalers, or Ticketmaster, they're talking about how RBC let them down."

While the Avion ticket sales to members who got a code are happening on Wednesday, Avion says hope is not lost for anyone who didn't get one. "If they received an email from Ticketmaster letting them know that they're currently on the waitlist, they may still have an opportunity to shop for tickets," a spokesperson for the program told CBC News in an email Wednesday. "More fans may get access to join the Avion Rewards Onsale based on ticket availability" and Avion will also be handing out more tickets in the coming months via contests.

But for frustrated fans like McGoey, that almost makes things worse.

"I think giving contests is more of a slap in the face because it's still pure luck," she said. "If there was any reason for me to bank with RBC before, I feel not as inclined to bank with them now just because I'm so upset about how the whole Toronto ticket fiasco played out."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pete Evans

Senior Business Writer

Pete Evans is the senior business writer for CBCNews.ca. Prior to coming to the CBC, his work has appeared in the Globe & Mail, the Financial Post, the Toronto Star, and Canadian Business Magazine. Twitter: @p_evans Email: pete.evans@cbc.ca

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