Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Taylor Swift performs at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., on May 5.George Walker Iv/The Associated Press

When Tina Cooper was a teenager, she would line up overnight outside Maple Leaf Gardens to buy tickets for concerts at the historic arena.

“I always got to see any band I wanted to see,” the Toronto music fan told The Globe and Mail.

Times have changed. Sleeping bags are no longer required to secure seats to the big shows – but that doesn’t mean things have gotten any easier. Cooper was one of the legions of Taylor Swift fans who had hoped to purchase tickets this week, starting Wednesday, for the singer’s six concerts at Toronto’s Rogers Centre in November of 2024. In order to purchase the sought-after Eras Tour seats, fans were required to apply in advance for a unique access code, as part of Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system.

With this registration program, which is designed to keep bots and scalpers from scooping up tickets, a limited number of people receive a code, while the unlucky others are put on a waitlist. As expected, because of the high demand, many (if not most) fans, including Cooper, were sent an e-mail from Ticketmaster on Tuesday notifying them they would not be able to purchase tickets during the initial sale.

“I don’t know a single person who got a code to buy tickets,” said Cooper, who had hoped to buy seats for herself, a preteen daughter and the kid’s best friend. “I’m a huge music fan, and this is heart-breaking for me.”

Like Cooper, 27-year-old social-media marketer Blair Rotstein thinks the registration program is dispiriting: “It’s great that Ticketmaster has added a layer of protection against scammers and bots, but in the process they’ve taken away a lot of the fan experience of trying to get concert tickets and a lot of our agency.”

Imagine feverishly waiting for Christmas morning, only to be told on Christmas Eve that Santa Claus would not, in fact, be coming to town. That crushing disappointment is what many Swift fans are now feeling.

Ticketmaster, famously described by HBO comedian John Oliver as “one of the most hated companies on Earth,” is the grinch who stole Swiftmas.

“It’s horrible,” Cooper said. “I think it’s all rigged.”

Wait, why exactly am I trying to buy Taylor Swift tickets?

Since Swift’s stadium tour kicked off on March 17 in Glendale, Ariz., many a famous person has been spotted at the concerts. The list of the celebrity Swifties includes Selena Gomez (with her kid sister Gracie), Taylor Lautner, Shania Twain, Austin Butler, Emma Stone, Courtney Cox, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Emma Watson and Cameron Diaz.

It is doubtful that any of the beautiful people had to register for the Verified Fan lottery or needed any special code for their tickets.

For Swift’s dates at Rogers Centre, which are the only Canadian tour stops announced thus far, theoretically there should be approximately 250,000 tickets available (the venue holds between 40,000 and 50,000 people). While Ticketmaster Canada declined to provide data on how many fans signed up to receive a ticket code, last November, the 52-date Eras tour saw 3.5 million people sign up for Verified Fan, according to a blog post published by Ticketmaster U.S. at the time; of those, 1.5 million fans were provided with a ticket code.

One reason why many fans are shut out from purchasing tickets: Holdbacks.

Holdbacks, according to the U.S.-based non-profit Future of Music Coalition, is an industry term for live event tickets that are withheld from the inventory that’s made available to the general public. Concert tickets can be “held back” for fan club members, for local bigwigs, for placement on secondary (resale) markets and for friends, relatives and celebrity acquaintances of the artist.

Those holdbacks may or may not apply to Swift tickets. We do know that Royal Bank of Canada, which acquired the rights to call themselves “the official financial services partner and an official ticket access partner for Taylor Swift,” is providing members of its loyalty rewards program exclusive access to a separate block of tickets for Eras Tour shows in Canada.

“Every person I know was on the registration list,” said 27-year-old spin instructor Victoria Power, of Georgina, Ont. “But only two of them got the access code to buy tickets.”

It all adds up to a frustrating experience for the diehards who have been shut out so far at the ticket window. “I can say it is very disappointing – that with six nights of performances, getting a ticket should not be next to impossible,” said Cassandra Thompson, of Belleville, Ont. “Greed has taken over.”

Swift has included the song Cruel Summer on the Eras Tour career-encompassing set list. “Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes,” she sings. “What doesn’t kill me makes me want you more.” But if ticketless Swifties are having the cruellest of summers, those who spoke to The Globe and Mail hold no animosity toward the 33-year-old artist they adore.

“If you look at the history of her relationship with her fans, she puts them first,” said Rotstein, who had hoped to buy the maximum four tickets allowed. “She goes above and beyond what other artists do.”

The Shake It Off singer does indeed have a special bond with her fans. She goes so far as to insert secret messages into song lyrics for her most ardent aficionados. “In each song, there’s a little code,” she told a Toronto audience early in her career. “It’s not hard to break.”

Swift’s codes, then. You either get them, or you don’t.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe