Plenty of tickets remain for Taylor Swift’s show at Arrowhead Stadium in September, but does that mean the tour is tanking? Depends on whom you ask.
On Jan. 1, the New York Post made a splash with a story about the tour and its lofty ticket prices. The headline: “Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’ tour shaping up to be a disaster.”
The writer, Richard Morgan, pointed out that nearly a month after Swift launched her Verified Fan sale, none of the 33 stadium shows on sale had sold out.
He cited high ticket prices as a reason and then mined Twitter for complaints from disgruntled fans, including one who tweeted: “I paid $150 for my ticket with amazing seats for the ‘1989’ tour. Now for the same seats I have to pay about $500.
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On Jan. 2, however, Billboard magazine offered another perspective, declaring that the “Reputation” tour “could be one of the biggest of all time,” financially, that is.
Those high ticket prices, Dave Brooks reported, are part of Swift’s strategy: “Price tickets high and have seats available on the primary market until the day of the show. That means few, if any, early sellouts but huge revenues as tickets, especially premium seats, are marked up much higher than previous tours.”
A look at Ticketmaster’s seat map for the Arrowhead concert shows plenty of available seats throughout the stadium. Prices range from $89 to more than $1,700.
Some of those prices reflect “resale” tickets bought during the Verified Fan sale and general public sale (which started Dec. 13) that are being resold through the Ticketmaster Verified Resale program.
Compare those numbers to prices of her previous tours in Kansas City. At her first headlining Sprint Center show in 2010, the average ticket price was $56.
At her Arrowhead show in 2011, the average ticket price was $94. In 2013, she sold out two shows in two nights at Sprint Center; prices ranged from $29.50 to $84.50. In 2015, she again sold out two shows at Sprint Center; prices ranged from $39.50 to $119.50. All of her Sprint Center shows sold out within hours of going on sale.
A spokesman for Arrowhead said sales were going as expected: “We are pleased with ticket sales for the show and we are pacing to sell more tickets to this Swift show than when she was here in 2011.” Attendance at that show was nearly 49,000.
Swift’s show is one of three at Arrowhead this year. The other two are Kenny Chesney in July and Ed Sheeran in October. A look at those Ticketmaster seat maps tells a different story. For Sheeran’s show, the floor is nearly sold out (a few hundred are available). A smattering of seats remains in the lower deck, and the upper deck looks to be more than 80 percent sold. Ticket prices are $35 to $115.
Chesney has performed at Arrowhead five out of the past seven years. In 2015, he drew the largest concert crowd ever to the stadium, 57,368. According to the Ticketmaster map, ticket sales for his July show appear to be somewhere between Sheeran’s and Swift’s. Prices range from $27 to $375. Plenty of seats remain available throughout the floor. The lower and upper decks appear to be more than 75 percent sold.
Brooks at Billboard said Swift’s tour is expected to generate $7.5 million to $10 million in tickets at each show, which could mean more than $450 million total, placing it among the six highest-grossing tours ever, which appears to be one of her goals.
“The idea is to charge what people end up eventually paying for the ticket on the secondary market [brokers], capturing the revenue for the artist and making it more difficult for scalpers to flip the tickets,” he wrote.
Yet there are plenty of tickets available on the secondary market, though the prices seem prohibitive — a consequence of the elevated face-value prices. Tickets for Less, a Kansas City-based ticket brokerage, is selling Swift tickets all over the stadium. The prices range from $112 to $10,264.
The price range for Sheeran at Tickets for Less is $35 to $3,600; for Chesney, it’s $39 to $4,800.
Swift’s tactic to foil brokers and scalpers by imposing higher ticket prices has been employed before. Without inhibiting sales, producers of the blockbuster Broadway musical “Hamilton” nearly doubled the prices of their tickets after seeing what brokers and scalpers were getting.
It may not turn out to be a “disaster,” but with this move, Swift risks inflicting further damage to her own reputation — that of a multi-platinum, award-winning icon who fills venues beyond demand. She took a lot of criticism for her Verified Fan program, which gave “boosts” — a better place in line — to fans who bought her merchandise and promoted her and her music on social media.
Now it appears she is sacrificing — or delaying — ticket sales by escalating prices so the money goes to her, not brokers or scalpers. And she’s gambling that once it gets close to show day, fans will relent and buy the higher priced tickets.
That may not be a look that fits her. As music/cultural commentator Bob Lefsetz pointed out, “She’s selling new music; she needs people to believe she’s happening, the hottest act in the business. But when you can buy tickets for her show at the last minute, is she?”
Swift would say “yes,” and she is proceeding accordingly, unfazed. Earlier this month, Swift added seven more shows to the tour, including a third show at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., which prompted the Boston Globe to wonder in a headline: “Why?”
“Citing ‘overwhelming demand,’ ” the Globe’s Mark Shanahan wrote, “promoters have added yet another Taylor Swift show at Gillette Stadium. … But it’s not clear that there is, in fact, ‘overwhelming demand’ to see the 10-time Grammy winner. The July 27 and 28 dates were already announced, and there are still plenty — and we mean plenty — of tickets available at Ticketmaster for both shows.”
And so it goes in a lot of other cities, at least for now.
Tickets for Taylor Swift’s Sept. 8 show are on sale at Ticketmaster.