Taylor Swift’s ticketing issues could boost political engagement
Some of Taylor Swift’s fans want you to know three things: they’re not yet 16, they have careers and resources, and right now they’re angry. It’s a powerful political motivator, say the researchers.
Look what Ticketmaster made them do.
It all started on Tuesday, when millions of people thronged for a presale for Swift’s long-awaited Eras Tour, leading to crashes, long waits and frantic buying. On Thursday, Ticketmaster had canceled the general sale, citing insufficient tickets remaining and sparking a storm of outrage from fans. Swift herself said the ordeal “really pisses her off”.
Ticketmaster apologized but the bad blood was already sown. And now the fans – and the politicians – have started to take action.
US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez directed Swifties to where they could file complaints with the US Department of Justice. Multiple state attorneys general — including in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, key states in Swift’s origin story — have announced investigations.
Stephanie Aly, a New York-based professional who has worked on community organizing for progressive politics, has thought for years that mobilizing fandoms for social progress could be beneficial.
“Fandoms are natural organizers,” said Swiftie, 33. “If you find the right issues and activate and engage them, you can make real change.”
In 2020, for example, K-pop fans organized in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and sought to inflate registration for a Donald Trump rally. Aly and Swifties from different industries – law, public relations, cybersecurity and more – have joined forces to create Vigilante Legal, a group targeting Ticketmaster by creating template emails to ask attorneys general and providing antitrust information. . Thousands of people have expressed interest in helping or learning more.
“The level of anger you’ve just seen in the country around this issue is staggering,” said Jean Sinzdak, associate director of Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. “People are really sharing their feelings about it and creating a movement about it online, which I think is really fascinating. It is certainly an opportunity to engage people politically. It’s hard to say if this will last, but it certainly looks like a real opportunity.
In a way, Sinzdak said, it gives Swift’s large youth constituency a direct line to see how politics is shaping up. It also targets a demographic that is rarely courted by politicians during election season.
“Nobody comes out and thinks, ‘Let’s target young women,'” said Gwen Nisbett, a professor at the University of North Texas who studies the intersection of political engagement and pop culture. “Whether it’s abortion or student loans, this age group is super mobilized and young women are super mobilized.”
Culture and the fan community have stimulated this trend of mobilization. Nisbett was studying parasocial relationships — when fans have strong one-way relationships with celebrities — in 2018, when the previously apolitical Swift posted an endorsement of Democratic candidates on social media. Nisbett found that while such posts don’t determine fan votes, they still led to an increased likelihood that fans would seek out more voting information — and actually vote.
For the record: AP VoteCast, an in-depth survey of the American electorate, showed that about a third of Tennessee voters in 2018 said they had a favorable opinion of Swift, and among them, a large majority – around 7 in 10 – backed Democrat Phil Bredesen in the Senate contest. This was in stark contrast to the roughly one-third of voters who had an unfavorable view of Swift and overwhelmingly supported Republican Marsha Blackburn.
For Swifties, the anger at Ticketmaster isn’t just about a ticket: “It’s the fact that you can’t participate in your community and your fandom and that’s part of who you are,” Nisbett said.
This isn’t even the first time a fandom or artist has targeted Ticketmaster. Pearl Jam targeted the company in 1994, although the Justice Department ultimately declined to press charges. More recently, Bruce Springsteen fans were enraged by the high cost of tickets due to the platform’s dynamic pricing system.
“It’s not just about getting revenge on the Swifties. It’s not about getting a million extra tickets for Taylor Swift fans, or us all going to a secret session,’ said Jordan Burger, 28, who uses his legal background to help the cause. . “It’s a matter of fundamental equality. And when you have a monopolist like that, it’s so representative of the class structure of a society where there’s no more equality, there’s no more fairness.
The power and size of Swift’s fandom has sparked conversations about economic inequality, symbolized simply by Ticketmaster.
Aly noted that many of the band members got tickets; the problem is bigger than Ticketmaster, she said.
“We’ve had comments that ‘It’s too big, let the government handle it.’ Have you seen the American government? Government only works when the people push it and when the people demand that it works and the people are involved,” she said. “Even when something seems too big to fail or too powerful to fail, there are always enough of us to make a difference. Your involvement may be what pushes him over the edge and compels the government to act.
Aly says many adult Swifties have 10-15 years of experience being bullied for liking the singer – but what fans have in mind might be better than revenge.
“We’ve got thick skin and nothing to lose, really,” Aly said.
Associated Press reporter Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report from Washington. Brooke Schultz is a Harrisburg, Pa.-based corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.
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