Are you ready for it? Taylor wasn’t.
Obsidian Blog Post (Taylor’s version)
Millions of teenage girls and 30-year-old women like me had their wildest dreams come true when Taylor announced she’d be going back on tour – a tour that would feature each of her “Eras.” There was going to be a presale process, and we imagined easily heading over to a digital ticket purveyor, entering our code and getting the pick of the litter when it came to seats. What actually happened was just plain mean. We were subjected to an hours-long virtual frenzy. There wasn’t pushing and shoving, but there was emotional damage inflicted as codes did not work and people were mysteriously booted from the site as they finally were able to select their tickets. We were seeing red as tickets we thought were going to other people like us went to bots, and then immediately hit the secondhand ticket market for a mere $25,000 a ticket. And today, Ticketmaster announced that Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” tickets won’t go live for the general public…like, ever. Is this a PR crisis that could have been avoided? Is this blog post just an excuse for me to use 13 Taylor Swift song titles in one piece? It’s both. Are you ready for it?
I don’t think Taylor could have anticipated her current level of stardom. I know I did not anticipate that I’d still be listening to a singer who wrote the country-music soundtrack to my first love story at 15. But here we are. Taylor’s star has exceeded our stratosphere, and her music is still my style. Though I’ve been a fan of Taylor’s since middle school, I never considered seeing her in concert until this tour. It takes *a lot* to get me to a concert. They’re loud, they’re crowded, and the artist never sounds as good as they sound on my phone. But with dozens of songs in her discography that remind me of every stage of my adolescence and early adulthood, I thought I might give this a go for nostalgia’s sake. Plus, the allure of “Eras” had me excited. I would, assumingly, get to experience Taylor in all her glory – from “Tell Me Why” to “Dress” and “All Too Well.”
I was not alone. In fact, more than 14 million “people” tried to purchase tickets during the “Eras” presale process. And while a lot of those tickets went to people much more patient than me, others went to bots or mass-ticket purchasers whose end game is making major profits in the after-market. This sparked an uproar, even causing congressional representatives to call this “anti-hero behavior.”
While PR can’t solve the bot and after-market profit problems, I couldn’t help but think if there were communication lessons to be learned from this process. Here are a few I took away:
- Mass appeal is a challenging path to choose. When something feels as comfortable as an old cardigan, it has mass appeal. Taylor has had a diverse and robust career, and each of her eras is connected with a unique audience. Every listener had an interest in this concert because of the “Eras” theming. That creates a different level of demand than if it had just been a “Midnights” tour. If you’re seeking to connect with the masses, you have to be prepared to support the masses. And it was clear that their processes were not set up to accommodate the mad rush they experienced. Generally for my clients, I recommend taking a focused audience approach. I think you lose when you try to appeal to too many people. Keep your targeting tight to ensure you’re delivering a quality experience to your people.
- Audience segmentation is EVERYTHING. Tell me why Taylor Swift did not have her audiences segmented by interest? By number of concerts attended? By merchandise purchased? I have to believe that her team had the ability to hyper-target and fine-tune their code distribution and rollout process. She should have taken a slower approach, rolling out early access to her most faithful fans first, then slowly opening up access. Most of my clients don’t have 15 million people in the queue to purchase tickets to their events, but it is an important thing to remember. If you’re about to launch a major sale or send out an email that will drive a lot of website traffic, are you prepared to handle the traffic? Have you tiered access to your products or information appropriately based on consumer investment? If not, rethink your communication strategy.
- Crisis or unavoidable heartbreak? That’s delicate. I have been waiting for Taylor to say something about the ticket sale fiasco. But really, what could she say? Demand is high, and in spite of their efforts to let people access tickets at a metered rate, the laws of supply and demand won out. While it’s hard to hear young fans or fans who can’t stomach high prices share their heartbreak, part of being this famous is recognizing that folks missing out is part of the process. In communication, there are times we have to share messages that leave people out – that’s a part of life. But how you react, or even how you proactively communicate about who may and may not have access to your content, can help.
If I end up spending $1,989 to see Taylor Swift from the nosebleeds is yet to be determined. But if I do, I’ll be sure to shout, “Look What You Made Me Do.”