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Taylor Swift tickets start at $1,300 on StubHub. Some Philly Swifties are desperately strategizing to get cheaper seats.

“I really want those tickets, and I want them at a reasonable rate,” said one Philly fan, who has been unable to find tickets for $500 or less.

Taylor Swift fan Maggie Mullooly outside Lincoln Financial Field, where Swift will play three shows. Mullooly does not have tickets but hopes to find some last minute for $500 or less.
Taylor Swift fan Maggie Mullooly outside Lincoln Financial Field, where Swift will play three shows. Mullooly does not have tickets but hopes to find some last minute for $500 or less.Read moreTom Gralish / Staff Photographer

Maggie Mullooly was logged into Ticketmaster early on Nov. 15. She was prepared to spend up to $500 for a chance to see Taylor Swift perform in Philly.

And then she waited.

For more than five hours.

Mullooly was determined not to lose her place in the virtual line. Using her phone as an internet hot spot, she carried her open laptop on the subway as she commuted to class at Temple University.

Finally, her opportunity to buy came — just as she was giving a presentation to the class. By the time she sat back down at her desk, the moment was gone. With her presale hopes dashed, she’d have to find another way to get tickets to see one of Swift’s three concerts at Lincoln Financial Field.

Every other day for months now, the 23-year-old has checked Ticketmaster, StubHub, and SeatGeek, and scoured social media for legitimate resellers. On StubHub and SeatGeek, two of the most popular and trusted resellers, tickets this week started at more than $1,300 after fees.

“I really want those tickets, and I want them at a reasonable rate,” said Mullooly, a Temple University graduate student who works in communications. “I would go as far as to [spend] $500, but I still have bills to pay.”

Many Taylor Swift fans across the region find themselves in a similar position this week. As pandemic restrictions have eased, and inflation has increased, concerts have returned in force, and ticket prices are higher than ever, leaving fans desperate to see their favorite artists.

Concert attendance has risen 24% since 2019, Live Nation Entertainment, which owns Ticketmaster, told the Wall Street Journal, despite ticket prices that have more than doubled. The average concert ticket price on SeatGeek, a popular resale site, has jumped from $125 to $252 since 2019, according to the Journal.

Service fees, often not visible on the online bill until the final page of the checkout process, and dynamic pricing, which changes with demand, have further jacked up the price of face-value tickets. Secondary market prices, set by individual resellers looking to make money, are even more exorbitant.

But after music fans weren’t able to experience live entertainment during the pandemic, many are willing to open their wallets to see their favorite artists.

For Swift’s Eras tour, demand for tickets was particularly intense. The Pennsylvania native hasn’t toured in five years, which made fans especially eager. But many die-hard Swifties found themselves unable to buy tickets during the presale due to Ticketmaster snafus. The incident led the company to cancel the general ticket sale and prompted state attorneys general in Pennsylvania and elsewhere to investigate.

Micaela Beigel, 27, of South Philadelphia, was one of the lucky ones who were able to buy tickets during the presale. She and her twin sister spent about $250 apiece for Saturday’s show. A few months later, she also scored a single floor seat for $493 for Friday’s show.

The extra $500 “wasn’t money that I meant to spend, for sure,” she said. “It was a splurge. But I love Taylor Swift so much, and I want to see her. If I could see her 20 times, I would.”

Beigel, a college admissions officer, said she pulled some money from her savings account to offset the cost. The rest is on her credit card.

It was the most she’s ever paid for a concert ticket, though the cost of seeing some of her other favorite acts is also rising.

An avid fan of K-Pop, Korean pop music, she said she paid $300 for first-level tickets to a K-Pop concert this past weekend in Chicago. Some K-Pop ticket tickets seem to have doubled in price in recent years, she added.

“The problem is if you’re really passionate about something, you’ll pay almost any price to do it, even if you know you’re being taken advantage of,” Beigel said.

Lisa Jefferson, 36, a self-described “big concert girl” whose primary hobby is watching live music, has seen skyrocketing prices for shows from Swift to the Jonas Brothers to Blink-182.

“Pricing has been really crazy lately, especially with production and tours changing,” she said. “The bigger the shows, the higher the price of the ticket, but also the better experience.”

Still, “it breaks me to look at StubHub” and see tickets being sold for $1,000 to $2,000, she said.

Jefferson, who works in marketing, said she has been able to see so many shows over the past decade because she strategizes, buying tickets at the last minute when prices can drop drastically. The Center City resident has traveled out of state to see concerts before securing tickets, she said, and been successful.

Mullooly, who missed her chance to buy tickets on presale day, has a similar plan: She will post up outside Lincoln Financial Field before each of Swift’s shows this weekend.

She’ll party with fellow Swifties. But she’ll also be anxiously checking her phone, refreshing ticketing apps, hoping for a last-minute price drop, even if it’s after the concert has begun.

Jefferson is confident that she’ll be able to snatch up Taylor Swift tickets this weekend, having pored over information about how Ticketmaster releases last-minute tickets. She’s hoping they’ll be about $300.

“It’s just like rolling the dice and taking the gamble, but the payoff is so exhilarating” when you get tickets right before the show, she said. “It makes the concert so much better.”

Decades ago, such intense strategizing wasn’t necessary to get a concert ticket.

“Live performances used to be a vehicle to sell records,” said Jeff Apruzzese, director of the music industry program at Drexel University and former bassist for Passion Pit. “Historically, concert tickets were priced relatively low, because they were used primarily as a promotion and marketing vehicle.”

Over the past decade, however, the landscape has changed. Streaming has overtaken sales of CDs, cassettes, and records, which were more lucrative. Artists are increasingly relying on concerts, with the shows making up as much as 85% of revenue for some performers, Apruzzese said.

At the same time, he said, supply-chain issues persist for tour necessities, such as trucks, lighting, and sound equipment. Taylor Swift’s tour could easily cost $500,000 to $600,000 a day “just to keep the wheels moving,” he said. If an artist gets COVID or has to cancel any shows, the bottom line might be affected.

The rise of StubHub, SeatGeek, Vivid Seats, and other resale sites have also influenced pricing, he said.

“Before the secondary ticketing market, there was no measure of what a fan base might be willing to pay for a ticket,” Apruzzese said. “Concert promoters were having to do the calculation of expenses … trying to put together a formula to say, ‘OK if we add in all these expenses, here is what the average ticket price needs to be.’ ”

Exorbitant resale prices can lead some artists to raise ticket prices on their end, or opt into TicketMaster’s dynamic pricing, meaning the cost of the best seats in the house will fluctuate based on demand.

“I am actually a little bit happy, but also surprised, that these certain fan bases do have the amount of income to justify the sale of tickets [at these higher price points] on the primary market,” Apruzzese said. “I’m happy for the artist and the promoter and the team, because that’s money that is going into the pockets of the artists,” instead of resellers.

End game

After months of refreshing secondary market sites and pleading on Facebook groups, Caroline Cooney, 26, of West Chester, finally got tickets in her price range last week.

She had been willing to spend up to $500 per ticket for herself and her 7-year-old daughter, Audrie, and found tickets to Friday’s show on Facebook for $430 each.

“That was right from my savings,” she said. “This was my big splurge for the year.”

Cooney, who works in education, promised Audrie that they’d see Swift, long before she knew how difficult and expensive it would be to get tickets.

It’ll be Audrie’s first concert, Cooney said, and she hopes it’ll be as memorable as when Cooney’s mother took her to her first concert, Hannah Montana. Friday will mark Cooney’s fourth time seeing Swift.

Beigel, who is paying about $750 to see Swift, describes the concert as almost a spiritual experience, one she’ll remember for a long time.

“It’s indisputable she has a unique impact on people, and people find her work very meaningful to their lives. I certainly do,” Beigel said. “She creates a very special experience at her concerts, and she is known for that. It’s not just someone singing her songs.”