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How it feels to be a Taylor Swift fan right now

Fans share their stories from the front lines of buying tour tickets on Ticketmaster — or, more accurately, attempting to.

It was a queue to ticket sales hell.

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, Taylor Swift fans waited with bated breath as early ticket sales for the singer’s upcoming Eras Tour launched on Ticketmaster, with tickets going on sale at 10 a.m. local time for each of the stadiums on the tour's North American branch.

Having been unable to tour her albums “Lover” (2019), “Folklore” (2020) and “Evermore” (2020) because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Swift’s forthcoming tour is her first in five years.

Swifties knew demand would be high.

They did not, however, anticipate that in their pursuit of tickets through Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program, they would be sent to rainbow wheel purgatory. Or that the website would crash. Or that the ticket broker would soon cancel plans to sell tickets to the general public entirely.

On Twitter, fans captured the anticipation and the agony of the Ticketmaster queue. Soon after Ticketmaster’s pre-sale tickets for The Eras Tour opened for fans who had a registered code (to avoid the interference of bots or ticket scalpers), users reported being knocked out of lines, having payments declined and an array of other vexing site connections.

In effect, people who were ready to buy tickets simply couldn't. Hours of anticipation resulted in a resounding meltdown of tears, memes, frustration – and demand for presidential intervention in breaking up Live Nation-Ticketmaster's monopoly on ticket sales.

“I had my laptop up. I had my boyfriend’s laptop up. I had six different stadiums across three laptops to try and get the tickets," Ellen Charalambous, a 27-year-old health and wellness coach based in New York, tells TODAY. “I was on the phone with my friend, and I was like, it’s happening. We’re getting the tickets because there’s one person left in front of me, and then all of a sudden, I was kicked off. I was devastated.”

Charalambous, who attended Swift’s Fearless Tour in 2010, says she was willing to spend anywhere between $500 to $700 for tickets.

TODAY spoke to Swift diehards like Charalambous, who had planned to snag a few tickets to see the singer in concert only to find themselves a single Swiftie in an overwhelming pool of them.

In a now-deleted blog post, Ticketmaster issued an explanation for the unforeseen chaos, saying that of the over 3.5 million fans pre-registered for Taylor’s Verified Fan program, over 1.5 million were given codes.

But Ticketmaster said individuals — and bots — without invite codes "drove unprecedented access" to the site, resulting in four times the amount of system requests. Greg Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media, which holds the largest share of Live Nation stock, told CNBC that 14 million people attempted to purchase tickets during the presale.

Fans are skeptical.

“They claimed that 14 million people were trying to get on the site and purchase tickets on that day. Now, I don’t understand that,” Alex Goldschmidt, 35, says.

Goldschmidt lives in Los Angeles and is known amongst the Swift fandom.

He appeared as a dancer in her “Shake It Off” music video in 2014. Five years later, Swift surprised him and his fiancé by serenading them at their engagement party. He also attended Swift concerts for her “Speak Now” tour in 2011, her “1989” tour in 2015, and her "reputation” tour in 2018.

Though he was left wanting on Ticketmaster, Goldschmidt is crossing his fingers for the future.

“I plan to try and get tickets later. I am someone that tries to have faith or be optimistic,” he says. “I’m hopeful that something will happen in this situation that will mean that I’m seeing Taylor Swift in concert for the first time in five or six years.”

Alabama resident Taylor Wooley, 21, has been a fan of Swift since the debut of “Speak Now” and attended a concert for “reputation.”

Having jumped through the hoops of Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program, which entailed purchasing Swift’s songs and following her on her social platforms, she felt she'd proven her devotion as a fan — and was willing to go further.

To see Swift in concert, Wooley had been prepared to spend nearly $600 on tickets. On Tuesday, she waited on Ticketmaster for almost five hours.

“I was going on Twitter looking at what everyone else was saying, and everyone’s saying the exact same thing,” she recalls, explaining that by around noon local time, Ticketmaster had announced it was pausing sales. “And then everyone was like, ‘OK, guys, just don’t refresh it. Like just wait.’”

Wooley says that sales were still paused hours later. At 3:30 p.m., Ticketmaster announced that the presale for West Coast stadiums and Capital One credit and debit card users were delayed to the next day. Still, Wooley held out hope. Then at 5 p.m., she made it to the window and was able to purchase tickets.

But there were none left.

“It was pretty much all sold out,” she says. "Like, it was all gone.”

TODAY spoke with only one fan who managed to have a successful go at Ticketmaster: Jordan Goodman, 26, works in guest services in Orlando, Fla.

By the grace of internet randomness, Goodman nabbed tickets. He bought four ticket costing $259 each, and was prepared to pay as much as $400.

“I don’t know how,” he says, shaking his head during a Zoom interview, adding that he waited on his computer close to three hours to make his purchase. “It was a stressful situation.”

Online, fans were tweeting about the repercussions of shifting their days and work schedules to buy tickets. Goodman’s decision to queue for tickets, while ultimately successful, came with a similar calculation.

“I got in the line 10 a.m. here and then got in to make the purchase at 1. And I had to leave for work at that time. I was also stressing about that. I was like, I have to either leave for work or sacrifice these tickets. Around like 12:45 p.m. I looked back at my laptop and I noticed I started moving again. That's when I decided, 'I’m just gonna stick it out if I’m late,” Goodman says.

Though it was his first time purchasing tickets for a Swift concert, Goodman headed to Ticketmaster ready for battle ... aka armed with a color-coordinated priority map.

“Red is first priority in, green a second priority, and then blue is third priority,” he says. “I was prepared, but I was running it through with my friends, making sure we were on the same page about what we wanted with the budgets and seats.”

On Apr. 14, Goodman will attend Swift's concert in Tampa, part of a sea of fans that include those who bought tickets from resellers which Reuters reported are going for as much as $28,000 per seat.

"Seeing people who didn't want a ticket give it away for even higher than it was before," Wooley says before pausing, frustration in her voice. "It was like, 'So you got the ticket, but now you don't want the ticket?' that doesn't make any sense."

“Ticketmaster is a very big company that has cornered the market and has one job to do,” Goldschmidt says. “The fact of the matter is, that they had five years to anticipate being prepared for this level of demand. If you’re gonna be the only person that holds the keys like that, you need to be able to drive. They botched the job, and I think this is like fully on them.”

Without naming Ticketmaster directly, Swift, in a statement posted on her Instagram stories on Nov. 18, expressed frustration with the "outside entity" that handled ticket sales.

“It goes without saying that I’m extremely protective of my fans,” she wrote on her Instagram story. “It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse.

"There are a multitude of reasons why people had such a hard time trying to get tickets and I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward. I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could.”

screenshot of Taylor Swift Instagram Story
@taylorswift via Instagram

Swift gave a message to people who weren't able to buy tickets: "All I can say is that my hope is to provide more opportunities for us all to get together and sing these songs."

For Swift fans starved for live performances, attending the Eras Tour — paying homage to Swift's past "eras" — remains a beacon and a goal.

“I feel like everyone should get a ticket. It's an 'Eras' tour. It should be like for people who’ve been here since the beginning, until now. It’s not just like the 'Midnight’s' tour. It’s like everything," Wooley said.