The Taylor Swift Ticketek hellscape
Magic, madness, heaven, sin (Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureJune 29, 2023

A dispatch from Taylor Swift presale hell

The Taylor Swift Ticketek hellscape
Magic, madness, heaven, sin (Image: Tina Tiller)

Two queues, two Swifties and 12 hours of torment. Stewart Sowman-Lund and Alex Casey report from the nightmare that was yesterday’s Eras Tour presale.

Stewart Sowman-Lund from the Sydney queue: 

8am: The presale doesn’t start until lunchtime and we’ve been told slots would be randomly allocated at that time. Nevertheless, I’m in the queue already staring at a constantly refreshing page. Why? Maybe it will open early? Or we might be given a number? Is this what it felt like to queue and see the Queen lying in state? It has begun. I’m not ready for it.

11.45am: Literally nothing has changed, because the presale hasn’t even started. I am already becoming mesmerised by the countdown. “Your turn to purchase tickets is coming soon,” the website gaslights me. “Next update in 10, 9, 8, 7…” I make myself yet another coffee, because why not. Maybe I need to be just a little bit more on edge. My girlfriend has written our credit card details down on large pieces of paper just in case they’re not saved on our Ticketek account. There’s six of us on Zoom all trying for the same show. 

12.00pm: The presale is starting. Surely, we’ll know our fate in a few minutes. I got Adele tickets in five minutes, maybe this will be just as easy. “Your turn to purchase tickets is coming soon.”

How I imagine it feels to buy Eras Tour tickets (Photo by Scott Legato/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

12.07pm: “How’s it going,” The Spinoff’s Jane Yee asks me. “None of us have even made it past the queue,” I say, still feeling optimistic. I’m glued to the screen. 10, 9, 8, 7…  “Your turn to purchase tickets is coming soon.”

12.55pm: “And now,” asks Jane again. “Literally no change.”

1.07pm: I’m wondering why I didn’t have lunch. I make a sad bowl of porridge; the lowest effort meal for the best reward. My laptop, with the never-ending, constantly refreshing queue stares up at me from the kitchen bench as the microwave whirs. I’m considering making another coffee. Or maybe I need a beer? The porridge does its best to satisfy me but I know there’s only one thing that could possibly bring me happiness today.

1.25pm: The queue refreshes are starting to take just a little bit longer. I must be close.

1.39pm: “You guys ok?” a friend messages. “Thinking of you.” They receive no response. I do not have the mental capacity to answer.

2.00pm: We’re now two hours in. I’ve gone back to work, the never-ending loading bar mocking me from the corner of my laptop screen. I can still peek the words “…tickets is coming soon”. Soon? What is soon. I put my dressing gown on, a protective shield from the Ticketek wilderness. My screen refreshes slowly again, but my heart knows better than to skip a beat this time. I’ve needed to pee since breakfast.

3.00pm: I’m lying on my bed, the vision of the queue refreshing before my eyes when I hear a scream from the next room. My girlfriend’s screen has gone blank. The URL has changed. Have we made it past the queue? Show dates suddenly appear, but I’m too shell shocked to even blink. Is it a mirage? We enter the presale code. 

“An unexpected error has occurred”. The queue appears again, silently mocking us from inside its pixelated home. “Your turn to purchase tickets is coming soon.”

The tweet that sums it all up

3.25pm: My group of friends have been offered spare tickets by someone who made it past the queue. There’s only enough for three and… I am the fourth. I pour myself a beer and wonder whether buying flights and accommodation for Sydney before I even had a ticket had really been the wise idea it seemed last week. I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here. I remember it all, all, all too well.

3:43pm: “All general Frontier pre-sale tickets for Taylor Swift in Sydney are now sold out,” says Ticketek. “Your turn to purchase tickets is coming soon,” says the queue. “Next update in 10, 9, 8, 7…” I’m exhausted. Is this what it feels like to run a marathon? Probably, I reason to myself as I adjust my aching body on the couch like some sort of beached whale and grab a discarded throw pillow for back support. This has to be what it feels like to run a marathon.

Alex Casey from the Melbourne queue:

3.44pm One of many, many alarms on my phone goes off, warning that the Melbourne presale is imminent. I check the presale lounge page once more – I’ve been in the queue since 8.18am this morning. I have no idea how the internet works, but imagine that my cute little IP address wearing a top hat and tails, lining up politely eight hours before the party starts, might earn it some sort of respect and gratitude from the Ticketek gods. 

3.51pm Another alarm. My nerves are jangling. The reports from Stewart have not been good. I have (flexi) flights booked already to see the Saturday night show in Melbourne which is adding to the high stakes of it all. All my eggs are in one concert’s basket. I check the piece of paper I have had taped above my head for days – SAT 17 MELBOURNE – to make sure I don’t accidentally buy tickets to Beervana or Matchbox 20.

Don’t buy Beervana tickets don’t buy Beervana tickets

3.58pm Another alarm goes off. It’s actually fine, I tell myself. It’s actually a win-win. If I get tickets, I get to go to Taylor Swift. If I don’t, I can get the money for the flights back which is basically making money, and that’s the circular economy in action. 

4.00pm By all accounts, the presale has begun but nothing new is happening. The little biatch of a blue loading bar glides across the screen tauntingly. “Your turn to purchase tickets is coming soon.” I take a happy photo doing a peace sign in front of the laptop, feeling confident that my polite and punctual IP address will soon be let through the line quick smart. 

Happier times

4.05pm I’m fucking panicking already and immediately add my iPad into the line-up. I read somewhere on the dark web that you should stay calm and only use one device, but fuck that. My IP address just removed his top hat to reveal a gremlin wearing a top hat. Who knows where that gremlin goes in the line? Will it upset the Ticketek gods? I don’t care. It’s been FIVE MINUTES.  

4.15pm Need to do a nervous pee. Now have Ticketek open on my phone, iPad and laptop. I have no choice but to bring them all into the toilet with me. This is possibly my lowest ebb. “This is a hell unlike I have ever known” I message my colleagues Jane and Isaiah, who are both in the Melbourne queue too. “This is the bad place”, Isaiah confirms. 

4.19pm Still nothing. I remember I’m supposed to be having a phone call with a dear old friend in London at 6.30pm tonight. We’ve been trying to make a time for ages, but I realise that I might still be in ticket hell. I message her: “An advanced warning I may have to bail on this call if I am still stuck in the Taylor Swift line #stressed.” No time for discussing why I used a hashtag in a Facebook message. Look what you made me do, Taylor. 

4.26pm I set up a Taylor Swift vinyl shrine and start playing Midnights for good luck, and an extremely scary thing happens. We have a dicky speaker that will sometimes fade out randomly, and this time it decides to cark it just as Taylor coos “and every single one of your friends was making fun of you.” She’s laughing up at me from hell. 

You threw your head back laughing etc etc

4.49pm “See this is why you should never fall in love,” messages Jane, who is now by all accounts in the recovery position, “because then you can get hurt.”

5.15pm This is where things start to turn. I’ve gone from excited, to bored, to incandescent with rage. I’m also about to get my period. I’ve been so distracted by the blue bar that the fire has nearly gone out, and I try not to cry while desperately blowing on the embers. As a wise woman once said, this could end in burning flames or paradise. 

5.28pm Me, a genius, decide to move my laptop, iPad and phone into the lounge so I can properly tend to the fire. Unfortunately, while tending to said fire, my now unplugged laptop goes into power saving mode which disrupts the connection. The Ticketek tab now reads “your connection has been interrupted” and I want to vomit. The fire is dead, the internet is dead, and I am dead. I imagine by top hat IP sir being kicked to the very end of the line. 

5.39pm “Ticketek AU says Taylor Swift tickets for Melbourne are still available, but warns some price categories are close to selling out.”

5.50pm I am made aware of two casual contacts that nabbed four seats each. One bought from Spain, the other from Singapore. Again, I don’t know how the internet works, but could they have escaped the bottleneck by lining up from distant lands? Maybe I should have booked flights to an exotic location just to book tickets? The fire is out again. 

A friend asked “do you work at NASA” and maybe I do

6.00pm I’ve dusted off my shitty old laptop and also hacked into my partner’s laptop in a final gasp attempt to digitally ram raid Ticketek. There are now four screens in front of me and two different browsers open on my phone. Jane tells me she has bought a Powerball ticket because why not, and pitches two possible headlines for The Spinoff tomorrow:

Auckland mum of three takes out Powerball after missing out on Taylor Swift tickets


Auckland mum spends $165 to not go to Taylor Swift and then a further $20 to not win Lotto

I take a photo of my four screen set up and send it to some group chats for moral support. I realise my poor old neglected cat Link is lurking in the background of the stressful scene. I forgot to feed him his dinner. I’ve truly become the worst version of myself and it’s all because of Taylor Alison Swift. 

6.17pm All four screens reveal the message I’d been dreading: “All general Frontier Pre-sale tickets for Taylor Swift The Eras Tour in Melbourne have now sold out. 

6.19pm I message my friend in London and say we can still talk. I don’t have Taylor Swift tickets but, as a wise woman once said, it’s nice to have a friend. 

Stewart Sowman-Lund (again) from an unexpected evening queue:

8.05pm: I head to the Lotto website to see if I’ve won the Powerball. “You’re in the queue to log into MyLotto”. I shut my laptop immediately. I’ve had enough queues for one day. My phone buzzes and I see my Taylor Swift group chat has started a new video call. Not prepared to be mocked again for being the only one without a ticket, I don’t answer. But wait. In a moment of group hysteria, they’ve got a single VIP ticket in the cart ready to go. Am I prepared to spend $400 for one E-reserve ticket and a bunch of tatty merch? Absolutely not. But am I prepared to convince my friends to pay the price difference so I’m not left out? Yes. 

Taylor, I’ll see you in February. Sitting alone in the VIP. Happy, sad, confused and lonely at the same time.

Keep going!