Friday, July 19, 2024

CULTURE | 22-08-2023 14:28

'Total frenzy': Fans eagerly await Taylor Swift in Latin America

Excitement is building among Taylor Swift fans in Latin America who have endured months-long queues, expensive tickets and, in one case, assault to realise their dream of seeing the pop superstar.

Renan faced muggers in Brazil and defended his dream to see Taylor Swift. Ingrid reported “abuse” in Mexico for the high cost of the tickets. Iara has been queueing for months in Argentine to secure the best spot.

Latin America is awaiting the Pennsylvania-born pop superstar with both fervour and frustration: many fans are underprivileged youths, and yet they bear the high cost of ticket prices and do not give up in the face of apparent irregularities 

The 33-year-old singer-songwriter, who holds the women's record for most number one albums, will bring her Eras tour to the region from Thursday starting in Mexico, followed by Argentina and Brazil.

It's Swift's first real tour in the region – she performed in events in Mexico in 2011 and Brazil in 2012 – and it is proving to be an expensive odyssey for loyal fans.

In Rio de Janeiro, Renan Rodrigues, a 24-year-old DJ, camped several nights outside the box office of the Nilton Santos stadium, where Swift will perform on November 17 to 19, to buy tickets.

DJ Firmino, who performs at themed parties for Swifties, as the pop star's devoted fans are known, got tickets to all three performances.

But he paid a high price – an assailant hit him on the head with a bottle for resisting an attempted robbery while he was waiting.

“They wanted to take my mobile [phone], and inside the case was my card of the only bank authorised for presale. All I could think of was: they’re not taking my card”, said Rodrigues, who luckily only suffered superficial wounds.

Tickets in Brazil cost between US$35 and US$468. In Mexico, fans must pay even more: from US$55 to US$614, in a country where youths earn an average monthly salary of US$366, according to official data.

Ingrid Cruz, founder of Swift's official Mexican fan club, regrets the fact that she and her fellow fans are facing the most expensive tickets in the region. This "abuse," she said stems from the prioritisation of “VIP packages” over regular tickets.

The most expensive package in Mexico is worth US$959, as against US$613 in Argentina. "It was far too" much, she said.

Fans also reported problems with the platform of US retail giant Ticketmaster. The vendor operates in Mexico as part of the powerful CIE entertainment and media group, which in turn controls around two-thirds of the local market for live shows.

Mexican “Swifties” have also questioned the presale system for the four concerts in Mexico City, which will start next Thursday, based on a prior registration of “verified fans” by email.

Ironically, Joel Aguilar, creator of the Taylor Swift MX fanpage, with some 20,000 followers in 20 countries, never received the exclusive link to purchase the tickets.

“None of my emails was selected”, the 26-year-old said, whose family and friends registered to help him out. He only got a last row ticket.

Denisse Castro, 26, who has been unemployed for six months, juggled things around to have sufficient credit to obtain the card of the bank sponsoring the concert.

To her misfortune, the bank has recently restricted the financing of tickets. “It’s terrible,” said Denisse, who ended up buying the cheapest ones.

Ticketmaster is facing a class-action lawsuit before consumer association PROFECTO filed by unsatisfied concertgoers from 2020 and 2022.

Pressured by the White House, the firm accepted to become transparent about its costs in the United States and has received bitter complaints from such artists as The Cure’s Robert Smith about excessive service charges.

Complaints in Mexico include cloned tickets, delays in reimbursements and a lack of mechanisms for customer conciliation, as explained by Maximilian Murck, co-founder of Tec-Check, an online consumer protection organisation, which filed the class-action lawsuit.

"In México they do as they like" because the authorities do nothing, Murck added. Ticketmaster did not respond to AFP’s requests for comments on the lawsuit.

However, the firm launched a new digital ticket which prevent counterfeits through a barcode, replacing printed tickets, in addition to a “help button” for customers.

Passion for Swift, the winner of 11 Grammys, has reached delirious levels in Buenos Aires, where a group of fans set up camp outside River Plate's Monumental stadium five months before the concert even takes place to secure their spots near the front of the stage.

The campers work together, taking turns to reserve their spots, and have one rule to abide by: they must spend at least 28 hours per month in their tents to secure their spot.

“It’ll be an absolute frenzy,” said Iara Palavencino, one of the campers. “I’d give my life for Taylor.”

Tickets sold out quickly in Argentina, despite the country's serious economic crisis.

The craze also reached the highest spheres of influence. In Chile, President Gabriel Boric, a self-proclaimed 'Swiftie,' made an unsuccessful appeal to Swift to include his country on her tour.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did likewise, though he was more successful. He got the artist, who had previously excluded Canada, to announce six dates in Toronto for 2024.

Taylor Swift is also an intergenerational phenomenon, judging by such fans as former Chief Justice of the Mexican Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldívar.

“There’s nothing trivial about Taylor Swift," Zaldivar, 64, wrote in a newspaper in June.



by Lucero Mendez & Ana Espinosa

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