Consumer behavior expert explains why fans spend thousands on Taylor Swift concert tickets

Subimal Chatterjee is a SUNY distinguished teaching professor of marketing in Binghamton University’s School of Management. He researches consumer behavior, irrational decision-making and how value perceptions are shaped.

Why do fans spend thousands on concert tickets?

For major artists like Taylor Swift, fans are thinking about the experience of the concert and the anticipation is high, and they are making a mental calculation of what that is worth to them. They look at the high price of the tickets, and of course they don’t like it. But they calculate that it’s worth it, even if they keep complaining about the price. While there certainly is a ceiling to how much people are willing to spend, that ceiling is quite high for the hardcore fans.

There really isn’t much individual fans can do about the price either. You can’t boycott Taylor Swift, because there is only one Taylor Swift, and there are no other options for you. This is very different from something like ride-sharing apps. If you think Uber is charging too much, you can boycott Uber and switch to other options, such as Lyft or a taxi.

How does paying a high price ultimately impact the experience?

It’s complicated. If you believe you overpaid for a ticket, does that spoil the enjoyment of the show? If it does, then that is a huge problem for event organizers.

But I think it depends on the individual, as everyone’s psychology is different. If you’re a big Taylor Swift fan, it probably won’t make much of an impact at the end of the day. But if you’re just a casual fan who feels you’ve overpaid, then you’re probably setting a very high bar for the quality of the experience, which also means you have a higher chance of walking away disappointed.

Is the frustration over the cost of Taylor Swift tickets a unique situation?

Things like this happen all the time. We see this especially when it comes to high-value brands. For example, you may have a prestigious university and a less well-known university teaching a class with the same exact content and quality. But one is way more expensive than the other because people want to be associated with the prestigious university brand and are willing to pay a lot more for it.

Taylor Swift can get away with higher prices because she is an established, prestigious brand. You’re not going to see newer acts charging the same prices for their concerts, even if their music is of the same quality as Swift’s. And the reason is because they don’t have that established brand equity that comes only with time.