Meet the Taylor Swift fans who got concert venue jobs to access the Eras tour


As the founder of an app that connects workers with hospitality gigs, Davis Waddell knows there’s always a surge in applications for high-profile events: Football fans clamor to work at the Super Bowl; baseball and basketball loyalists vie for all-star games. But he’s never seen anything like the volume of job seekers who flooded in when the app started offering hourly opportunities for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.

“Taylor Swift is on a totally different level,” said Waddell, chief executive of the app Tend, which hires anywhere from 50 to 500 staffers per concert for guest services jobs. “We’re getting probably double or triple the amount of applicants for her.” When Swift performed three nights at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in April, he said, the app had 65 jobs available for each one. An average of 1,037 people applied per show.

Ever since November, when unprecedented demand for Swift’s tour broke Ticketmaster, the difficulty of obtaining tickets has become both a running joke and a source of extreme frustration among the pop megastar’s rabid fan base. Tens of thousands of fans even gather to “watch” the show from parking lots near the stadiums when they can’t get inside. But as the Eras Tour winds down in the United States (eight California shows remain before Swift, 33, kicks off the international dates in late August), one small but elite group has emerged triumphant: fans who couldn’t procure or afford tickets, so they opted to temporarily work or volunteer at the stadiums — and watch the shows free.

Their TikToks and tweets have gone viral, with Swifties showing off their fluorescent vests from working the parking lots, or polo shirts, badges and nametags from serving as ushers, concession stand workers or merchandise booth staffers. They’re generally paid anywhere from $15 to $21 per hour, but the money is not the point. Their captions are straightforward (“POV: You work the parking lot for 6 hrs to get free Taylor Swift tickets”; “When you don’t get tickets to the eras tour so you work at the concert instead”; “You volunteer to work the Taylor Swift concert and get floor seats for FREE”) and their expressions are ones of stunned glee.

Jordyn Burdette, 33, screamed when she saw a text from a friend about an opportunity to volunteer at one of Swift’s Nashville concerts in May; she had spent weeks unsuccessfully scouring the internet for affordable tickets. Burdette found a babysitter for her two children and made the two-hour drive from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Nissan Stadium, where she was assigned to be an usher. She welcomed concertgoers, helped them find their seats and, the moment Swift started singing, burst into tears.

“It felt surreal being there because I was convinced till only a few days ago that I wasn’t going to be able to go,” Burdette said. “Seeing her walk out onstage hit me hard.”

Alexandra Sindaco of Asheville, N.C., caught the tour in Tampa in April and was so overwhelmed afterward that she could barely remember the show, a “post-concert amnesia” that has affected many fans. With almost no chance at scoring a second ticket, she Googled until she found a volunteer shift in Atlanta later that month. The gig was at a concession stand without a view of the stage, but she didn’t care: “I just needed that experience again.”

So Sindaco, 33, basked in the joyful atmosphere of sparkly outfits and friendship bracelets as she sold cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Then, a miracle: Thirty minutes before Swift took the stage, organizers informed some volunteers that they had to leave because they were overstaffed — but Sindaco was granted permission to stick around in the floor club section.

“I really don’t know why the organizer gave me this unbelievable opportunity,” Sindaco said. “I guess it could be because she saw I’m a hardcore Swiftie.”

Swift has built her enormously successful career by making fans feel like they know her personally, so emotions have run high during her 53-date trek around the country, her first tour in nearly five years. Waddell and other executives who hire for events are aware of this and repeatedly emphasize to workers that they are there primarily to, well, work.

Though the Tend app includes a background check, Waddell said, it can be “hard to vet” for people who act enthusiastic about the job only to disappear into the crowd at the stadium. Staffers are warned that doing so will result in a permanent ban from the app and no payment, but Waddell knows some fans don’t care. Luckily, he said, the majority take the edict seriously: “I would say less than 1 percent have been people being like, ‘Hey, I’m leaving my shift to sneak into the concert.’”

Jarah Euston is the co-founder and chief executive of WorkWhile, an app that connects workers to hourly shifts in various industries and has staffed employees for the Eras Tour. She noted that even with a screening process, “sometimes you can tell who is a huge Swiftie” because they show up with Swift’s favorite number, 13, written on their arms. For the most part, however, everyone is focused on the work, even if they briefly stop for a few seconds to collect a friendship bracelet from a fellow fan.

“A Taylor Swift concert in general is such a positive experience — that kind of thing is encouraged as long as you’re also paying attention to the task at hand,” Euston said.

Workers are cautioned that they shouldn’t take photos or videos, and that they should refrain from singing or dancing along. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially when Swift launches into her most famous hits during the more than three-hour set list.

Anna Holcombe, 25, couldn’t get tickets to the Nashville show but was “determined I was going to the tour regardless of what I had to do,” she said. A Facebook group pointed her toward the career website Indeed, and she suddenly found herself on the field at the barricades, monitoring the backstage area to make sure only those with credentials got through.

“I was back there screaming every single song, and no one cared,” Holcombe said. When she returned to work another shift the following night, she was placed directly in front of the stage where Swift performs her acoustic set. Swift was close by, yet Holcombe was determined to not turn around — her supervisors had instructed, “Taylor’s team wants you to be a statue if you’re at the barricade,” she said.

Although the rules are theoretically strict, some staffers can’t help themselves. TikTok is inundated with videos of stadium workers bopping to “Blank Space” and “Look What You Made Me Do.” Davis Perrigo, 25, successfully applied to work security in Nashville when he couldn’t get tickets and went viral when he was captured singing his heart out to “I Knew You Were Trouble.”

“It was awesome. There wasn’t a single song that people didn’t feel,” Perrigo said. “Best concert I have ever been to.”

Another popular job on the Tend app involves handing out the LED wristbands that sync up to songs so the stadium glows in color-coded unison when Swift is singing. Chelsea Pike, 40, and her sister balked at the $1,400 ticket prices they saw for the Kansas City concert but were thrilled when they were accepted by Tend. They were advised by another worker that, if they didn’t draw attention to themselves, they could quietly find a spot to watch the concert after they were done working. While that was a thrill, gifting fans with wristbands also wound up being fulfilling.

“There are thousands of screaming fans running at you wanting the [wristband], that’s their holy grail,” Pike said. “People were crying, saying we made their life, this is their dream come true. I know not every concert or every event is going to be like that.”

“It really made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself,” said Mia Hartounian, a Belmont University student studying music business who handed out wristbands in Nashville. After her shift, a tour employee invited her to watch the concert from the field and explained more about the process of bringing the enormous show to life. Hartounian, 19, detailed the experience on TikTok when she got home and was swarmed with requests from others asking how they could land the same job.

“I actually got probably 30 DMs across my TikTok and Instagram of people being like, ‘Hey, I saw your video, I would love to do what you did,’” she said.

After all, it’s a win-win: Fans experience the Eras Tour. The employment companies see a boost in users. And some workers even continue to work at the venues. Gabrielle Turgeon, 21, applied to work at a merchandise booth at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia because of all of the superstar music acts on the summer schedule (Swift, as well as Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran), and she’s now planning to work the Eagles football games this season. The environment can be hectic, but as her supervisor now reminds her, the intensity of working the Eras Tour has prepared her for anything.

“He said, ‘Girl, if you can handle Taylor Swift, you can handle any event from here on out,’” Turgeon said. “And I definitely found that to be true.”


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