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Putting Research Administration Skills to the Test: Purchasing Taylor Swift Tickets

By SRAI News posted 01-12-2023 08:34 AM


Putting Research Administration Skills to the Test: Purchasing Taylor Swift Tickets

How to use everyday skills of research administration and apply them creatively to real life scenarios. 

Research administration requires strategic planning, collaboration, flexibility, problem-solving, teamwork, and resilience. No two days are the same. A thoughtfully planned day can go sideways quickly when something urgent comes to the table. Who knew these skills could also aid in buying concert tickets to see Taylor Swift?

I have been to numerous Taylor concerts since 2006 and have been fortunate to meet her. Back in 2019, I purchased tickets to her Lover tour for the inaugural SoFi stadium concert in Los Angeles in July 2020. I live in Nashville but was going to make an adventure out of it with my mom. It took about 3 hours to secure those tickets through Ticketmaster. Sadly, that tour and my trip was canceled due to the pandemic. 

When Taylor Swift’s Eras tour was announced for 2023, my mom and I collaborated on what cities to request for the Ticketmaster Verified Fan registration. We researched stadiums and only selected ones with a roof, preventing complications outside of our control from mother nature. We each submitted our picks. My mom received a presale code for a Denver, CO show in July, and I received a presale code for a Los Angeles, CA show in August. The tickets went on sale Tuesday, November 15, at 10 am local time (to the venue). Tuesdays happen to be a day I work from home, and I had several virtual meetings scheduled. With that in mind, we strategically set up multiple laptops. 

Our first purchase opportunity was for the Denver presale at 11 am Nashville time with the waiting line opening at 10:30 am. I lost count of the times I hit ‘refresh’ to view the Ticketmaster ticketing page. The system was overwhelmed by people in the Eastern and Central time zones. One of the refresh clicks worked, and we could enter the waiting room to join a queue. At 11:01 am, the queue paused, but our hope remained high because an icon kept pulsing a light. It felt like a heartbeat. Within this time, I received a notification saying the LA presale was being moved to 5 pm Nashville time due to technical issues. This freed us up to concentrate on one show at a time. My virtual meetings came and went. I was managing emails while the queue kept its heartbeat. 

At some point along the way, Ticketmaster un-paused and said there were 2000+ people in line ahead of us. At 3:16 pm, that number finally dropped to 1890, then lower, and finally, we were redirected. We thought the wait was over. Instead, we were redirected back to the queue with 2000+ people in line ahead. Why Ticketmaster, why?! I kept pushing on while assisting coworkers with work-related questions of the day. By 3:56 pm, we were allowed to view available tickets. Whenever I selected two seats on the map, the system would say ‘not available’. The seats had already been claimed by someone else. Many people across the country were all vying for the same venue seats, just like many faculty all applying for a single grant. Eventually, the spinning wheel went away, and tickets were successfully transferred to our cart. Suddenly, I had an impending deadline with a countdown clock to complete the purchase. The system opened a popup window to verify a Visa credit card. Time kept ticking, and things seemed stalled. Sound familiar? The countdown clock made it to zero with no approval. The tickets appeared to have slipped through my fingers. Ever had one of those days at work where no matter how hard you try to plan for a deadline strategically, you face a roadblock, and the day feels like a failure? That is how it felt. I felt deflated that my time was wasted. 

To my surprise, at 4:10 pm, the page refreshed itself with a confirmation ticket screen. Did I really just get Taylor Swift tickets? There was hugging and dancing and cheering. Persistence paid off! This ticket sale took about double the time it did for the purchasing process of the canceled Lover tour tickets. My anxiety could not handle the thought of another long queue line with possible complications and disappointment, so I decided to skip the LA presale. Instead, I finished up a few meetings and tasks for the workday. I consider myself one of the lucky few million people who obtained tickets because there were millions more who did not. Comparable to lucky faculty members who are funded, while others try hard but come up short with too low of a score. Ticketmaster does not make purchasing concert tickets easy, which is similar to various software systems with random issues that research administrators must use. 

A key takeaway from this experience is multitasking. Applying the ability to maintain work performance while simultaneously navigating the Ticketmaster system. We strive to set early deadlines for faculty on grant deadlines to avoid system glitches, but sometimes perfect planning does not always work out. We do not always come out on top, but we must celebrate the times when we do. Feel free to do a little happy dance when you achieve a win!

Authored by Heather Darling, Sr. Program Manager, PMP
Vanderbilt University Medical Center