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Taylor Swift’s devoted fan base has been training since 2009’s Fearless tour, her arena debut, for this summer’s originally planned, multi-continental, 15-date trek known as Lover Fest. In October of last year, fans waited in virtual lines for hours to purchase tickets for the coveted event. On Twitter, many had already begun coordinating outfits and planning meetups with fellow Swifties who they’ve met on the internet or at past concerts. Tori Ronak, a 27-year-old resident of Calgary, Canada, paid “three to four times the original ticket price” using Ticketmaster’s fan resale option for Lover Fest West in Inglewood, California. “After seeing how badly my friend wanted to go, I decided to purchase three tickets equaling $1,700 United States dollars,” Ronak told MTV News. “We were excited for the music, even more excited to see which musical guests she would bring on, and we were excited to get our outfits together.”
But as communities continue to avoid social gatherings to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Swift announced the cancellation of all 2020 tour dates on April 17 — including Lover Fest. “I’m so sad I won’t be able to see you guys in concert this year, but I know this is the right decision,” she tweeted. “Please, please stay healthy and safe.”
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It was a long time coming. Several of the events Swift was scheduled to headline this summer — including Glastonbury Festival, Roskilde Festival, and British Summer Time — had already been canceled. And with the coronavirus pandemic threatening both public health and the global economy, some die-hard fans told MTV News before the announcement that they would do just about anything for Swift to cancel the tour and issue refunds — not simply because they want their money back, but because now many need those funds for basic necessities such as food, rent, and other miscellaneous bills.
“We don’t even know where our next paycheck is going to be coming from,” Ronak said, explaining that she’s in a different place financially than she was when she first purchased tickets. But Swift isn’t the only one who’s canceled or postponed upcoming shows. Niall Horan recently called off his Nice To Meet Ya Tour, reassuring fans that “all tickets purchased will be refunded.” Harry Styles, BTS, Justin Bieber, and several other artists have opted to postpone their tours, leaving fans confused about whether or not they’re eligible for refunds. As the New York Times reported, Ticketmaster’s website has recently changed its language; instead of offering refunds on events “postponed, rescheduled, or canceled,” it now only lists cancellation. “Tickets will be valid for the new event date,” but issuing refunds is ultimately up to event organizers and not the ticket retailer itself.
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Swift’s statement mentions how her scheduled 2020 shows in the U.S. and Brazil will now take place in 2021 and directs fans to forthcoming messaging from Ticketmaster for questions of refunds: “For those who desire refunds purchased for the U.S. Lover Fest shows, they will be available starting May 1 subject to Ticketmaster terms.”
Given the weeks that Lover Fest’s fate was in limbo before its cancellation, 31-year-old Molly Shlom first sought a refund from Allianz, the company she purchased event insurance from. She’d planned to attend Lover Fest with her best friend as a “celebration of life” after they each faced medical hardships this past year. Ultimately, Allianz refunded her purchase, though she also said it was very difficult to get her money back “even at the most escalated level with an insurance claim open on the tickets.” And after a game of telephone between Shlom, Ticketmaster, the concert venue, and Swift’s management team Taylor Nation, she was told that “there are no refunds and ‘it’s not going to happen’ for those of us who need our money back.”
The decision on Lover Fest almost felt more urgent than some other tours, especially since the festival was only set to take place in two U.S. cities (Inglewood and Foxborough, Massachusetts). This means that those located in other areas have paid premium prices not just for tickets, but for travel, too. Lane Castro, 20, spent her savings on floor seats for her and her sister. “I could use the refund,” she said. “My mom lost her job and I am a college student, so that already put us in a tough financial spot.” Fortunately, she hasn’t made any of the other potentially non-refundable arrangements that many other Swifties have made, including flights, hotels, and Airbnb rentals.
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Swift, for her part, has recently given donations to “select fans” who are struggling right now, though not directly tied to Lover Fest. The pop star reportedly gave a $3,000 gift — plus a personalized note — to a few fans who’ve been experiencing “financial and emotional stress” and paid to cover each employee of a beloved Nashville record shop (including benefits) for the next three months during a statewide stay-at-home order.
Though Shlom is relieved that Swift and her team have since made an announcement, she’s still wary about the phrasing of the statement and how it might impact fans’ ability to claim refunds. “By ‘postponing’ her shows and not outright canceling them, she is still causing deep financial distress to thousands of fans,” she said. “She left everyone’s financial future regarding their tickets up to the powers at be at Ticketmaster, and with their new policies they may not receive a full, or any refund.” And while she applauds Swift for “doing the right thing,” Shlom feels strongly that it might not be enough. “She only went halfway,” she said.
Thirty-year-old Swiftie Bianca Szklaruk, who is fortunate enough to still be employed during this very economically unstable time, feels for both Swift and the thousands of other fans — like Shlom, Ronak, and Castro — who are struggling to make ends meet right now. “My concern is for the fans I see on my Twitter feed who are laid off indefinitely,” she said. But she also thinks it’s important to praise Swift for her philanthropic moves. “Taylor is doing an incredible job sending money to fans in need,” she said.
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Of course, just because some Swifties had hoped for a cancellation and refunds, that doesn’t mean they’re not sad about potentially not seeing the show at all. For Szklaruk, Lover Fest is a way to reunite with her best friends. “We met through Taylor and live across the country,” she said. “For the past few years we’ve met in new locations for an annual trip. This year was Lover Fest.” And Castro’s been looking forward to her next Swift concert since leaving the Reputation tour in 2018. “Her concerts are so amazing,” she said. “You get to see people you maybe know online and the energy is so exciting.”
It’s for this reason that several other fans were hoping Lover Fest would go on as originally planned. “It’s a tough situation,” said 21-year-old Caitlyn Wilkes, who had planned on making the nearly 10-hour drive from Ohio to Massachusetts for Lover Fest East with her best friend. “It’s tough to watch the plans you’ve had for so many months start to slip away and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Juan Almanza, a 21-year-old from Chicago, said he had already booked a flight and hotel plans, but that ultimately, “I understand since she cares so much about the health of her fans.”
Ultimately, the decision to cancel Lover Fest will not only be hard on Swift, but on those who were excited to shout the bridge of “Cruel Summer” in an open-air stadium full of thousands of other devoted fans. But right now, public health and the general well-being of others must take top priority. “We need to think of our health and people’s health around us,” Ronak said. “Think of the nurses and the frontline workers who have already lost their lives. If canceling or postponing Lover Fest means saving lives, Taylor would be all for it.”
According to Swift’s tweet announcing the cancellation, she’s committed to doing just that. “I’ll see you on stage as soon as I can but right now what’s important is committing to this quarantine, for the sake of all of us.”