Taylor Swift in Buenos Aires: A luxury for a handful of Argentines and a bargain for foreigners

The devaluation of the peso has turned the pop star’s concerts in Buenos Aires into an opportunity for her legion of fans, who are willing to pay thousands of dollars to see her in other countries at a cheaper rate

La cantante Taylor Swift durante un concierto en New Rutherford, Nueva Jersey, el pasado 26 de mayo.
Taylor Swift during a concert in Rutherford, New Jersey, on May 26, 2023.SARAH YENESEL (EFE)

Taylor Swift’s first Latin American tour has already begun to wreak havoc on the spirits of thousands of teenagers, and on the wallets of their parents. The pre-sale for Swift’s concerts in Buenos Aires — scheduled for November 9 and 10 of this year — sold out this past Monday in less than an hour-and-a-half. Meanwhile, the general sale that started on Tuesday has already taken on the tone of a fierce battle.

Despite the economic crisis in the country, Argentines have gotten used to sold-out shows. However, the visit of the American pop star has opened a new chapter in this drama. With the power of the American dollar at the black market rate, the interest-free pay-by-installment option offered by the local bank chosen in the pre-sale, along with the devolution of the peso (when paid via credit cards issued by foreign banks), the tickets are a bargain. At least, if you compare the prices to what is being paid in the United States to see one of the most popular singers in the world.

Taylor Swift returns to the stage after a five-year-long hiatus. This new stage of her career began with a scandal that reached the American Congress. In November 2022 — when the pre-sale of the first concert dates in the United States was launched — Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. (the distribution company) sold out two million tickets in one day. Prices quickly escalated due to demand, along with the collapse of the company’s website. This ended in an investigation into Ticketmaster’s monopoly, one that united Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.

Swift, 33, kicked off her North American tour back in March. The few remaining tickets to see her have sold for thousands of dollars. According to Bloomberg, the $1,500 resale price of a ticket to see her in Chicago is approximately the cost of the most expensive ticket for her shows in Argentina, including the price of a plane ticket to Buenos Aires.

Buying a ticket to see Taylor Swift in Argentina is a master class on the turbulent national economy. The official price ranges between 86,000 and 18,000 Argentine pesos, or between $75 and $360 at the official exchange rate. However, the Central Bank’s official rate of 240 pesos per U.S. dollar is almost a fairy tale for the average citizen.

“Tell me how many Argentines have the capacity to save money. Then, I’ll tell you how much the country saves in dollars,” the economist Emiliano Libman analyzed a few weeks ago, in an interview with EL PAÍS. During the conversation, he explained how the use of the American dollar as a way to preserve the value of income has encouraged a de facto dollarization in the South American country. The Argentines who manage to save — in an economy with inflation rate of more than 100% per year — do so in dollars. And these dollars can almost only be found on the street. This week, the price for one dollar is 482 pesos, more than double the official rate.

At the black market rate, the most expensive ticket to see Taylor Swift in Argentina costs half the official price: about $155. The price is similar for purchases made in the country with cards issued by foreign banks. Since December of last year, the Argentine government has allowed tourists to access a special rate — which is set at around 475 pesos per dollar — to dissuade them from having to sell their dollars in the street. This is a way to get them to spend with their credit cards, that is, through the official banking system.

If one doesn’t have access to dollars or a credit card from a foreign bank, the most expensive Taylor Swift tickets in Argentina cost the equivalent of the monthly minimum wage. The 24,000 that were sold this past Monday couldn’t be bought with any of these tricks; they could only be bought through a single national bank. But those who bought in advance will be able to pay off the ticket price in six interest-free fixed installments. With an average monthly currency devaluation that is close to 10%, this reveals another common method that Argentina is using to face inflation: borrowing money in the short and medium-term to reduce the price of purchases.

The rumor that tickets in Argentina are practically free (compared to what’s being sold in the United States) has embittered Taylor Swift’s Argentine fans, who are now concerned with lack of supply and rising prices. Some are demanding that only those who know all of her songs by heart should be allowed to attend; others are asking their ticket-holding friends to ditch their boyfriends, just so they can accompany them. Many are even threatening violence if their friends run out of tickets, or if they hear a foreign accent on the day of the concert.

Last weekend, the main joke on Argentine social media was to quote a tweet from a fan who, from the United States, wondered if it was safe to attend the concert because there would be no chairs (it’s standing-room only). One of the most popular responses was to highlight Argentina’s pride in being a devoted audience that goes crazy in front of their artists. The other, more recurrent, was to warn the American that it was not safe at all and that it was best that they not even think about coming.

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