They sat for hours clicking on her music videos to "boost" their place in virtual ticket lines last winter. Some of them paid an extra few hundred dollars for "VIP" access to seats.
In the end, though, getting tickets to Taylor Swift's two concerts at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday and Saturday was as easy as getting one of her catchy songs stuck in your head. The surprising turnaround spotlights changing practices in the concert business and the enormity of the new Vikings stadium more than it suggests the pop star's popularity is waning.
"We've been waiting for this since November," said a visibly elated Kaylee Funk, 21, as she and her friend settled into Row 13 on the stadium floor Friday after driving eight hours from Winnipeg, Manitoba. "I can't believe we're finally here."
In an ultra-hi-fi concert that incorporated everything from four-story-high snakes to a seesaw-like rotating stage to LED light bracelets for every audience member, Swift seemed a little in disbelief, too, taking in the enormous indoor stadium and aw-shucksing Gov. Mark Dayton's proclamation of it being Taylor Swift Day in Minnesota.
"You've always been so welcoming to me, but this time you took it up a notch," she told fans. "What does that mean? Do I get special privileges in your state today?
Swift trimmed her schedule from three sold-out nights at Xcel Energy Center in 2015 to two dates at U.S. Bank Stadium, but the switch nearly doubled her local seating capacity, topping more than 80,000 people this weekend.
Swift also implemented new ticketing policies that amount to higher profits for artists and their promoters, including Ticketmaster's Verified Fan anti-scalping program and a technique dubbed "dynamic pricing" — akin to the way airlines adjust seat prices based on demand.
So even with fewer dates, Swift's current Reputation Tour has already surpassed sales records set by her prior tour, more than $200 million in gross ticket sales and counting, thanks in part to the fluctuating prices.
More and more the norm for big concerts, these ticket practices left some fans feeling confused and even exploited going into night one, even as they remained excited.
"Overall, the whole ticket situation left me extremely disappointed," said Elise Welter, a 24-year-old marketing professional from Inver Grove Heights who repeatedly watched videos and went through the tedious rigmarole of becoming a "Verified Fan" when Swift tickets first went on sale in December.
Even with her efforts, Welter only landed midrange, lower-level seats around $190 apiece because, she said, the best seats offered to the verified fans in December were listed between $650 and $1,500 (prices partly justified with VIP memorabilia such as T-shirts or tour laminates).
As the concert neared, though, Welter saw the prices to those most desirable seats drop in half on Ticketmaster as the initial demand faded. So she sold her cheaper seats at a loss and paid $342 for floor seats, figuring she was still coming out ahead over fans who paid the $650-plus prices for the same section.
"I'm hoping the concert will make everything worth it!" Welter concluded before Friday's show.
Andy Holmaas of Minneapolis did the same thing, ditching mediocre seats he bought in December for better seats that dropped sharply in price in recent weeks.
"Major artists trying to stop scalpers is a good move in my book, but the added show changed the whole game for demand," Holmaas said, referring to the fact that Swift only announced Saturday's concert at first but then added the Friday date, purportedly "due to overwhelming demand."
There was even a noticeable difference in pricing between the two Minneapolis concerts: Seats in the uppermost 300 levels were priced at $47 for Friday's concert in the days leading up to the shows, but the same sections were listed at $150 on Ticketmaster for Saturday's performance.
Licensed ticket broker Tim Bohmer of Minneapolis, aka Ticket Tim — the kind of seat reseller Swift and Ticketmaster claim to be combating — believes Ticketmaster's new policies hurt Swift's ticket sales more than they helped.
"I think they scared away a lot of their prospective ticket buyers with those initial prices," said Bohmer, who took issue with U.S. Bank Stadium for "letting Ticketmaster and the promoters do whatever they want" in the building at the expense of the public who paid to build it.
Bohmer said up to 20 percent of the seats to some concerts — usually the best seats — are now discreetly set aside by Ticketmaster to sell as "platinum" seats, also including shows at Target Center and Target Field.
Representatives from U.S. Bank Stadium declined requests for comment for precisely the reason Bohmer said: Seat pricing is entirely left up to the artists' handlers. Swift's publicist also declined to comment for this story.
In a Los Angeles Times article, Ticketmaster executive vice president and head of music David Marcus defended the policies as an effective way of keeping tickets off the resale market, including StubHub and similar sites.
"The strategy right now is to make sure that we deal with the reality of limited supply — which is the reality in every ticketing situation," he said.
And regardless of whatever odysseys were involved in obtaining tickets, most of Swift's Twin Cities fans were happy with the final reality of seeing her in concert one more time — especially after tickets to Swift's Xcel Center shows in 2015 were so scarce outside of the resale market.
Part of a group of four friends who bought tickets in January, Sabrina Crews and Trisha Qualy said they actually got a kick out of the Verified Fan tactics and found the process "exciting." Said Crews, "Trisha even said to me, 'This feels kind of exclusive.' "
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 @ChrisRstrib