Taylor Swift made sparks fly last week when she announced a new approach to selling concert tickets. Instead of “first come, first served” -- which invites predation by bots -- Swift’s upcoming tour will sell tickets first to the people who engage the most with Swift’s website. Swift is using Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program. Users register and then undertake “boost activities” like buying Swift’s new album, sharing links on social media and watching videos. When tickets go on sale, they’ll be offered to fans in order, according to who did the most “boosting.” The goal, as Swift explains in an animated cat video, is to make sure that tickets get to superfans instead of scalpers. The public reaction has been mixed. Some have praised Swift’s entrepreneurship. But others think her approach is exploitative of fans and downright mean. Let’s set the PR aside and think through the economics: Effectively, Swift is selling her tickets in an auction. Even though the tickets themselves will...

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