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March 14, 2022

True fans: are they the true gatekeepers? 

Hannah Jones
Louis Tomlinson live at AO Arena Manchester

With concerts more popular than ever before, it’s no surprise that 32.5 million UK fans in 2022 travelled far and wide to see their favourite artists perform live. But some fans have differing viewpoints on who should and shouldn’t be allowed to attend. Many popular artists such as Harry Styles and Taylor Swift have millions of followers on Instagram and their strong and loyal fanbases (‘Harries’ and ‘Swifties’ they call themselves) are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their favourite artists’ songs are appreciated only by ‘true’ fans.  

‘Gatekeeping’ is a major part of many fandoms, since many fans of large artists (like Harries and Swifties) know that there are some people who will hear one or two popular songs on the radio, and then deem themselves fans of the artist. 

Some people won’t let that slide. Many ‘true’ fans make it their mission to ensure only a select few people are allowed to be a part of their fandom, by testing people on their knowledge of the artist. The most used of these ‘tests’ is posting TikTok videos of a snippet of an artist’s song and stating that only people who can sing the song all the way through with no mistakes are allowed to call themselves a fan. Then they are deemed worthy of allowed to buy tickets to see them live. 

More stricter fans may even use tests such as knowing an artist’s time of birth, or even their blood type, as ways of determining the most loyal fans. There isn’t one shared viewpoint in fandoms of who is a fan and who isn’t, everyone has different opinions, and fans also have differing opinions on how much of a fan you have to be in order to be allowed to buy concert tickets. 

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I am part of multiple online groups with fans of different artists, so I asked them their opinion on the matter, and the results were quite surprising. 76% of them stated that concerts should be open to anyone who wants to go, regardless of how much or how little of a fan they are. However, that means a substantial proportion, 24%, think it should only be ‘true’ fans that are allowed to attend. One fan followed up on her vote, saying that: “some fans won’t be able to go [to a concert] if others bought the tickets just because they can”. Later on, when I asked them if they think fans can fly to other countries to see their favourite artists, 52% stated fans should only go to concerts in their own country, to give international fans a chance to see the artists. 13% even stated fans should only go to one show in total, and that going to more than one is “greedy”. Another fan in the group, Vera, stated: “I kinda understand every position, I would be sad if someone bought tickets for multiple shows and I didn’t get tickets, but I also understand if someone has been saving or has another reason that they want to go to multiple shows”. 

Yet some of the wider fan community on social media had quite firm opinions. One person commented on a fan’s post, stating: “so you’re the reason I didn’t get tickets for Taylor in Dublin” when a fan stated she was going to 3 Taylor Swift concerts in a year. The ‘Era’s tour’, which covered countries in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and only two countries in Asia: Japan and Singapore, will span over almost 2 years. However, 62 out of 146 shows are in the USA alone, sometimes there are 8 shows in one state! This left many international fans frustrated when American fans would buy tickets to see Swift in other countries, despite the sheer amount of shows available to them in their own country, even in their own state. 

One Swiftie stated that people should “give the international Swifties a chance” after seeing a fan who flew to multiple countries to see Swift live. Many fans share this viewpoint, that non-fans and fans going to more than one show are “robbing” the ‘true’ fans of tickets. This is even though many concerts like Swift’s ‘Era’s tour’ and Styles’ ‘Love On Tour’ still have tickets available, albeit for higher prices. The ‘Era’s tour’ and ‘Love On Tour’ had over 140 shows each and over 15 million attendees combined (even though the ‘Era’s tour’ is nowhere near being over). However, casual fans and fans who attended more than one of these shows seem to have been deemed ‘selfish’ by fans who only went to one, and even by fans who didn’t go to any. Many fans even stated that people: “shouldn’t be buying tickets unless they are real fans, us real fans want tickets”. This again sparking a conflict in the comments section over who is allowed to attend live concerts and who isn’t. 

Some fans with different viewpoints stated more neutral opinions, such as: “why are we gatekeeping concerts now?” and: “how about we all be grownups and whoever gets the tickets does, doesn’t matter if they’re a fan or not”.  One fan even raised the point: “to be honest you would go to all three [concerts] if you had the chance to” to a fan in the comments section who was angry over people going to multiple concerts. 

Should fans be more accepting of people wanting to listen to their favourite artists’ music? Should concerts be open to anyone and everyone? It’s clear that fans have very different opinions on these matters. Some believe that it’s up to the individual, if they call themselves a fan or if they want to go to a concert. However, some believe it’s up to other fans to decide, but most fans have the intention of ensuring their favourite artists have the best fanbases they can get, even if they have to go to extreme measures to do so. 

Maybe sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many. 



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  • S

    Sophie LeungJan 24, 2024 at 6:40 am

    This is a very interesting article and I didn’t realise how controversial this topic was until actually reading both sides of the argument! Great article and very informative! 🙂

  • E

    Edie WatsonDec 13, 2023 at 7:05 am

    Such a relevant topic that I’ve also experienced first-hand. Very well written and love the photo so much.

  • O

    Olivia ShawDec 13, 2023 at 7:04 am

    Really interesting, I have definitely seen this type of gatekeeping before 🙂

  • P

    Pippa AlsopDec 13, 2023 at 6:52 am

    It’s very interesting and including multiple view points which is good!

  • J

    Jacqui Shirley - OrganiserDec 7, 2023 at 7:48 am

    A topical and interesting issue. Although Swifties sound a bit scary!