If you’ve been anywhere near the internet lately, you’ve probably heard about the absolute fiasco that was the Ticketmaster presale for Taylor Swift’s 2023 tour.
In short: So many people (and bots) logged on to buy concert tickets that the site broke, forcing some Swifties to wait hours in virtual queues — and leaving thousands more without seats at all. Unable to handle the demand, Ticketmaster canceled its general sale, enraging a notoriously intense fanbase as well as Swift herself. Now scalpers are reselling tickets at huge markups.
But for the past few years, there’s been a way to score concert tickets at face-value prices without lining the pockets of billion-dollar corporations (or opportunists). You just have to know where to look.
That place is Twitter, which, despite having its own set of (mostly-Elon-Musk related) problems, has become an unofficial ticket marketplace for fans of young artists. And perhaps no account has carved out that niche better than @handwrittentixs. With over 34,000 followers, Handwritten Tickets is a quiet powerhouse, constantly posting tickets for sale by fans, to fans.
The person behind it all? Cindy Nguyen, a 24-year-old from Nova Scotia, Canada.
In an email interview with Money, Nguyen says she got involved in the Twitter ticket world because of (who else?) Justin Bieber. Nguyen was part of the Believe Ticket Project, a nonprofit that raised money for fans to buy tickets to see Bieber on tour. The experience stuck with her.
Inspired by @1DTicketHelp and the now-defunct @SMTicketHelp — for One Direction and Shawn Mendes, respectively — she started Handwritten Tickets to help fans see their favorite artists. (The name is a reference to a Mendes album but is “ambiguous enough where if you weren’t a Shawn fan,” it “sort of still made sense,” she says.)
Seven years later, Handwritten Tickets is a one-woman operation — “I check my DMs throughout the day and go through them,” Nguyen says — and extremely focused on fair trade.
“I want to approach ticketing in a way that is affordable for fans,” she says.
There are strict rules and requirements. In order to have your ticket posted for sale, you must be asking for face value or less (unless you paid a sub-$25 currency or protection fee). You must accept PayPal Goods and Services, which is widely accepted as the safest way to purchase tickets from strangers. And you must provide proof, DMing Nguyen an updated screenshot of the ticket and a receipt so she can verify you’re not trying to sell it for profit.
Nguyen has Handwritten Tickets down to a science; she watermarks the screenshots and even uses a specific style to write each post in order to maximize exposure: “AUSTIN LOUIS TOMLINSON fans,” reads a recent tweet, “@luvingross is selling TWO tickets to the show on July 7th for $104.24 each! #FaithInTheFutureTour.” Or “PORTLAND LIZZO fans, @kellyjj16 is selling ONE FLOOR ticket to the show on November 4th for $165.70! #TheSpecialTour.”
Interested parties reach out and complete the transaction on their own. Since launching the project in 2015, Nguyen has matched thousands of unwanted tickets with desperate fans. The success, she says, is still baffling.
“I honestly to this day don’t know how or why it has grown so much,” she says.
Harry Styles’ fan base is at least partially responsible, Nguyen admits. Though his 2017-2018 solo tour didn’t get much engagement, Styles’ seemingly never-ending Love on Tour — which started in 2021 and is set to run throughout 2023 — has led to an “exponential” surge in demand, she says.
Her account is so successful that copycats have sprung up, which she’s fine with, as long as they maintain the peer-to-peer vibe she’s worked so hard to cultivate. Plus, Handwritten Tickets is intentionally distinct: Unlike other accounts, Nguyen doesn’t post every ticket that comes her way.
Also, not to hit you over the head with the Swift references, but she’s got a reputation. “Sellers trust me with their ticket proofs, and buyers trust that the tickets I post have been verified,” Nguyen explains.
Nguyen, who has a degree in computer science and works for the Canadian government, is doing it all for free. (If followers are moved to tip, she has a funding link on her profile; recent comments include “YOU ARE AMAZING BESTIE” and “you are the backbone of live shows atp.”) It’s a labor of love — and a totally transparent one.
Above all else, Nguyen says she’s devoted to “keeping the fans in mind, as I am a fan myself.”