In this case, the scalpers were anonymous, but not that mysterious. They tweeted about themselves. Many of them came from pay-walled ticket-resale-coordination groups on Discord—the chat site originally popular with gaming communities—and were particularly excited about the one-night-only show, an event with an aura of specialness that would make it far more lucrative than any individual date on a later world tour.
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“If you don’t go for Harry Styles today u so washed,” announced one of the longtime members (designated by the channel owner as “staff”) in a channel called Book of Resell on the day of the sale. “You’re a fool if you didn’t cop a code,” another member offered. Then, 20 minutes after the show sold out completely: “Damn bro, this dude just made $550 off of $50 Harry tickets.”
“Harry looks like a cook,” one member posted excitedly, as soon as the sale ended. General-admission tickets were already going for more than $300 on resale.
This is how the boys talk—with the same energy as fans, but with a mercantile mind-set and the language of sneakerheads. Cook is a noun and a verb; you can “cook” and you can nab a “cook”—an in-demand item that will sell at a high markup. If Styles is a cook, that means he’s worth money. (His fans would remind you that he’s actually a baker!)
Later, another member bemoaned his bad luck: “Fuck, y’all cooked with Harry today.” He got through the digital queue after 35 minutes, when there was nothing good left, he added with a frowning emoticon. “You cook too much,” someone assured him. “The ticket gods balanced it out.”
Book of Resell was founded last year by a 25-year-old from Colorado who goes by Fashioninsta. (He asked to be identified by his username because that’s how he’s known professionally, but said most people do know his first name, Ben.) He charges $50 a month for membership, a small price to pay for proximity to his encyclopedic knowledge of the music industry and of fans’ fluctuating emotional attachments. He’s memorized all of the country’s arenas and their most desirable seating sections, as well as the many particularities of how to “flip” a ticket to pay your rent.
His channel is mostly men aged 18 to 25, he told me in a phone call, though it also has “moms and dads” and all kinds of people who are “willing to put in the work.”
As frenzied as fan conversations about the best way to buy tickets can be, the advice in Book of Resell makes them look downright legible. Various strategies include: using five different credit cards tied to different email addresses to get five different presale codes from five different merch purchases; borrowing a handful of phones with a handful of Ticketmaster accounts from a handful of siblings; buying $10 burner phones on eBay and setting them up with ultra-cheap phone plans; timing the burner phones as they move through less competitive ticket queues to see if one happens to be, for whatever reason, a little faster.
Some members opt out of the actual ticket-buying fray but make a faster, smaller profit just selling presale codes to others who have forgotten to get theirs in time. (Harry Styles codes went for as much as $50.) Debates over which seats and which venues are “hottest” for resale simmer and overlap, intercut with discussions of upcoming Elton John and Camila Cabello dates—could those be something?