They Sell VIP Access to Stars Like Gaga -- But Can't Always Deliver - Rolling Stone
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This Company Charges Thousands for VIP Access to the Stars. They Just Can't Promise You'll Get It.

Confirmed360 clients have paid big for the chance to meet everyone from Taylor Swift to Shawn Mendes, U2, and more — but interviews, legal filings, and a trail of other records suggest the L.A.-based concierge company often doesn't deliver

It’s been years, and Lillian Whayne is still pissed off. In the summer of 2017, Whayne, 55, decided to go all-out planning a trip for her friends to the 2018 Coachella music festival. Through a company called Confirmed360, which supplies VIP experiences to superfans and high-income clientele, the Kentucky-based construction-industry heiress ordered six “artist-level” festival passes — the kind that get you backstage — to the tune of $6,500 apiece. She dropped an additional $30,000 with Confirmed360 to get the group a three-night stay at a grand desert château near the event’s Indio, California, grounds, which, she says, was supposed to be stocked with a smorgasbord of food and alcohol and even come with a private driver. 

But when her friends arrived after a trip in Whayne’s private plane, the kitchen was basically empty. “I think there was a bag of rice, some potatoes, and a case of Bud Light,” Whayne says. “And no transportation. [My friends] were supposed to be Cadillac’d around. C’mon, now! Roll out the goddamn red carpet.” 

Next, Whayne says, a Confirmed360 employee dropped off six lower-level event passes that didn’t provide the backstage access they were expecting. On one day of the festival, two of the passes were actually rejected for being inactive. Whayne squabbled with Confirmed360 to get that snafu fixed, but by then her friends’ trip had already been soured. When she was told about Confirmed360’s firm no-refund policy, that was the last straw: She slapped them with a legal complaint — and got a settlement. 

“I think they thought they could get away with it because we all look like a bunch of rednecks,” says Whayne, calling from her favorite Louisville bar, where an elderly regular just spilled a beer on her. With her wild, uncombed hair — dyed fuchsia during the pandemic — and go-to wardrobe of oversized denim button-downs, it’s true she doesn’t seem like your average pearl-clutching, Southern-belle multimillionaire. But while she and her friends might not be “big-hatted Kentucky Derby rockstars,” she says, “we know how to use the right goddamn fork, you know what I mean?”

That is, Lillian Whayne knows exactly what VIP treatment entails, and she knows she didn’t get it from Confirmed360. If she did anything wrong in the whole debacle, Whayne concedes, it may have been spending all that money without doing any research or really thinking about it at all — the way regular people might order a new coffeemaker on Amazon. “I’m gullible,” she admits.

Whayne isn’t the first person to sue and settle with Confirmed360, a small, events-focused business based in Los Angeles. And she’s certainly not the first rich person to overpay on promises in the world of concierge companies, which often cater to the whims and desires of the uber-wealthy. These boutique outfits started popping up like worms under new grass in the Nineties, when the internet allowed for the role of an integral hotel employee to morph into an online business model. Entertainment- and music-specific offshoots followed in the early aughts, and soon, the industry mushroomed: Even Live Nation, the biggest concert promoter in the world, launched its own concierge arm, VIP Nation, in 2011. 

While plenty of these businesses operate ethically, the VIP-experience space is poorly regulated. There’s no designated consumer watchdog, and there are plenty of gray areas for bad actors to use to their advantage. (Remember Fyre Fest? That disaster came courtesy of a concierge company called NYC VIP Access.) And when the victims are people who can afford to blow $30,000 to meet a pop star for three minutes, sympathy might not come easily.

Confirmed360 certainly seems unafraid to make big promises with hit-or-miss payoff for its customers. Founded in 2011 by 35-year-old Matt Ampolsky, a New Jersey native who started his first concierge business while still a student at the University of Arizona, it’s grown into an outfit of around 25 employees shopping meet-and-greets with musicians, athletes, and actors, as well as behind-the-scenes access to TV-show tapings and Broadway shows. “From this moment on, your wildest dreams will always be confirmed,” crows the company’s website. “Our clients have the opportunity to book exclusive experiences and live these moments like true VIPs. […] We are the direct source for your favorite entertainment events, and for those exclusive experiences that you didn’t even know existed.” 

Lady Gaga and Shawn Mendes are two artists who’ve been promoted on Confirmed360’s website.

Kevin Mazur/Park MGM/Getty Images

But a yearlong investigation by Rolling Stone suggests that Confirmed360 is far from a direct source to the stars. Often, it appears, stars aren’t knowingly providing access to fans via Confirmed360, let alone doing one-to-one deals with the company. “Confirmed360 uses any relationship it can to gain access to the thing that they’re trying to sell,” one former employee tells Rolling Stone. “I’ve seen them use every tactic possible.”

Confirmed360 does at times work directly with artists’ teams. But on one recent occasion involving Lady Gaga’s “Jazz & Piano” show in Las Vegas, things turned south when Gaga’s representatives “became aware of allegations that Confirmed360 was treating customers in a manner that was inconsistent with her team’s values and business practices,” a spokesperson for Lady Gaga says. The source confirms that her team did indeed partner with Confirmed360 for a string of her Vegas shows, and that onstage, drum-side tickets were priced at $7,000 a pop. However, they say Confirmed360 was only allowed to charge a 10-percent markup. Per the agreement, if significant demand led to what’s called “dynamic pricing,” Confirmed360 could go higher than 10 percent, provided it reported the markup to Gaga’s reps so the star could be properly compensated. But the source says that when Gaga’s team caught wind earlier this year that Confirmed360 had priced packages above 10 percent without reporting the inflation, they “terminated the relationship.” (Recently, an unidentified source emailed Rolling Stone screenshots of what appears to be a Confirmed360 internal record, packed with information surrounding Gaga’s tour dates. The columns of data are labeled as showing transaction totals, price of items sold, and Confirmed360’s profit. In one entry, it appears that Confirmed360 paid $14,000 for a package at Gaga’s Oct. 28 show, which included two VIP tickets and tables on the drum side of the stage. Total charge to the client: $24,000 — a 71 percent markup.) 

Without addressing the Lady Gaga Las Vegas show specifically, Ampolsky insisted in a statement to Rolling Stone that his business tactics and relationships with artists are unimpeachable: “Over the past decade Confirmed360 has delivered more than 100,000 unique and unforgettable live sports, music, and entertainment experiences for our clients while simultaneously being a trusted partner and providing a valuable source of income for countless acclaimed artists, athletes, teams and organizations around the world.”

But according to allegations in court documents, information in other records, and interviews with 17 different associates of Confirmed360 — from former employees to current and former clients, artists’ teams, and industry players — plus communication with numerous other entertainment-world contacts, it appears that Confirmed360 has engaged in questionable practices for years, while remaining relatively unscathed.

When Robert Barnhart arrived at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for a 2018 Taylor Swift concert, he was riding high. The 65-year-old filmmaker had plunked down $20,000 with Confirmed360 for two seats within the first 15 rows, plus meet-and-greet access. It had been his mission for years to meet Swift, and the moment was finally in his reach. “Taylor shows [are] enthusiastic,” Barnhart says. “I get excited. I’m a grown man, and Taylor Swift would make me cry sometimes.”

Barnhart had been introduced to Swift’s music through his daughter, bringing her to a concert when she was 10. Though she soon lost interest in Swift, he became an ever bigger fan over the years, “touched and moved” by the singer’s poetic lyricism. He not only admired Swift’s talents as a songwriter; as a cancer survivor whose mother had also died of the disease when he was young, he felt a bond with Swift when her own mother was struggling with the same illness. He produced a documentary about the effects of psilocybin on late-stage cancer patients, which he wanted to share with Swift “in case it might help her mother deal with issues of human mortality,” he says. 

The first time Barnhart had used Confirmed360, to take his daughter to meet John Mayer during the singer-songwriter’s 2017 tour, the meetup had gone exactly as planned. So he had no reason to believe things would be any different this time around. But on the day of the show, things got weird quickly, as he tells it. Two people affiliated with Confirmed360 met him near the venue, and “we had this huge walk around the Rose Bowl,” Barnhart recalls. “We’re walking and hurrying; we’re walking fast. And then we get there, and there’s no [VIP check-in] table like there was at John Mayer.” One of the women walked him over to a “curtained area,” where she showed an attendant Barnhart’s pass. “He goes, ‘No, you can’t come in here!’” Barnhart says. “So then she walks me to my seat and shows me where the security gate is to get backstage. She says, ‘At such-and-such time, go over there.’” The woman added that “something was going on with Taylor” and she “may or may not be seeing people,” according to Barnhart. “We can’t really promise anything, but you should be able to get through.” (Barnhart does not recall being told upon purchasing the tickets that Confirmed360 couldn’t make any promises.)

Before the show started, both women disappeared, leaving Barnhart by himself. At the designated time, he headed to the security gate, joining a group of people who were already lined up. “I show my pass, and [the guard] goes, ‘You can’t come in,’” he recalls. “I tried to talk to him and he was just like, ‘No! No way. You don’t have clearance.’ I went back and sat in my seat. I was sad, depressed, and shocked.”

Barnhart’s invoice shows that he paid around $6,000 for his tickets and VIP credentials, but another $14,000 was specifically set aside for the meet-and-greet. Barnhart would go on to buy other experiences from Confirmed360, but even when they worked out, he says, something felt off: “When they would get me great tickets, I don’t know how much of a markup they may have been putting on them. At some point, I realized that oftentimes I could get great tickets through Ticketmaster for much cheaper than what I would get from 360.”

One loophole that gives Confirmed360 cover is its terms of service, linked in the fine print at the bottom of its website landing page. Tucked into the disclaimers there, the company states in all caps that it “makes no warranty that … the services, content, or experiences will meet your requirements or will be available on an uninterrupted, secure, or error-free basis.” The verbiage is prefaced with a warning that visitors automatically agree to this raw deal simply by “accessing” the website. Furthermore, the terms outline, Confirmed360 passes the buck on fulfillment to “the supplier,” who “is responsible for honoring the purchase of any experience.” 

In the case of Lillian Whayne’s Coachella fiasco, that would in theory have put festival organizer Goldenvoice, which generates authorized wristbands, on the hook. But what if the “supplier” has no idea their goods are going to third-party customers? Representatives from Goldenvoice declined to comment for this story, but pointed to the Coachella website, which states that all wristbands are non-transferable, and any wristbands “obtained from unauthorized sources […] are worthless.” An ex-employee claims that Confirmed360 had more than a dozen clients at Coachella the year Whayne’s friends attended, and, citing issues with inactive wristbands and customer complaints, calls the company’s handling of the event “an absolute shit show.” (Ampolsky declined to comment on the 2018 Coachella festival.)

Confirmed360 CEO Matt Ampolsky during a company meeting.

According to nine former employees of Confirmed360, who all asked to remain anonymous to protect their privacy and professional reputations, or out of fear of harassment, the company regularly sold tickets and passes that weren’t obtained in an authorized manner, at least up until the pandemic. It would also sell experiences it didn’t yet have access to and might not be able to secure, they say. “Sometimes the packages were real, and sometimes, they would sell it and then figure out how to get it,” says one ex-employee. “If somebody [pays for] front-row tickets, or tickets in the first five rows, and [the company is] not purchasing them right away, [that’s] kind of playing with somebody’s money.”

If Confirmed360 ultimately couldn’t deliver, the company would often trumpet their no-refund policy, as they did with Whayne, and push the client to accept a sort of “store credit” instead, five ex-employees tell Rolling Stone. “Are you freaking kidding me?” says one ex-employee. “You have to tell these people that their 30 grand has to be used at another time? That feels terrible.” The source adds, with regret, that they were part of this type of scenario “all the time.”

If being a Confirmed360 client is a mixed bag, working there could be a minefield. Former employees paint a picture of a frat-like culture that revolved around the moods and morals of Matt Ampolsky. Depending on the day in the company’s Santa Monica offices — at one point, a reconfigured one-bedroom apartment with no locks on the bathroom door — the CEO might address a group of employees with his hand down his pants, visibly rubbing his crotch, according to five people who used to work there and confirmed via a photograph reviewed by Rolling Stone. He admitted in legal filings to, on one occasion, squirting sauce on a female employee’s face and telling other employees the sauce was semen. The environment, according to another ex-employee, was “mentally draining and abusive.” 

Confirmed360 tends to hire young people who are just starting their careers, dangling big commissions and celebrity-adjacent responsibilities that make them feel influential. One former employee, who says they had to go to therapy to deal with their past experiences at Confirmed360, including their complicity in its business practices, explains that Ampolsky’s elevator pitch made them “feel great” at first. Then, they “started making better money than I ever thought was possible,” and stayed well past the point where they began having conflicted feelings. “I’m ashamed that I didn’t walk away when I saw something wrong being done.” 

Not that Ampolsky makes it easy to leave — especially when someone has gone on to work for or set up a competitor. In response, he has threatened to harm their livelihoods. Ampolsky denies such behavior, but Rolling Stone has reviewed a screenshot of one public Instagram post, since taken down, in which Ampolsky called out six former employees, using their social media handles or full names, for leaving the company. In part, the post reads: “Future employers here is my personal reference… *DO NOT* hire or invest in these people!” In one case, Ampolsky also pursued legal action against someone who resigned.

Confirmed360 sued an ex-employee named Lee Barkalow in 2019 after terminating his employment, alleging in a legal complaint that Barkalow had misappropriated trade secrets, encouraged employees to do deals outside the company, and “maliciously and fraudulently accessed Confirmed’s systems” in order to alter or destroy the company’s customer lists and other trade secrets. Barkalow’s goal, according to the complaint, was to divert Confirmed360 clients to his own business. Barkalow denied the allegations, and countered that Ampolsky tried to hack his private accounts and personal email, destroyed Barkalow’s trade-secrets, failed to pay him outstanding wages and commissions, and sent Barkalow’s wife texts and emails suggesting Barkalow had committed embezzlement and adultery. No one comes out looking great in the mudslinging suit; in 2020, both Confirmed360 and Barkalow agreed to drop their claims.

Early in 2020, another ex-employee, Danielle Granados, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Confirmed360 and Ampolsky. Granados, who worked at Confirmed360 for just shy of six months, accused the company of “publicly humiliating female employees, including by suggesting that they had sexually transmitted diseases, paying female employees money to humiliate themselves in front of their co-workers, making offensive and derogatory comments about the appearance of females, including company clients who were paying thousands of dollars for the Company’s services, and vaping (smoking e-cigarettes) in the Company’s offices without regard for the health of the Company’s employees.” Much of this conduct, Granados alleged in the complaint, was perpetrated by Ampolsky.

Granados also claimed that when, in October 2019, she told Amposky that she was pregnant, he responded: “Oh. Now I get why you were constantly asking me to stop vaping.” She was terminated a month later, an action she says she believes was “substantially motivated” by her disclosure. (After a legal dance, Confirmed360 and Ampolsky succeeded in striking three other allegations from Granados’ complaint, and the parties settled in October 2020.)

One ex-employee, who says they have been threatened with legal action by Confirmed360, sums up their time at the company as the “​​worst working environment and experience I’ve ever had.” Referring to the generous commissions account representatives earned, this source claims, “[Ampolsky] controlled everyone with money and would threaten you to lose that money any time you brought up concerns with the environment or your desire to to do things differently.”

Ampolsky’s hardball tactics weren’t reserved just for his own employees. In a 2019 cease-and-desist letter from Live Nation obtained by Rolling Stone, a representative from the company’s legal department writes to a “Mr. Ampolsky,” informing him that Ampolsky’s text messages to an employee at a LiveNation affiliate, SLO VIP, had been forwarded for review: “Please be advised that Live Nation finds your recent text messages to SLO VIP Coordinators to be harassing and inappropriate and must cease immediately.” The letter cites texts from July 2019 wherein Ampolsky “verbally abused an SLO employee by harassing and threatening her for not allowing [his] client to check-in on behalf of [him] for purchases [he] made, which is clearly a violation of the terms and conditions of the VIP Packages.” (Those terms and conditions state that “package elements are non-transferable,” according to the letter, and that “the original package purchaser and all members of your party must be in attendance at the time of check-in and enter the venue together.”)

While some of Confirmed360’s tactics may also violate consumer protection laws, others simply skirt the line of above-board arbitrage. Scalping rules, for example, vary across different ticketing platforms and venues; often, though, the ability to resell is limited, and bulk buying is not allowed. However, Ampolsky would routinely instruct workers to “come in early to do mass buys,” even when the platforms from which Confirmed360 was buying tickets explicitly prohibited resale, according to one ex-employee, whose claim is backed up by several others. “So, if Shawn Mendes was announcing a tour,” the source explains, “he’d have everyone come in at 7 a.m. on different computers — well, some people would stay at their houses, because you can’t have too many computers with the same IP address bulk-buying tickets. But he would just resell them and mark up the price on his website by a lot.” (Another former employee tells Rolling Stone that Confirmed360 also took steps to bounce IP addresses. Ampolsky did not comment on this claim.)

Buying and reselling product at a significantly higher price tag is one thing; hawking a product you don’t have, or aren’t supposed to have, is a whole different beast. Some of the VIP experiences Confirmed360 sold were allegedly of the latter sort. Multiple ex-employee sources claim Confirmed360 would obtain friends-and-family passes for shows like The Voice and SNL, and sell them to Confirmed360 clients. (A spokesperson for Saturday Night Live tells Rolling Stone that the show has “never partnered with Confirmed360 in any way.” A rep for The Voice echoes that statement and adds that they are unaware of any allegations of passes being sold.) Even when Confirmed360 obtained such passes through legitimate means, they couldn’t necessarily deliver the VIP access promised.

In 2017, the Daily Beast wrote a story about a Confirmed360 client named Charles Evans, who sued Confirmed360 over a $32,400 VIP-experience package — which included tickets to tapings of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and SNL, as well as backstage access to the Broadway sensation Hamilton — that he claimed fell far short of what was promised. (The case apparently settled, and Evans declined to comment for this story.) A ticket scalper named Don Shano took note of the story and tweeted that Ampolsky’s “bogus tickets” were hurting the reputation of the legitimate ticket-resale market. The article itself was later removed without explanation — but the tweet remains, despite Ampolsky’s efforts to get Shano to delete it. According to screenshots that Shano shared on Twitter, Ampolsky messaged Shano, “I am asking what I need to do to have you delete the tweet. it doesn’t effect [sic] you in anyway […] make an offer.” Shano messaged Ampolsky back that he should defend himself if he had been wronged, before publicly tweeting, “[Scalpers] get enough heat in the press. Matt Ampolsky’s response was to bribe me to erase facts. That says a lot about Matt.” Shano tells Rolling Stone that Ampolsky has since blocked him.

Confirmed360 clients Robert Barnhart, left, and Lillian Whayne both say they’ve felt duped by the company.

Courtesy of Robert Barnhart, Courtesy of Lillian Whayne.

Rolling Stone found no shortage of tales from people who’ve felt wronged by Confirmed360. In May 2019, Frederic Jouhet, a French entrepreneur who lives in Michigan, paid for an experience at a Shawn Mendes concert at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena. For $1,715 per person, he was supposed to get four seats in the first 10 rows, meet-and-greet and buffet access, and the ability to take individual photos with Mendes. Close to the Aug. 5 date of the concert, Jouhet remembers thinking, “Why don’t I have those tickets?” When he inquired, he says, he was told he’d receive them the morning of the show.

Less than an hour before the event’s start time, Jouhet was still empty-handed. That’s when — despite Ampolsky’s insistence to Rolling Stone that Jouhet did not procure tickets via Confirmed360 — he found himself in a text exchange with Ampolsky. The Frenchman believes Ampolsky was “scrambling to find” the tickets Jouhet had paid for months in advance — a sentiment that’s reflected in the texts, which were reviewed by Rolling Stone. Jouhet didn’t receive the tickets until after he’d already finagled his way into the venue without Confirmed360’s help, he says, and when he finally did, the seats were not in the first 10 rows. 

Jouhet, a CEO of multiple medical companies, says he believes the Confirmed360 business model is doomed to fail — especially when the company runs into a rich person with a less relaxed attitude toward being taken for a ride. “When I need something, it happens. I don’t care if I’ve paid $2,000 more than I would’ve paid if I [went through someone else],” Jouhet says. But a company that “cannot deliver” or “provides an experience that’s really shit […] to not a French-born kid but a Russian-born kid? Good luck with that,” he quips.

Another client, an attorney named Damian Waldman, sued Confirmed360 in 2019 for allegedly undelivered promises related to a U2 concert in late 2017. Waldman and his wife claimed in their complaint that they were “coerced and induced by Defendant to purchase tickets to attend a Meet & Greet with U2, the rock band, for a total of $20,000.00,” but there was “zero ‘Meeting’ and/or ‘Greeting’ at the event.” The Waldmans did participate in a group photo, which Rolling Stone has reviewed, with lead singer Bono and guitarist the Edge — alongside roughly 75 other fans, including radio-contest winners who’d gained access to the event for free, according to the Waldmans’ complaint. But, the couple alleged in their suit, they did not “get within ten yards of the band members who were in attendance, let alone take an individual, personal picture with the band members as promised.”

In conversation, Waldman describes Ampolsky as a “really nice” guy who claimed to have fired the employee who messed up. David J. Miller, a lawyer for Waldman, confirmed via email that the parties settled, and, referencing some U2 lyrics, added: “Although we can’t really discuss much outside of the four corners of the initial pleading, it is safe to say that, although it is a Beautiful Day, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

People within the VIP industry say they have been burned too. Megan Gross, who specializes in selling VIP experiences at another concierge company, which was called IfOnly before it was acquired by MasterCard, worries about the effect certain Confirmed360 practices will have on the business as a whole. IfOnly worked directly with talent, as well as philanthropic organizations. When Confirmed360 started snatching up their inventory and reselling it — against IfOnly’s terms and conditions — it “created havoc,” Gross says. Not only did IfOnly have to eat thousands of dollars in refunds when it couldn’t fulfill promises made by Confirmed360, Gross believes that IfOnly’s good standing in the marketplace was damaged. “It was a terrible experience for both the customer and the talent,” Gross says, pointing to one “massive, brand-name artist” who she claims became “furious” about Confirmed360 having marked up package prices without the charity’s permission. She adds, “It jeopardized our relationship in working with that artist.”

Rolling Stone got a hold of one executive who works on a famous artist’s team and has dealt with Confirmed360 clients appearing at their philanthropic meet-and-greets on multiple occasions. “We’re not doing these meet-and-greets so Matt can make a profit,” says the source, who asked to remain anonymous. “[They] are to raise money for charitable causes. As you can imagine, with all these shows, there are processes in place that have to be followed. We have to have the person’s name who is attending, we have to do a background check, and that person has to have a valid ID to gain access to the meet-and-greet.” The source tells Rolling Stone that all too often they had to refuse entry to pass-holders because Confirmed360 hadn’t provided clients’ names in time for the artist’s team to complete background checks.

The executive tells Rolling Stone that people would sometimes show up and try to use Ampolsky’s name, saying that he green-lit a transfer — even though such transfers were not allowed. “And then Matt would phone either me or our VIP rep screaming and yelling,” the source says. “My big problem with him is that he doesn’t implement things properly. It’s no skin off his back; he’s getting the money, but he’s ruining these peoples’ experiences.”

With concerts returning after a long pause, Confirmed360 is still advertising musical packages. At press time, the company’s Instagram page features posts for upcoming shows by Chris Stapleton, the Eagles, Ozzy Osbourne, and The Kid Laroi. It’s big names like these that keep customers coming back to Confirmed360 — even some who say they were once wronged. Lisa Carline, for example, paid Confirmed360 $35,000 for tickets to the 2019 U.S. Open and a meet-and-greet with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki that never happened. Still, she turned around weeks later to buy a VIP package to see Elton John in New York. (In the past, Carline had good experiences with Confirmed360, including Cher tickets that she says worked “perfectly.”) The company charged her $11,330 for two VIP tickets and another $6,180 for cocktail-party access, but John ended up postponing his show — indefinitely, at the time — due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Going toe-to-toe with a Confirmed360 representative in a thread of Better Business Bureau complaints that reads like its own he-said-she-said tennis match, Carline stated that she wants “never to do business with them again.”

And then there’s Robert Barnhart. In December 2019, just prior to the pandemic, he says a representative of Confirmed360 persuaded him to fly from California to New York for the 2019 Jingle Ball, Z100’s annual radio show at Madison Square Garden, to finally fulfill his dream of meeting Taylor Swift. He bought his ticket to the show on his own, via StubHub, for approximately $2,000. Confirmed360, he says, then charged him about $30,000 for VIP access to the backstage area. “They really pumped it up,” he says. 

According to Barnhart, Confirmed360 promised him an all-access pass and the ability to “hang out backstage.” While they couldn’t guarantee that Swift would be doing a proper meet-and-greet, they said he would be “essentially” the “personal guest” of Confirmed360’s “contact,” who is “very high at iHeart,” according to text messages reviewed by Rolling Stone. (iHeartMedia is Z100’s parent company.) The text continues: “She also personally knows Taylor and should Taylor walk by she will introduce you. But it would have to happen naturally and no promises! Also, she can put you in other official meet and greets (Jonas Brother, Halsey, or anyone else) while you are back there.”

Instead, Barnhart says, the iHeart executive came and got him from the main floor, escorted him backstage, and walked him from one end to the other for about 15 minutes or so before taking him back to the general-admission area. He says he asked if she had an all-access pass for him, and she allegedly replied, “No, there’s no pass. We can’t just let people come back here and walk around on their own.” 

“That one really miffed me a lot,” he says. “You know, I’m competent in life. I make mistakes, and sometimes I’m forgetful and I’ve got my shortcomings, but what happened in New York …” His voice trails off. “I walked out of MSG and back to my hotel, through the rain, by myself. It was almost devastating. It was one of the worst concert experiences I’ve ever had.” Barnhart says Confirmed360 said they’d “make it up to [him],” but the pandemic soon arrived and he never got any money back — nor did he try to retrieve it.

Throughout all this, what Barnhart didn’t know was that Swift never charges fans for meeting her. In 2018, around the time of the Fyre Fest scandal, that so-called concierge company, NYC VIP Access, emailed concert attendees with offers to buy backstage passes and opportunities to meet multiple artists, including Swift. And Vice reported: “Swift has never sold or auctioned backstage passes, and the only way for fans to meet her is if they are plucked from the audience or contacted by Swift or her team online.”

An iHeart representative insists that the company has never worked directly with Confirmed360. iHeart, they say, sometimes donates backstage tours to charitable auctions via third-party companies, adding that it’s possible Ampolsky’s team acquired access that way but described the offering incorrectly. For his part, Ampolsky addressed customer experiences like Barnhart’s in a statement to Rolling Stone: “In the extremely rare instances when something doesn’t go exactly as planned, our number one priority is doing right by our clients. That’s why the overwhelming majority of our business comes from return customers who trust us time and time again to come through for them. And no false allegations can change that reality.”

In total, Barnhart has coughed up at least $50,000 to get close to Swift — but his memory is foggy and he admits that the amount may be even higher. He has yet to meet her, but he’s still hopeful. In a follow-up conversation months later, Barnhart told Rolling Stone that he recently bought a package through Confirmed360.

 

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