Staff Writer: Kamryn Kobel
Ticketmaster has received extreme backlash resulting from the botched sale of tickets for Taylor Swift’s newest stadium tour. The process of Swift’s tour ticket sales has prompted the Department of Justice’s antitrust division to investigate Ticketmaster and LiveNation for monopolizing the ticket sale industry.
On November 1st, Taylor Swift announced that she would be going on tour in 2023. Her Instagram post announcing The Eras Tour has over 5 million likes.
The initial announcement of the tour included twenty-seven dates across twenty cities. Along with the tour announcement came an opportunity for fans to get presale codes that would boost their chances of getting a ticket.
When the tour was announced, Swift’s PR account, @taylornation, posted this information on the presale: “Sign up for TaylorSwiftTix Powered by Verified Fan between now and Nov 9 at 11:59 EST for a chance to receive presale access.”
To get the presale code, fans had to wait in a queue on the Ticketmaster website. If they made it to the end of the queue, their account was entered in a raffle.
Waiting in this queue did not ensure that fans would get a code. Fans would find out if they got a presale code the night before the presale went live on Ticketmaster.
Fans who reached the end of the queue received this email from Ticketmaster, informing fans that their codes would be sent “the evening of Monday, November 14th” and that the “presale starts Tuesday, November 15th.”
On November 4th, Swift announced eight additional tour dates before the presale code raffle began. A third night was added at Gillette Stadium, as well as Tampa, Nashville, Los Angeles, and other major cities.
Then, on November 11th, Swift announced seventeen more shows. Since the addition of these shows occurred after fans could sign up for a presale, perhaps Swift’s team decided to add these dates in order to combat the extreme demand for presale codes.
Before the tickets went on sale on November 15th, Swift had announced fifty-two shows in twenty-one cities.
On the morning of the 15th, the presale opened. Many fans report getting kicked out of the website, experiencing multiple crashes, and being placed at the end of the queue repeatedly. In addition to the Ticketmaster website being unusable, fans reported waiting in the queue for hours on end.
At 10:54 on the morning of the 15th, 54 minutes after the presale became accessible to fans, the Ticketmaster tech support account tweeted this: “We are aware fans may be experiencing intermittent issues with the site and are urgently working to resolve.”
Then, at 1:05 that afternoon, the official Ticketmaster account tweeted this:
Ticketmaster claimed that there was a “historically unprecedented demand with millions showing up to buy tickets for the TaylorSwiftTix Presale.”
However, Ticketmaster was the one who gave out the codes to fans. The number of fans buying tickets during the presale should have been expected due to the fact that Ticketmaster was responsible for handing out the codes and knew how many accounts received them.
This tweet also addressed another opportunity for obtaining tickets: the Capital One cardholder presale. This sale allowed people who have a Capital One card to buy tickets using their cards.
However, even though this sale was postponed after the Verified Fan presale, it was an even bigger debacle.
Before entering the queue, the user was not asked to authorize their possession of a Capital One card. There were also no captcha or anti-bot precautions when entering the queue, which potentially allowed robots and scalpers into the system. The influx of accounts led the Ticketmaster site to crash for hours on end.
Many fans did not make it to the end of the queue before receiving a notification that read: “There are no presale inventory remaining from TaylorSwiftTix Presale or Capital One Exclusive Cardholder Presale.”
This notification was sent out only two hours after the sale opened, and after the site was frozen or crashed for the majority of that time.
The next day, November 17th, Ticketmaster announced that the general sale would not occur due to all of the tickets being sold out.
All of the available tickets had been sold during the presale, which were only available to fans who either received a code or have a Capital One credit card. If fans did not have access to either of those things, they had no opportunity to buy tickets.
Fans were outraged. In combination with the difficulty of using Ticketmaster’s website and the hours of waiting time, fans became enraged at the fact that tickets to the tour had already begun to appear on Stubhub, a ticket resale website.
Ticket prices on Stubhub were on sale for thousands more than they had been on Ticketmaster. Floor tickets are currently selling for up to $4,500 at Foxborough Stadium.
Ticketmaster was in complete control of how many fans received presale codes and who was able to enter the queue, but scalpers and bots were still able to infiltrate the sale and take tickets from real fans until there was none left for the general sale.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for an investigation into Ticketmaster and its parent company, LiveNation.
She said that “It’s affecting our culture if regular people can’t even see a live show for a major act in person anymore, and this just becomes a domain for the wealthy.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal tweeted this on November 15th: “Taylor Swift’s tour sale is a perfect example of how the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger harms consumers by creating a near-monopoly. I’ve long urged DOJ to investigate the state of competition in the ticketing industry.”
The New York Times reports that the Department of Justice is set to investigate LiveNation, but spokespersons from the DOJ have declined to comment.
LiveNation’s largest shareholder, Greg Maffei, says that LiveNation is “sympathetic” to the situation and the blame lies in the “massive demand that Taylor Swift has,” in a video by CNBC.
He says that “the site was supposed to be opened up for 1.5 million verified Taylor Swift fans – we had 14 million people hit the site, including bots.” According to him, the company sold over 2 million tickets.
The blame for the botched presale was placed on Taylor Swift and the fans themselves rather than Ticketmaster or LiveNation.
On November 18th, Taylor Swift sent out a statement regarding the ticket sales via her Instagram story.
She says that “I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could.”
Whether this is an issue with Taylor Swift’s demand or a LiveNation monopoly, the process of buying and selling music tickets needs to change.
Read our article about the Livenation-Ticketmaster monopoly here to learn more.
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