Ticketmaster has one job—selling tickets to music fans. Yet it couldn’t handle Taylor Swift fans’ demand for her concert yesterday (Nov. 15).
Shortly after the pre-sales for the singers’ 2023 Eras tour began for “verified fans,” users were experiencing long queues that were paused when more than 2,000 were in line, and getting their codes rejected. Instead of tickets, they were getting messages saying the site is experiencing “technical glitches.”
To access pre-sale tickets, fans had to register with their names, email addresses, and contact numbers last week. Ticketmaster vetted, selected, and sent codes to those who earned access. The process wasn’t clear, but people who have worked on tours suggest ticketing companies running these programs mine their own sales records, along with publicly available data such as social-media history, to verify would-be buyers’ identities, as the Wall Street Journal reported. But all the preparedness didn’t hold up as waves of fans logged on.
The California-based ticket sales and distribution company took to Twitter to say it was witnessing “historically unprecedented demand.” The issues led to Ticketmaster pushing West Coast sales from 10am PT to 3pm PT. It also moved the Capital One presale to the next afternoon.
The public falling apart of Ticketmaster’s site has sparked debate around the perils of consolidation in the ticketing industry. Particularly one that happened 13 years ago—live events company LiveNation bought Ticketmaster in 2010.
“Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, its merger with LiveNation should never have been approved and they need to be reigned in. Break them up.” New York House democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in the middle of the Swifties chaos.
AOC isn’t the only politician criticizing Ticketmaster.
In a tongue-in-cheek move, the White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain took the opportunity to boast about the government’s student loan forgiveness portal handling 8 million visitors in 30 hours without crashing. Others, like AOC, aired concerns about the ticketing company’s David grip on the industry.
Congressman Bill Pascrell and David Cicilline called out the company, with the latter saying the excessive wait times and fees are “a symptom of a larger problem” at “an unchecked monopoly.” The two are among four politicians who wrote to the Biden administration in April 2021 to reevaluate the decade old merger which gave LiveNation a “near monopoly of the primary sales of tickets,” accounting for 70% or more.
There’s also a consortium of organizations, including American Economic Liberties Project, Sports Fans Coalition, Fight Corporate Monopolies, More Perfect Union, Fan Freedom, the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumers League, and the Artist Rights Alliance, who’re actively lobbying to end the company’s massive hold on the ticketing industry with their Break Up Ticketmaster campaign.
After Live Nation reported earnings were up nearly 50% compared to their previous most profitable year in 2019, the coalition said it’s built “an empire off of scamming consumers with bogus service fees, squeezing artists out of their hard-earned revenue, gatekeeping independent venue owners from the market if they don’t agree to Live Nation’s terms, and other restrictive practices,” in a Nov. 4 statement. “To build a vibrant, competitive live events market, the Department of Justice should listen to the thousands of fans, artists, and advocates that are urging them to break up this uncontrollable middleman.”
The group has managed to get 15,000 letters sent to the Department of Justice to separate the two entities.
“The one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing. Several newspapers are reporting on this story right now. If you, like us, oppose that idea, you should make it known to your representatives.” —Bruce Springsteen in a letter to fans in 2009
In the rush, one fan bought tickets worth $1,500 from Ticketfaster instead, becoming the victim of a scam.
5: Years in which Taylor Swift hasn’t toured. Also, the number of albums she’s released during that time, including a re-recording of her 2012 album “Red”
52: Days Swift’s Eras tour will last. It starts in March in Arizona and ends in August in Los Angeles
“Hundreds of thousands”: Tickets Ticketmaster managed to sell amid all the snags
$22,700: Eras tour tickets already listed for sale on sites like StubHub at exorbitant prices
2.8 million: tickets Eras tour is expected to sell, according to Bookies.com
46: Swift’s Grammy nominations
11: Swift’s Grammy wins
3: Grammy “Album of the year” wins under Swift’s belt, making her the only woman to achieve the feat. Among male artists, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Sinatra have won as many
10: Swift scored all the top spots in Billboard’s Hot 100 when her latest album Midnights release, making history
1.58 million: copies Midnights sold across formats in its first week
228 million: Swift broke the record for streams in 24 hours when Midnights dropped