By Genevieve Comar

Most of you can recall the debacle that took place on Tuesday, November 15th at 10:00 AM. Those with presale tickets to the much-coveted Taylor Swift Eras Concert, her first since her Reputation Tour in 2018, eagerly logged on and entered their passcode. These individuals promptly found themselves at the end of a 2000+ person queue. After waiting for a few very tense and stressful hours, a lucky few were allowed access to the seat chart to buy tickets. An even smaller percentage of those were actually able to purchase them. For the majority (including myself), the site reloaded, and loaded, and crashed. We were kicked to the back of the queue, and when we finally gained access to tickets, our codes did not work. Throughout the whole debacle, Ticketmaster was releasing statements: they postponed the Capital One Presale to the next day, they were dealing with an “unprecedented demand” but were working on it…I couldn’t help but wonder how the demand for these tickets was “unprecedented.” This was Taylor Swift–someone who has arguably one of the largest fanbases in the world. According to Spotify, she is the female artist with the most monthly listeners and was named Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Songwriter-Artist of the Decade. Not to mention that she has come out with four (!) new albums since her last stadium tour. Of course there was a demand for her tickets. 

Ticketmaster did not help itself when it eventually announced that the general sale was canceled. There was an even greater outburst of rage and frustration and many Swifties took their frustration out on Twitter. 

Eventually, the outcry died down, but it left everyone with a lingering sense of injustice and a question: how did this happen?

Taylor Swift herself released a statement saying that she had been reassured on multiple occasions that Ticketmaster would be able to handle the demand. This left consumers certain that the blame was to be placed on Ticketmaster, and Ticketmaster alone.

The commotion caused by this event led to the opening of a Congressional committee investigating Ticketmaster and the possible monopoly it could hold over the entertainment and concert market. 

A monopoly is a large company or corporation that gains control of the vast majority of an industry–often through buying out competing businesses, merging, or shutting down competition. Ticketmaster actually did merge with another large ticketing company, Live Nation, in 2010. Now, they control over 70% of the ticket sales market. This allows them to easily set prices as high as they want. And when an artist, especially one so renowned such as Taylor Swift, agrees to sell tickets exclusively through them, it can cause a jam. With Ticketmaster being the only option to obtain tickets, fans jumped on and overwhelmed the website in minutes. The demand resulted in a far greater attempted purchase of tickets than available seats, and led to many, including myself, feeling as though they were cheated. This especially applied to Verified Fans–a system meant to curb the probability of such an overwhelming event from occurring. 

The Senate hearing was in January, and was one of the most significant enforcement of antitrust laws in decades. Some of the main takeaways include:

  1. Part of it was the bot’s fault. One of the reasons why Ticketmaster has the Verified Fan program is to curtail the ability of bots to buy up tickets for resale before a real consumer has the chance. However, it did little as the website claims it faced “three times the amount of bot traffic than we had ever experienced”, according to CNN.
  1. Venues and artists aren’t too thrilled with Ticketmaster either. One of the main themes emerging from the hearings was that Live Nation (the parent company of Ticketmaster after the merger) often forced artists and venues into a corner. Clyde Lawrence, one of the artists who testified, said that, “due to Live Nation’s control across the industry, we have practically no leverage in negotiating.” If an artist wanted to use a separate ticketing service, they would no longer have access to major venues. This is because venues are often exclusively contracted to Live Nation, and so, are unable to work with other ticketers or non-affiliated artists.  
  1. Senators are Swifties too! Many senators showed off their Swiftie skills by quoting and referencing her lyrics multiple times throughout the hearing. Listen here.

Hopefully this clears up some of the confusion!

“It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me” – Ticketmaster. 

Sources and further reading: