The debacle surrounding Ticketmaster’s online sales for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour sparked outrage from fans and lawmakers alike, and they are not just upset that its website crashed during the presale period last week. The controversy has also reignited criticism from many that say Ticketmaster, which merged with Live Nation in 2010, has an unfair dominance in the ticketing and live events industry.
Here’s more on what took place and why the Department of Justice is now investigating the company.
1. Here’s What Happened
On Nov. 15, a crash in Ticketmaster’s systems prevented Taylor Swift fans who had special presale codes from buying tickets for her upcoming Eras Tour. It sparked anger from “Swifties,” as the singer’s fans are called, who waited hours to purchase only to be disappointed.
Many Swifties took to social media to say they experienced a queue of over 2,000 people, got confusing messages saying their accounts were invalid, or they were ejected from the site entirely.
In the end, 2.4 million tickets were sold during the pre-sale. However, Ticketmaster later canceled general ticket sales due to what it said was “insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand”.
Fans also shared their frustration about what they say are shady practices by Ticketmaster, such as the company’s dynamic pricing policy, which raises prices as demand for tickets rises, as well as the service charges added to each ticket. According to Yahoo News, Swift’s tour tickets were reported to be as high as $4,549.
2. How Did Ticketmaster Respond?
In a statement posted last Thursday on Twitter, Ticketmaster announced the cancellation of general sale for Swift’s tour tickets that were set to go on sale Friday. “Due to extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand, tomorrow’s public on-sale for Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour has been canceled,” the ticketing site said.
The company also issued an apology to Taylor Swift and her fans on Friday and added that the company strives to make ticket buying “as easy as possible.” The apology came after Swift spoke out and shared how the situation was “excruciating” for her to watch as it unfolded online. “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,” the singer wrote in an Instagram post on Friday afternoon. “It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them,” she said.
3. Why Are Lawmakers Calling For Action?
Many expressed outrage over the debacle and questioned whether Ticketmaster handled the Swift ticket rollout properly. The fiasco also revived criticism from those who claim that the company unfairly controls the ticketing sector. Customers and consumer advocates have long complained about the company’s high sales commissions and profits from its secondary market website, which detractors claim encourages ticket hoarding and price gouging by resellers.
New York Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation was a “monopoly” that never should have been approved. “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,” she said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota sent a letter to Live Nation Entertainment’s president and chief executive officer Michael Rapino, voicing her concerns. “Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” wrote the Democratic senator, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. “That can result in dramatic service failures, where consumers are the ones that pay the price.”
4. Why Is The Department of Justice Getting Involved?
Thirty-one House Democrats, led by U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. called on the Department of Justice to open a formal investigation of Ticketmaster in light of the Taylor Swift tour fiasco. “We write in support of American consumers, artists, and independent venues suffering from the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger. There is overwhelming evidence that the merger between the world’s largest concert promoter and the largest ticket provider strangled competition for ticketing in the live entertainment marketplace,” the members wrote to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“While the harm consumers and artists have endured for over a decade cannot be reversed, ticketing and venue competitors, fans, and local music communities would breathe a collective sigh of relief if the merger were undone. Therefore, we urge you to begin a process to review and reverse this anti-competitive merger that has harmed countless Americans,” the letter continued.
The New York Times reports that the Justice Department has now opened an antitrust investigation into the owner of Ticketmaster, focused on whether its parent company Live Nation has abused its power over the multibillion-dollar live music industry.