Taylor Swift Finally Makes the U.S. Government Go After Ticketmaster

Maybe concertgoers need an antihero to take on the ticket giant.

Tickets were supposed to officially go on sale this month for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. It, uh, didn’t go so well. 

The 52-date tour will be Swift’s first outing since 2018 and bring her across America’s finest stadiums during the spring and summer of 2023. In the last four years, the singer-songwriter has released four albums, including this year’s “Midnights,” and recorded and rereleased two others due to an ongoing dispute for her former label. 

Swift is one of the most popular artists on the planet; thanks to streaming, ten songs from “Midnights” entered the Billboard Top Ten chart upon the album’s release. 

Demand for the tour is at an all-time high and, to help fight scalpers and their bots, Ticketmaster  (LYV) – Get Free Report has a Pre-Verified system that it claims is supposed to help get tickets into the hands of actual fans.

But when the pre-sale for verified fans began, Swifties were met with long wait times in the Ticketmaster queue. The website also reportedly crashed several times. 

The company said in a statement that “historically unprecedented demand” resulted in “intermittent issues” that it was “urgently” working to fix.

Many fans were left frustrated over not getting tickets that immediately started showing up on second-hand resale markets like StubHub, which is owned by eBay  (EBAY) – Get Free Report. One ticket for a floor seat at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium went for $21,600. Ticket prices originally started at $49 for general admission with VIP packages starting at $199.

The internet shook with the rage and tears of scorned Swifties, who brought their finest memes to excoriate the company. 

Swift later entered the chat, saying in a statement that “there are a multitude of reasons why people had such a hard time trying to get tickets and I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward.”

“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,” Swift continued in an Instagram story. “It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them felt like they went through several bear attacks to get them.”

Ticketmaster responded by pointing to the unprecedented level of demand for the tour, noting in a statement that “historically, we’ve been able to manage huge volume coming into the site to shop for tickets.”

“However, this time the staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have codes drove unprecedented traffic on our site, resulting in 3.5 billion total system requests — 4x our previous peak,” Ticketmaster continued.

Following the blowback, Ticketmaster called off the official on-sale for Taylor Swift’s tour. But this issue hasn’t gone away, and it seems like the public pressure to do something about Ticketmaster may be reaching a new level.

Ticketmaster’s Problems May Just Be Getting Worse

Following the blowback, several prominent lawmakers such as California representative Katie Porter, Rhode Island representative David N. Cicilline and New Jersey representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. called for an investigation into Ticketmaster and Live Nation, which controls roughly 70% of the live music and ticketing markets

New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that the 2009 merger between Ticketmaster and LiveNation should never have been approved, and needs to be broken up.

Ocasio-Cortez expanded on this in an interview with Rolling Stone, saying that LiveNation has become an unfettered monopoly that controls the music industry, and that the situation “reveals the lack of actual competition and [getting rid of those deals] is something to explore. It would be a really big deal to have this merger unwound.”

“From promotion to ticket sales to venue accommodations and merchandise, all of these things from start to finish are under one entity, and it makes it very difficult for either artists or even the market itself to introduce choice,” she added. “One thing that I hope would happen is that each one of those entities could even pursue their own arrangement. But having it all under one roof hits the entire supply chain of live music.”

In the interview, Ocasio-Cortez calls for the Department of Justice to investigate the company to “reveal how grave the abuse of market share and power is, and how it’s played a role in the prices that everyday consumers are seeing.” 

The Justice Department’s antitrust division is reportedly eyeing an investigation. The New York Times reports that it has “contacted music venues and players in the ticket market, asking about Live Nation’s practices and the wider dynamics of the industry.”

Ticketmaster no doubt hopes this issue goes away, but instead, it seems its public relations headache is only getting worse.

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Congress To Hold Ticketmaster Hearings 

America is in a fairly divided cultural moment but anger over high ticket prices, service fees, and reports that the company reserves tickets for its own resale service is the one thing that often manages to unite Democrats and Republicans. 

The topic was explored earlier this year on “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.”

In October, senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have announced a U.S. Senate antitrust panel will hold a hearing on the lack of competition in the concert industry.

The hearing date and witnesses will be announced at a later date. Tennessee’s Attorney General has also announced an antitrust investigation.

“Last week, the competition problem in ticketing markets was made painfully obvious when Ticketmaster’s website failed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to purchase concert tickets,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “The high fees, site disruptions and cancellations that customers experienced shows how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company does not face any pressure to continually innovate and improve.”

In response to the rumors of the DOJ investigation, Live Nation released a new statement saying that “Live Nation takes its responsibilities under the antitrust laws seriously and does not engage in behaviors that could justify antitrust litigation, let alone orders that would require it to alter fundamental business practices.”

“There never has been and is not now any evidence of systemic violations of the Consent Decree,” LiveNation claims. “It remains against Live Nation policy to threaten venues that they won’t get Live Nation shows if they do not use Ticketmaster, and Live Nation does not re-route content as retaliation for a lost ticketing deal,” the company added. 

Are enraged Swifties going to finish the job that Pearl Jam started in the 90’s when they boycotted Ticketmaster and filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice?

It’s entirely too soon to say. But as much as Ticketmaster would like to shake off this debacle, it appears as though numerous groups have bad blood with the company while the ticket company may have learned, all too well, never anger a Taylor Swift fan again.

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