Ticketmaster is in so much hot water over several incidents that have occurred in recent months, including one this week involving pop/country music star Taylor Swift, that it’s now under investigation by the Department of Justice and some members of Congress.
“The problems began Tuesday when Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system, which aims to weed out bots and professional scalpers from the process, began doling out access codes to fans who were interested in buying tickets to Ms. Swift’s Eras tour, scheduled to start in March,” according to The New York Times.
“According to a blog post by Ticketmaster, which was published on Thursday but deleted within hours, 3.5 million fans registered for the program. The company ‘invited’ 1.5 million of those customers to the presale by sending them codes, and the remaining two million were placed on a waiting list,” the Times reported Friday.
The 3.5 million total requests caused Ticketmaster’s app to crash, leading to some users “who were in the process of buying tickets with their codes” being “unable to complete their transactions.” This in turn provoked massive outrage.
The outrage ballooned further when Ticketmaster canceled its Friday ticket sales of Swift’s concert tickets because of the overwhelming demand:
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 cancelled.
— Ticketmaster (@Ticketmaster) November 17, 2022
Swift, for her part, responded to the frustrating hiccup by releasing a statement through Instagram Stories bemoaning Ticketmaster’s inability to handle her ticket sales.
“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,” she said.
“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. And to those who didn’t get tickets, all I can say is that my hope is to provide more opportunities for us to all get together and sing these songs. Thank you for wanting to be there. You have no idea how much that means,” Swift added.
This hiccup comes amid reports that the Department of Justice has opened an antitrust investigation into TicketMaster’s parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, over its questionable, monopolistic business habits.
“Members of the antitrust division’s staff at the Justice Department have in recent months contacted music venues and players in the ticket market, asking about Live Nation’s practices and the wider dynamics of the industry,” the Times reported, citing insider sources.
“The inquiry appears to be broad, looking at whether the company maintains a monopoly over the industry,” the Times added.
Part of the problem is Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing” scheme.
“[I]t’s a system that ultimately only serves Ticketmaster, as consumers get hit with mysterious processing fees and fluctuating prices, and artists take on continuous flack for the sales process. With little competition, musicians lack options when it comes to selling tickets to their events,” The A.V. Club notes.
They lack options precisely because of Ticketmaster’s monopoly on the market, which exists because of what happened roughly 10 years ago.
Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in.
Break them up.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 15, 2022
“It all began back in 2010 when Ticketmaster acquired events promoter LiveNation, meaning the company [could] sell [tickets] for 80 of the top 100 arenas in the US. Having such a monopoly on the [market] has seen a rise in the site’s inability to meet demand,” according to the Daily Mail.
Indeed, what occurred with Swift was no anomaly. Problems also surfaced when Ticketmaster tried to sell tickets for Harry Styles’ world tour in 2017 and when the company likewise tried to sell tickets for BTS’ tour and then later Olivia Rodrigo’s tour in 2021.
“For those who did manage to buy tickets, they have been faced with eye-watering prices thanks to the company’s dynamic pricing system,” the Daily Mail notes.
Several members of Congress have taken note of these issues, including Rep. Amy Klobuchar, who on Wednesday submitted a letter to Live Nation Entertainment president and CEO Michael Rapino demanding answers.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar sent LiveNation President and CEO Michael Rapino a letter on Wednesday, stating that she has been skeptical of the company’s merger with Ticketmaster since 2011. https://t.co/OZj1ezrOsR. pic.twitter.com/PHJnqIJxTi
— Piper Hudspeth Blackburn (@piperhudsburn) November 17, 2022
“Ticketmaster and LiveNation dominate the live entertainment supply chain with powerful positions in primary ticketing, secondary ticketing, concert promotion, artist management, tour sponsorships, and event venue operation. Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” the letter reads.
“That can result in dramatic service failures, where consumers are the ones that pay the price. I have been skeptical of the combination of these companies since you merged in 2011, when the Senate held a hearing into the merger. At that hearing, you appeared as a witness and pledged to ‘develop an easy-access, one-stop platform that can deliver … tickets.’ And you said that you were “confident this plan will work.” It appears that your confidence was misplaced,” it continued.
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