A group of Taylor Swift fans are suing a ticket company for fraud, price fixing and antitrust violations. It’s not the first time Ticketmaster has been criticised
“Good Morning America. It’s Taylor. I wanted to tell you something that I’ve been so excited about for a really long time. I’ve been planning for ages and I finally get to tell you I’m going back on tour.”Taylor Swift on Good Morning America
They are known for being some of the most devoted fans on the planet.
“The tour is called The Eras tour and it’s a journey through all of the musical eras of my career.”Good Morning America
So when Taylor Swift announced a 52-date tour across the US, her first since 2018, Swifties – as her fans are known – were ecstatic.
Three and a half million people, that’s more than one in every 100 Americans, registered as “verified fans”. The promise? Early access to tickets.
But then it all went wrong.
“Fans of Taylor Swift hoping to score tickets to her upcoming tour have met a confusing and chaotic system, prompting outrage from fans and lawmakers alike.”PBS NewsHour
And emotions ran high.
“The Swifties went from freaking out to melting down.”PBS NewsHour
They had reason to be upset. Many people’s access codes didn’t work. Dynamic pricing meant the cost of a ticket rocketed to meet demand. The public sale, which was meant to follow the pre-sale, was cancelled.
And while ordinary fans missed out, resale sites soon advertised tickets for tens of thousands of dollars.
Ticketmaster, the company selling the seats, went on the defensive.
Here’s the chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, which owns the ticket site.
“All the Live Nation team is sympathetic for the long wait times and the fans who couldn’t get what they wanted. The reality is it’s a function of the massive demand Taylor Swift has… We could have filled 900 stadiums.”Greg Maffei on CNBC
But that did nothing to dampen the fury, not just from Taylor Swift fans, but politicians too.
“New Jersey congressman Bill Pascrell Jr described Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation as a monopoly that should be broken up. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared a similar message on social media, saying a lack of competition can drive up prices and worsen inflation.”CBS New York
Taylor Swift herself described it as excruciating “to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse”. And she’s not the first musician to have taken aim at Ticketmaster.
Back in 1994, Pearl Jam was angry about the fees charged by Ticketmaster, so the band tried to sell tickets for their tour in a different way. That dispute ended up in the US Congress.
“All the members of Pearl Jam remember what it’s like to be young and not have a lot of money. Many Pearl Jam fans are teenagers who do not have the money to pay thirty dollars or more that is often charged for tickets today.”Stone Gossard, Pearl Jam guitarist, in US Congress in 1994
But Taylor Swift is arguably an even more powerful force.
“Fans are now suing LiveNation Entertainment, Ticketmaster’s parent company, for a laundry list of anti-competitive practices, arguing that led to soaring ticket prices for Swift’s The Eras tours.”NBC News
At the start of December, a group of Swifties filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles. They say that Ticketmaster, which transacts billions of dollars of tickets each month, has a monopoly on ticket sale markets, and the Taylor Swift fans want Ticketmaster to behave differently.
It feeds into a bigger debate about whether Live Nation Entertainment should be broken up altogether.
The company was formed in 2010 from a merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation. It owns 400 venues around the world and holds tens of thousands of shows. Many major US venues have exclusive contracts with the firm.
Ticketmaster has long been in the crosshairs of politicians and musicians. Even before the Taylor Swift fiasco, the US Department of Justice had opened an antitrust investigation into its parent company.
But now that it faces the ire of Swifties, Ticketmaster may have its work cut out.
Here’s Lina Khan, chair of the federal trade commission.
Interviewer: “Your opinion of the Taylor Swift ticket debacle?”
Lina Khan: “I know. I think that one incident ended up converting more Gen Zers into anti-monopolists overnight than anything I could have done.”Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit
Perhaps that’s why Ticketmaster is trying to make amends. It’s said some fans who missed out will now have another opportunity to buy tickets.
“Ticketmaster sent out an email earlier today to those who were part of the verified fan pre-sale but who were unable to buy tickets last month. So fans will now get individual invitations to submit requests before December 23.”CBS Boston
In the battle against anti-competitive practices across the United States, Taylor Swift fans could end up being an unlikely lodestar.
But by giving an inch, Ticketmaster may survive in its current form to fight another day.
This episode was written by Xavier Greenwood and mixed by Hannah Varrall.