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Kimberly Black / Gavel Media

A Ticketmaster Tragedy

On Tuesday, November 15th, millions of Taylor Swift fans anxiously refreshed their browsers, counting down the seconds before presale tickets went live. Fans knew it would be difficult to obtain a ticket—after all, this was Swift’s first tour in five years—but no one was prepared for the digital bloodbath about to ensue, least of all Ticketmaster. 

In an attempt to manage inevitable site traffic, Ticketmaster implemented a “Verified Fan'' program, in which fans who signed up would receive a code granting them access to the ticket queue. Fans were assured this would ward off scalpers and provide a smoother purchasing experience. According to Ticketmaster, over 3.5 million people signed up for the Verified Fan program, and just over 1.5 million were sent codes that could provide a better shot at securing a ticket. 

However, the demand for tickets was far greater than the initial 3.5 million, and when it came time to begin the presale, chaos ensued. A tsunami of Verified Fans, fans without codes, and bots alike flooded the site, all of whom were met with exorbitantly long waiting times and endless glitches. Ultimately unable to handle the amount of site requests, Ticketmaster crashed, leaving many “Verified Fans” heartbroken and without tickets. In an interview with CNBC, Greg Maffei, chairman of LiveNation (an event company that merged with Ticketmaster in 2010), claimed that 14 million descended on the site that fateful day: over four times the expected influx. Only two days after ticket sales opened, Ticketmaster announced its cancellation of the general public sale, as the heavy demand paired with a dwindling inventory proved too overwhelming for the site. 

Over two million tickets sold that day, more than any other artist has ever achieved in 24 hours. Swift responded to the controversy via Instagram, stating in her story that she “asked Ticketmaster multiple times if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could.” In an attempt to explain themselves, Ticketmaster also uploaded a public statement. However, fans were unsatisfied with Ticketmaster’s report, as it claimed only 15% of customers experienced issues with the site. Outraged customers charged Ticketmaster with downplaying its role in the ticket sale fiasco, and with little hope the company would face meaningful consequences for the mishandling of the Eras Tour presale, many called for a boycott of the ticket-sales giant. 

Taylor Swift fans are not alone in their resentment towards Ticketmaster. When students in the Boston area flocked to the site in hopes of snagging a coveted ticket to the Beanpot, hockey fans were met with a similar set of issues. Though on a far smaller scale, students were greeted by devastating wait times, glitches blocking them from purchasing seats, and errors galore. Similar to the disappointed Swift fans before them, many students left the site ticketless. However, without the pressure of 14 million customers, why was Ticketmaster still not equipped to provide a smooth experience to its loyal customers? The continued excuse of excessive demand left many wondering why Ticketmaster has such an outsized control over tickets in the first place.

Ticketmaster’s continued failures has drawn the ire not only of aggrieved customers, but of politicians too, many of whom have spoken out over the company's control over the ticket-sale sphere. Figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that the company's merger with LiveNation effectively created a monopoly in the music industry, and she called for the breakup of the two companies. Though Ticketmaster continues to claim its outsized power is due to its reputation as an efficient and effective entity, promoters and figures in the event sphere argue that is not the case. One promoter alleged that “Ticketmaster’s exclusive deals with the vast majority of venues on the Eras tour required us to ticket through their system,” denying that the company’s success is entirely merit based. Following the uproar, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the site, examining whether or not Ticketmaster was guilty of using its power to eliminate competitors from the market. 

Whether or not Ticketmaster will actually face substantial repercussions remains largely up in the air. In the meantime, fans are left with very few options: boycott, file a class action lawsuit, or continue purchasing from Ticketmaster despite its terrible customer service. 

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