DOJ opens antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster after Taylor Swift sales debacle

Department of Justice opens antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster after Taylor Swift sales debacle: Probe zeroing in on whether parent company abused power over music industry

  • The DOJ has launched an antitrust investigation into the owner of Ticketmaster after its sale of Taylor Swift concert tickets devolved into utter chaos this week 
  • Pre-sale for the 32-year-old singer’s highly anticipated upcoming Eras Tour kicked off earlier this week – but it ended in disaster for many
  • Thousands of fans were unable to secure any tickets after waiting hours in a queue on Ticketmaster, only for the site to crash repeatedly during checkout
  • Afterwards, the ticket selling website sparked even more fury from Swifties when it announced that the public sale was canceled due to ‘insufficient tickets’
  • Now, Taylor has spoken out about the situation in a statement posted to Instagram, and she said she is just as ‘pissed off’ as everyone else is
  • She said she was ‘assured’ Ticketmaster could handle the demand ‘multiple times’ and called it ‘excruciating’ to ‘watch mistakes happen with no recourse’

The Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into the owner of Ticketmaster after its sale of Taylor Swift concert tickets devolved into utter chaos this week. 

The investigation will focus on whether Live Nation Entertainment abused its dominance over the multibillion dollar live music industry. 

The investigation predates even the botched launch of a presale for Swift’s upcoming tour after Ticketmaster’s system crashed and left millions of fans who had waited hours in the queue to purchase tickets with no way to access them.  

Since taking office President Biden has taken on a number of corporate mergers he says violate antitrust law. It mounted successful challenges to proposed mergers like Penguin Random House’s attempted purchase of Simon & Schuster, but lost out on others. 

The new investigation is only the latest scrutiny of Live Nation Entertainment, which is the product of a 2010 Justice Department-approved merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster. 

That merger created a mega-corporation that has dominated the ticket sales industry unlike any other. In 2019, its last year of business before the Covid-19 pandemic, Ticketmaster sold 485 million tickets at over 40,000 shows. 

Taylor Swift has blasted Ticketmaster for the mayhem surrounding her recent ticket sale, claiming that she was ‘assured’ the company could handle the high demand ‘multiple times’ and calling it ‘excruciating’ to ‘watch mistakes happen with no recourse.’

Pre-sale for the 32-year-old singer’s highly anticipated upcoming Eras Tour kicked off earlier this week – but it ended in disaster for many, who were unable to secure any tickets after waiting hours in a queue on Ticketmaster, only for the site to crash repeatedly during the checkout process.

Afterwards, the ticket selling website sparked even more fury from Swifties when it announced that the public sale, which was set to take place at 10am today, was canceled due to ‘extraordinarily high demands and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.’

Now, Taylor has spoken out about the situation in a statement posted to her Instagram Stories, and she said she is just as ‘pissed off’ as everyone else is.

‘It goes without saying that I’m extremely protective of my fans,’ she began in the lengthy post. 

Taylor Swift has blasted Ticketmaster for the mayhem surrounding her recent ticket sale, claiming that she was 'assured' the company could handle the high demand 'multiple times'

Taylor Swift has blasted Ticketmaster for the mayhem surrounding her recent ticket sale, claiming that she was ‘assured’ the company could handle the high demand ‘multiple times’

Ticketmaster canceled her public sale due to 'insufficient remaining tickets'

Ticketmaster canceled her public sale due to ‘insufficient remaining tickets’

‘We’ve been doing this for decades together and over the years, I’ve brought so many elements of my career in house.’

Taylor went on to explain – without mentioning the company by name – that she chose to use Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system because she thought it would ‘improve the quality of her fans’ experience,’ despite it being ‘really difficult’ for her to ‘trust an outside entity.’

‘I’ve done this SPECIFICALLY to improve the quality of my fans’ experience by doing it myself with my team, who care as much about my fans as I do,’ she continued.

‘It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse.’ 

The Cardigan songstress added that there were ‘multiple reasons why people had such a hard time trying to get tickets’ and that she’s currently ‘trying to figure out how the 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.’

She concluded her message with a note to those who weren’t able to get their hands on a ticket, writing, ‘All I can say is that my hope is to provide more opportunities for us all to get together and sing these songs.

‘Thank you for wanting to be there. You have no idea how much that means.’ 

After the ticket fiasco, thousands of Taylor’s fans took to social media to share their heartbreak, posting videos of themselves sobbing and begging for Taylor to step in and do something. 

Ticketmaster has blamed a ‘staggering number of bot attacks’ for causing a tidal wave of problems for Taylor Swift fans seeking to purchase tickets for her Eras Tour

The fiasco has reportedly led to an investigation from the Justice Department into whether Ticketmaster has ‘abused its power’ over the live-music industry, the New York Times reported.

‘The Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into the owner of Ticketmaster, whose sale of Taylor Swift concert tickets descended into chaos this week, said two people with knowledge of the matter,’ the outlet reported.

‘The investigation is focused on whether Live Nation Entertainment has abused its power over the multibillion-dollar live music industry.’

Ticketmaster used a system called Verified Fan for Taylor’s pre-sale, which ‘identifies real humans and weeds out bots,’ according to the site.

‘Keeping bots out of queues and avoiding overcrowding helps to make waits shorter and on sales smoother,’ it explained in a blog post addressing the Taylor ticket sale, which has now been deleted. 

‘That’s why Taylor’s touring team, AEG and The Messina Touring Group, chose to use Verified Fan for her on sales.’

Fans had to request access to buy tickets in the weeks leading up to the sale, and the ones that were selected were given a unique code that allowed them to get onto the website and purchase up to six tickets for one date during the pre-sale.

Ticketmaster explained in its post that more than 3.5 million people registered for codes, which is the ‘largest registration in history.’ 

‘Historically, around 40 per cent of invited fans actually show up and buy tickets, and most purchase an average of three tickets,’ it continued.

‘So working with the artist team, around 1.5 million people were invited to participate in the [pre-sale] for all 52 show dates.’ 

Before the pre-sale even began, many were left fuming over the fact that they didn’t get a code. But they stayed hopeful that they would get a chance to purchase tickets during the regular sale.

But when those who did receive codes logged on to try to snag tickets on Tuesday, chaos ensued. Many were stuck waiting in a ‘queue’ on the website for hours, only for tickets to be completely gone by the time they were let in.

In addition, others who did get in said Ticketmaster froze when they tried to purchase their tickets, resulting in them losing the seats.

Pre-sale tickets went on sale on Tuesday, but what Ticketmaster termed a 'historically unprecedented demand' from millions of fans saw the site crash repeatedly and the process descend into a fiasco (pictured September)

Pre-sale tickets went on sale on Tuesday, but what Ticketmaster termed a ‘historically unprecedented demand’ from millions of fans saw the site crash repeatedly and the process descend into a fiasco (pictured September)

Many shared their frustrations online, with one person writing in a scathing tweet: ‘F**k you, Ticketmaster. I was about to check out my tickets for Taylor swift and you glitched and sent me to the very back of the queue and now I’ll probably never get tickets. Thank you so much for not doing what you were literally designed to do.’ 

‘I HAD 17 PEOPLE AHEAD OF ME IN QUEUE AND TICKETMASTER BOOTED ME OUT OF QUEUE IM GONNA SCREAM I HAVE TO WAIT FOR 2000 + PEOPLE AGAIN AHHH WTF,’ added another user.

Someone else raged: ‘@taylorswift13 @Ticketmaster @TMFanSupport I did everything i was supposed to do to become a verified fan, received my code, and got in the waiting room 30 mins early. Now it is saying I’m not a verified fan. PLEASE HELP.’

‘Ticketmaster – I had Taylor Swift tickets IN my cart – I got a different error. Five times. And then I got kicked out for trying too many times? Come on,’ a different angered fan tweeted. 

People also took to TikTok. One fan, who appeared to be holding back tears, begged in a video: ‘Can somebody help me? I did the verified pre-sale code ticket for Taylor Swift and when I tried to use the code it told me that the code wasn’t linked to the sale. 

‘I did it over and over again, I went through the email and I made sure everything was right… I tried to call Ticketmaster and I can’t get through… I’m super bummed out, someone help.’ 

Afterwards, Ticketmaster blamed the ‘staggering number of bot attacks,’ as well as the ‘fans who didn’t have invite codes’ as the reason for the crashes.

‘Historically, working with Verified Fan invite codes has worked, as we’ve been able to manage the volume coming into the site to shop for tickets,’ it wrote.

‘However, this time, the staggering number of bot attacks, as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes, drove unprecedented traffic on our site, resulting in 3.5 billion total system requests – four times our previous peak.

‘Never before has a Verified Fan on sale sparked so much attention – or uninvited volume. This disrupted the predictability and reliability that is the hallmark of our Verified Fan platform.

‘Overall, we estimate about 15 per cent of interactions across the site experiences issues, and that’s 15 per cent too many.’ 

Swift accomplished the record-breaking feat of having all 10 of the Billboard Top 100 singles at once, with 10 songs from her new album Midnights

Swift accomplished the record-breaking feat of having all 10 of the Billboard Top 100 singles at once, with 10 songs from her new album Midnights

Response: The site has issued a lengthy response blaming bots and fans without invite codes for causing 'unprecedented traffic' of 3.5billion users - four times the normal amount.

Response: The site has issued a lengthy response blaming bots and fans without invite codes for causing ‘unprecedented traffic’ of 3.5billion users – four times the normal amount.

The company added that ‘despite the disruptions, Swifties powered through,’ reporting that over two million tickets were sold during the pre-sale – the most tickets ever sold for an artist in a single day.

‘Every ticket was sold to a buyer with a Verified Fan code. Nobody, not even a bot, could join a queue without being Verified,’ it insisted. ‘The two million tickets we sold only went to Verified Fans.’

While many hoped to have another chance at tickets during the public sale, their dreams were crushed when Ticketmaster announced that it had been canceled in a tweet on Thursday.

‘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,’ it wrote.

Taylor’s tour will kick off on March 17 in Glendale, Arizona, and stretch across 51 dates and 20 cities, ending in Los Angeles, California, on August 9.

After the ordeal with Taylor’s tickets, Tennessee’s attorney general Jonathan Skrmetti revealed that he was also launching an investigation into Ticketmaster.

‘There are no allegations, at this time, about any misconduct. But as the attorney general, it’s my job to ensure that the consumer protection laws and antitrust laws in Tennessee are being honored,’ he said, adding that he was concerned about a potential monopoly.

‘We’re talking about a company with an extremely dominant market share, I’ve heard it may be up to 70 per cent of the concert venue, ticket sales.

‘Anytime you have that kind of concentration of market share, there’s the risk that the lack of competition will not just drive up prices for consumers.

‘It will also reduce the quality of the product and potentially this is a situation where the quality of the product is reduced.’

Jonathan Skrmetti, Tennessee's attorney general, on Wednesday said that he was launching an investigation into Ticketmaster to ensure consumer rights were being protected

Jonathan Skrmetti, Tennessee’s attorney general, on Wednesday said that he was launching an investigation into Ticketmaster to ensure consumer rights were being protected

Fans of Swift had been vocal Tuesday about problems purchasing tickets for her The Eras Tour with a pre-sale code through Ticketmaster

Fans of Swift had been vocal Tuesday about problems purchasing tickets for her The Eras Tour with a pre-sale code through Ticketmaster 

Coming soon: Swift will kick off the American leg of her tour March 18 at Glendale, Arizona's State Farm Stadium, and will continue through an August 5 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles (pictured last week)

 Coming soon: Swift will kick off the American leg of her tour March 18 at Glendale, Arizona’s State Farm Stadium, and will continue through an August 5 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles (pictured last week)

The American ticketing industry, which the company Ticketmaster overwhelmingly dominates, has for years left concertgoers frustrated by hidden fees, soaring costs, rampant scalpers and limited tickets due to presales.

In 2010, Ticketmaster and the event promotion company behemoth Live Nation merged, which Congressman David Cicilline on Tuesday dubbed as ‘an unchecked monopoly.’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez agreed, calling for Ticketmaster to be broken up in a tweet on Tuesday.

‘Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s merger with Live Nation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in,’ she wrote. ‘Break them up.’

Senator Richard Blumenthal also slammed the company, tweeting: ‘Taylor Swift’s tour sale is a perfect example of how the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger harms consumers by creating a near-monopoly.

‘I’ve long urged DOJ to investigate the state of competition in the ticketing industry. Consumers deserve better than this anti-hero behavior.’

Ticketmaster previously responded to backlash over its high fees earlier this year, by blaming the price increase on the resale ticketing market.

‘As the resale ticketing market has grown to more than a $10 billion industry over the past few years, artists and teams have lost that revenue to resellers,’ Ticketmaster said, adding that event organizers were trying to ‘recapture that lost revenue’ via ‘market-based pricing.’

Ticketmaster claims its system give fans ‘fair and safe access’ to in-demand tickets on its FAQ page, explaining: ‘The prices are adjusted according to supply and demand, similar to how airline tickets and hotel rooms are sold.

‘The goal is to give the most passionate fans fair and safe access to the most in-demand tickets while allowing the artists and everyone involved in staging live events to price tickets closer to their fair value.’ 

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