By Michelle Henry
Elm Staff Writer
On the edge of launching her anticipated “Eras” concert tour, singer-songwriter Taylor Swift did not anticipate the dramatic turn her upcoming concert sales would take, propelling the “Anti-Hero” singer’s persona into a world of anti-trust laws and drawn-out senate hearings.
When ticket selling powerhouse Live Nation/Ticketmaster opened its online gates to Swift’s fans on Nov. 15, they faced a battle with ticket scalpers. Some used software programs and bots to dominate procurement of the limited supply of highly prized tickets, according to Live Nation Entertainment. Ticketmaster’s online ticketing system failed, leaving Swift’s fans feeling financially and emotionally wrecked.
Fans expressed feeling tortured and let down on social media following the debacle. Swift was initially crowned with responsibility for the mishap – a situation that affected the prolific songwriter’s reputation on social media after the incident was reported.
“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 said in an Instagram post.
Fans and lawmakers criticized Ticketmaster, and the situation was eventually brought to the Senate on Jan. 24, according to AP News.
“The fact of the matter is, Live Nation/Ticketmaster is a 800-pound gorilla here. This whole concert ticket system is a mess, a monopolistic mess,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-C.T., said during the hearing.
In his testimony to the senate committee, President, and CEO of Live Nation Entertainment Joe Berchtold said, “There are problems in the ticketing industry, problems we believe can and should be addressed through legislation. Many are the direct result of industrial scale ticket scalping that goes on today.”
Berchtold cited bot traffic as a primary cause for the failure of their ticketing system, saying Live Nation/Ticketmaster had planned for the possibility of bot traffic but that the number of bots infiltrating their system was three times what the company expected. 14 million users were reported using the site at the zenith of Swift’s ticket sales.
During the senate hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-M.A., said, “We need to make sure we have competition to bring prices down.”
Klobuchar also said that Live Nation Entertainment owns many major venues in addition to their ticket sale system.
Antitrust laws, Live Nation and Ticketmaster have a past. The Jan. 25, 2010 legal decision in United States of America, et al., plaintiffs, v. Ticketmaster Entertainment, Inc., and Live Nation Entertainment, Inc., Defendants. sought to protect against monopolization of the event ticketing industry by issuing a consent decree when Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged.
The decree established in 2010 prohibits Live Nation Entertainment from threatening or retaliating against venues that do not use Live Nation/Ticketmaster services as a way of preventing anti-trust violations. During the Swift senate hearings, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, questioned whether the original 2010 consent decree was enough to prevent future violations.
The scale of technological manipulation cited during this incident calls for a revision of Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s practices and systemic protocols in providing service to consumers. Established routines and technologies become obsolete and inefficient as savvy users develop new strategies to gain advantages. Competition provides incentive and growth within industries as multiple parties work to hone their technologies, protections, and industry standards.
Swift still holds sway over millions of fans and addressed those who did not receive tickets in her Instagram statement: “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.”
Observing the number of fans using Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s services, live event ticketing sales appear to be healthy. In contrast, the effect of this incident on the industry raises major questions for consumers and legislators. No matter the outcome, one answer rings clear. Purchasing tickets to hear live music should inspire a rush of anticipation, not the realization that one has no control over their buying experience.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo caption: Fans of pop singer Taylor Swift struggled with purchasing tickets for her upcoming “Eras” Tour due to issues with Ticketmaster.