ECONOMY

Taylor Swift ticket sales cancelled after Ticketmaster overwhelmed


Ticketmaster cancelled a ticket sale for Taylor Swift’s forthcoming tour after its website was overwhelmed by massive demand, causing fury among fans and renewing criticism over the company’s stranglehold over the concert business.

The world’s largest ticketing site, which is owned by concert giant Live Nation, said a sale that had been scheduled for Friday was cancelled because of “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand”.

Trying to score tickets to Swift’s Eras tour, which is planned to start in March, has become a quixotic goal for many people, infuriating fans who were left unable to buy tickets during an early sale event on Tuesday.

It has become increasingly difficult to buy tickets to popular concerts, at least in part because of the rise of “bots” — automated software used to harvest tickets in bulk, so they can be resold online at vastly inflated prices on sites such as StubHub.

US politicians such as Amy Klobuchar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have framed the problem as an antitrust issue. Live Nation bought Ticketmaster in 2010, a deal that combined the biggest concert promoter with the dominant ticketing site, raising concerns about its monopolistic power over the live music business.

Ticketmaster four years ago created a system to tackle this problem through a programme aimed at weeding out real people from bots. But even that “Verified Fan” technology buckled this week as fans were left in hours-long virtual queues and many were unable to buy tickets at all.

Ticketmaster blamed the problem on demand and a “staggering amount of bot attacks”, which led to long queues, passcode errors and disappointed fans.

About 3.5mn people had registered ahead of time for Swift’s “Verified Fan” programme, and Ticketmaster sent codes to 1.5mn of them to buy tickets early on Tuesday, before the wider public sale on Friday. More than 2mn tickets were sold during Tuesday’s sale, according to Ticketmaster.

“The biggest venues and artists turn to us because we have the leading ticketing technology in the world — that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and clearly for Taylor’s on sale it wasn’t,” the company said.

However, it also blamed the problems in part on the level of demand for Swift’s tour. “Based on the volume of traffic to our site, Taylor would need to perform over 900 stadium shows (almost 20x the number of shows she is doing) . . . that’s a stadium show every single night for the next 2.5 years,” the company estimated.

Ticketmaster has come under increased scrutiny in recent years after fans have been left outraged by instantly sold-out events or sky-high prices for artist tours such as Blink-182 and Bruce Springsteen.

US regulators had initially approved the 2010 Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger under certain conditions — specifically, that Live Nation would not force concert venues to use Ticketmaster. But ticket prices continued to climb after the merger, and companies have complained Live Nation was using its clout to make venues use Ticketmaster for their events.

The US Department of Justice in 2019 said Live Nation had violated these rules “repeatedly” and said the company would have to pay a $1mn penalty for every future violation.

Swift fans spoke out on social media over this week’s disastrous sale, with some calling for users to “destroy” Ticketmaster.

Tennessee’s attorney-general, Jonathan Skrmetti, said he was launching an investigation into Ticketmaster, while Klobuchar, a senator from Minnesota, said: “Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services . . . that can result in the types of dramatic service failures we saw this week, where consumers are the ones that pay the price.”

On Thursday, tickets to Swift’s Eras tour dates in New York were listed on StubHub for between $580 and $28,000 each.





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