Taylor Swift may well be spearheading a revolution in the concert ticketing world.
Earlier this week, Swift put tickets on sale for her highly anticipated new tour only to find Ticketmaster drop the ball and strand many furious Swifties.
Big names in music such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Rage Against The Machine, Garth Brooks and others have long cast a critical eye on the company after fans have voiced frustrations with the ticket-buying process. Earlier this week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fired off a blunt tweet: “Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s (sic) merger with LiveNation should never have been approved”; Sen. Amy Kloubuchar expressed similar concerns, and the Tennessee Attorney General vowed to launch an anti-trust probe in response to consumer complaints.
What’s going on with Ticketmaster?
The Department of Justice is reportedly intensifying its investigation into Ticketmaster, the ticketing giant that controls entry into a vast major of the nation’s live events, and its parent company Live Nation, which merged in 2010 to form a management and ticketing juggernaut that critics have argued is a monopoly that does a disservice to fans, artists and venue owners alike.
The Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster, according to a report in The New York Times Friday. The company is owned by Live Nation, which focused on managing talent. USA TODAY has reached out to Live Nation and the DOJ for comment.
According to the report, Justice Department lawyers have been in touch with both ticket-selling competitors and venues to inquire about Live Nation’s overall practices. When the Ticketmaster merger with Live Nation was approved in 2010, Justice Department officials stipulated that Live Nation could not leverage its power to threaten venues to use Ticketmaster for ticket sales. But in 2019, a department investigation found that the company had violated that agreement. New parameters were enforced.
Swift is not managed by Live Nation; her tours are promoted by the Messina Touring Group.
Taylor Swift speaks out: ‘We asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand’
Following a dayslong presale ticket frenzy, which saw major delays, errors and pauses in the queues to purchase tickets, Ticketmaster ultimately canceled a scheduled Friday general sale due to “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory.”
Swift delivered a strongly-worded statement via social media, assuring fans it “really pisses (her) off” that many of them went to great lengths only to be left without tickets.
“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,” Swift added. “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.”
The U.S. leg of the Eras tour is scheduled for 52 shows in 20 cities from March to August 2023.
“I and all the LiveNation team is sympathetic to all the long wait times and fans who couldn’t get what they wanted,” Live Nation Chairman Greg Maffei said in a Thursday interview with CNBC. “Reality is: It’s a function of the massive demand that Taylor Swift has. … We could have filled 900 stadiums.”
More:Ticketmaster cancels general ticket sale for Taylor Swift tour after ‘extraordinarily high demands’
Springsteen responds to fan outrage: ‘Ticket buying has gotten very confusing’
Springsteen fans also felt as though they were burned by Ticketmaster this year.
Over the summer, some floor seat tickets for the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band 2023 U.S. arena tour were going for more than $4,000 thanks to Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing system, sparking outrage.
“(T)icket buying has gotten very confusing, not just for the fans, but for the artists also,” Springsteen said in a Rolling Stone interview published Friday. “And the bottom line is that most of our tickets are totally affordable. … The ticket broker or someone is going to be taking that money. I’m going, ‘Hey, why shouldn’t that money go to the guys that are going to be up there sweating three hours a night for it?'”
He added: “You certainly don’t like to be the poster boy for high ticket prices. It’s the last thing you prefer to be. But that’s how it went.”
Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau, previously defended their pricing decisions, telling The New York Times in a statement this summer that their team “chose prices that are lower than some (other major artists) and on par with others.”
He added: “Regardless of the commentary about a modest number of tickets costing $1,000 or more, our true average ticket price has been in the mid-$200 range. I believe that in today’s environment, that is a fair price to see someone universally regarded as among the very greatest artists of his generation.”
Paul McCartney’s Got Back tour and Harry Styles’ Love on Tour also recently saw prices skyrocketing into the thousands.
More:Bruce Springsteen fans reeling from $4,000 tour tickets, but Ticketmaster says most were under $200
How dynamic ticket pricing works
Back in 2011, Ticketmaster announced it would institute a new dynamic ticket pricing system aimed at adjusting prices to shows based on consumer demand. The idea was that this approach might help keep tickets from immediately flooding resellers such as StubHub, otherwise known as the secondary market.
The implication is that the artist, who ultimately decides whether or not to apply the dynamic pricing, keeps more of that higher ticket sale price compared to when those same tickets eventually cost the same high amount on a third-party site, where the artist gets no part of that increased price.
Good in theory, not so great in practice. Dynamic pricing, the same algorithm-controlled, supply-and-demand phenomenon responsible for your Uber ride across town or plane ticket to see grandma suddenly costing more, has caused headaches such as the $4,000 ticket prices for Springsteen’s shows.
Springsteen told Rolling Stone he isn’t sure if he’ll avoid dynamic pricing in the future, but “we’ll be talking about it, of course.”
Ticketmaster said the furor over Springsteen tickets was overblown, noting that only about 12% of tickets were so-called Platinum, and thus subject to dynamic pricing. The 88% of tickets sold at face value were priced at $59.50 to $399, with an average price of $202, Ticketmaster told USA TODAY.
Springsteen tickets for $4,000? How dynamic pricing works and how you can beat the system.
‘I knew you were trouble’:The Taylor Swift ticket fiasco is a sign to fix Ticketmaster