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Is Ticketmaster the real anti-hero?

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Fans who were invited to join a presale complained they missed out on tickets, even though scalpers are already offering to re-sell tickets online.
Is Ticketmaster the real anti-hero?

Ticketmaster has come under attack from Taylor Swift fans and even politicians after it struggled to manage “unprecedented” demand for Swift’s first live tour since 2018.

Fans who were invited to join a presale complained they missed out on tickets, even though scalpers are already offering to re-sell tickets online.

Here’s what’s happened.

Background

Taylor Swift announced 52 shows to be held across the U.S. in 2023. The live tour will be her first since 2018, and follows the release of her album ‘Midnights’.

To manage the anticipated high levels of demand, Ticketmaster used its ‘Verified Fan’ service, which required fans to register their interest in being invited to a presale process.

Ticketmaster says Verified Fan is meant to ensure tickets do not go to ticket bots aiming to re-sell tickets for a profit.

What went wrong?

The first presale on Tuesday resulted in over 2 million ticket sales, breaking Ticketmaster’s record for most sales for an artist in a day.

However, many fans who had been invited to the presale missed out, in part because of issues with the Ticketmaster website, which struggled to accommodate the traffic.

Another limited presale was held on Wednesday, but a general public sale planned for Friday was cancelled.

In announcing the cancelled public sale, Ticketmaster said the demand had been “extraordinarily high” and there was “insufficient remaining ticket inventory” to meet it.

Ticketmaster said there was so much demand that Swift would need to hold 900 shows to meet it all.

However, fan frustration has focused on issues with the process. While many Verified Fans who were invited to the presale appear to have missed out, tickets have already started appearing on re-sale sites, suggesting Ticketmaster failed to adequately block bots.

The process was further complicated by the fact that Swift’s own management team, Taylor Nation, had told some fans they had been given a “boost” in the presale line.

According to the New York Times, many of those who were told they were boosted received no obvious benefit, and in some cases were not even invited to presale despite knowing non-boosted applicants who had received an invitation.

Political fallout

The process has been criticised publicly by several U.S. politicians including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on consumer rights, accused Ticketmaster of “abusing” its dominance in the U.S. ticket sales market, suggesting it was sheltered from “competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services”.

Tennessee Attorney-General Jonathan Skrmetti said he would investigate Ticketmaster for violating competition (‘antitrust’) laws.

Ticketmaster in Australia

Ticketmaster also operates in Australia, where it is one of two major ticket providers (the other is Ticketek).

According to the latest available data from 2014, Ticketek has 72% of ticket sales and Ticketmaster has 26%.

Australia has also had difficulties with ticket re-sales. In 2020, the ACCC ordered re-seller Viagogo to pay $7 million for misleading customers into believing it was an “official” seller and selling secondhand tickets at exorbitant prices.

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