The US ticketing business caught the attention of members of Congress last week following a debacle surrounding Taylor Swift’s The Era’s tour presale.
On Tuesday (November 15), Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster’s site crashed during the ‘Verified Fan’ ticket sale for Swift’s AEG-promoted tour, with the event leading to calls, including from US lawmakers, for Live Nation and Ticketmaster to be broken up.
Writing in a social media post on Friday (November 18), Swift expressed how “excruciating” it was for her “to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse.”
Without naming Ticketmaster, Swift said: “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.”
Added Swift: “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’s statement came on the same day that the general sale for her tour was canceled by Ticketmaster, after demand far exceeded supply during the presale for her ‘Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour’ via Ticketmaster’s ‘Verified Fan’ ticket sales system.
In a blog post published last week, which was originally deleted, and then republished with updated figures and a written apology to Swift and her fans, Ticketmaster defended its Verified Fan system, saying it is “designed to help manage high demand shows – identifying real humans and weeding out bots.”
In its updated statement, Ticketmaster apologized to Swift and her fans, “especially those who had a terrible experience trying to purchase tickets,” and went on to provide statistics detailing the strong demand for tickets to see Taylor Swift.
The platform noted that over 3.5 million people pre-registered for Taylor Swift tickets, which it says is “the largest registration in history.”
Ticketmaster then sent out codes to 1.5 million people to join the onsale for all 52 show dates, including the 47 sold by Ticketmaster.
“The remaining 2 million Verified Fans were placed on a waiting list on the small chance that tickets might still be available after those who received codes had shopped,” it said.
Ultimately, 2.4 million tickets have been sold for the Eras tour across onsales for Verified Fans and Capital One cardholders, on both Ticketmaster and SeatGeek, Ticketmaster’s new blog post added.
“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,” Swift said.
“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.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on Friday that the US Justice Department is investigating whether Live Nation has abused its dominant position in the multibillion-dollar live music industry.
The newspaper, which cited two people with knowledge of the matter, said members of the Justice Department’s antitrust division have contacted music venues and players in the ticket market in recent months, asking about Live Nation’s practices.
Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010. The deal was investigated and subsequently approved, by The DOJ, with a few conditions.
Live Nation on Saturday (November 19) published a statement, in which said it, “takes its responsibilities under the antitrust laws seriously and does not engage in behaviors that could justify antitrust litigation.”
“The Department of Justice itself recognized the competitive nature of the concert promotion business at the time of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger. That dynamic has not changed,” it added.
David Balto, the former policy director of the Federal Trade Commission and a public interest antitrust lawyer, told Business Insider on Thursday that “breaking up this merger will be a major priority for the antitrust division.”
In its statement stressing its adherence to antitrust laws, Live Nation also defended Ticketmaster’s ticketing system, saying it is “the most transparent and fan-friendly” in the US.
“Ticketmaster does not set or control ticket prices, strongly advocates for all-in pricing so that fans are not surprised by what tickets really cost, and is the undisputed market leader in ticket security and fighting bots,” Live Nation says.
On concerns about Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s dominant market position, Live Nation said it is because of the “large gap” between the quality of Ticketmaster’s system and the next best primary ticketing system.
“Secondary ticketing is extremely competitive, with Ticketmaster competing with StubHub, SeatGeek, Vivid and many others. No serious argument can be made that Ticketmaster has the kind of market position in secondary ticketing that supports antitrust claims,” says Live Nation.
You can read Live Nation’s statement in full below:
A STATEMENT FROM LIVE NATION ENTERTAINMENT
As we have stated many times in the past, Live Nation takes its responsibilities under the antitrust laws seriously and does not engage in behaviors that could justify antitrust litigation, let alone orders that would require it to alter fundamental business practices.
The concert promotion business is highly competitive, with artist management in control of selecting their promoting team. The demand for live entertainment continues to grow, and there are more promoters than ever working with artists to help them connect with fans through live shows. The Department of Justice itself recognized the competitive nature of the concert promotion business at the time of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger. That dynamic has not changed.
Ticketmaster has a significant share of the primary ticketing services market because of the large gap that exists between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the next best primary ticketing system. The market is increasingly competitive nonetheless, with rivals making aggressive offers to venues. That Ticketmaster continues to be the leader in such an environment is a testament to the platform and those who operate it, not to any anticompetitive business practices. 5 years ago tickets were paper, now you scan in with your phone, and can transfer tickets to your friend with one tap. We innovate and invest in our technology more than any other ticketing company, and we will continue to do so.
Secondary ticketing is extremely competitive, with Ticketmaster competing with StubHub, SeatGeek, Vivid and many others. No serious argument can be made that Ticketmaster has the kind of market position in secondary ticketing that supports antitrust claims.
For the past 12 years Live Nation has operated under a Consent Decree that among other things seeks to prevent anticompetitive leveraging of Live Nation promoted content to advantage Ticketmaster. Pursuant to the Amended Decree voluntarily entered in 2020, Live Nation’s compliance is monitored by a former federal judge. There never has been and is not now any evidence of systemic violations of the Consent Decree. It remains against Live Nation policy to threaten venues that they won’t get Live Nation shows if they do not use Ticketmaster, and Live Nation does not re-route content as retaliation for a lost ticketing deal.
Ticketmaster is also the most transparent and fan-friendly ticketing system in the United States. Ticketmaster does not set or control ticket prices, strongly advocates for all-in pricing so that fans are not surprised by what tickets really cost, and is the undisputed market leader in ticket security and fighting bots. Ticketmaster also does not embrace deceptive and questionable secondary ticketing practices prevalent on rival sites such as speculative ticketing.
We are proud of the work we do across both concerts and ticketing, and will continue working to improve and support the live events industry.Music Business Worldwide