As I sat in my room during my third mod off, watching the time slowly inch towards 10 AM, I was ready to buy my Tayor Swift Eras Tour concert tickets. However, after 2,000+ people in front of me suddenly stopped moving as soon as I entered the queue, I realized this would take much longer than a 50-minute mod.
I, like millions of others across the United States, attempted to buy tickets to Taylor Swift’s next tour on November 15. However, most of us experienced many issues with Ticketmaster, the platform used to sell tickets. Before the sale, fans were required to become verified by expressing interest in the concert on Ticketmaster. Then, only a portion of people who signed up would become “verified fans” and have access to the presale by gaining an access code. This was in hopes of limiting bots and resellers from taking tickets. I was lucky enough to become a verified fan, while my two sisters attempting to go to the concert with me were waitlisted and unable to gain the special access.
On the day of the sale, many fans expressed outrage over the experience. While waiting hours in the queue, some had codes that didn’t work or lost their place in line. By the time many fans made it to the ticket sale, only VIP packages were left that were completely out of budget. After carrying my laptop around campus and to all of my classes, I personally waited in the queue for five hours before getting three tickets, but my experience was still relatively lucky compared to many others. As estimated by Bookie, there was a 5% chance of getting tickets with a presale code and a 2% chance of getting tickets during the Capital One sale where fans could use their Capital One credit card before the general public. On Twitter and other online forums, many joked that it is actually easier to get into Harvard University than buy Taylor Swift tickets, as the prestigious university has an acceptance rate of 5%.
The many fans without a presale code and Capital One cards were hoping to purchase tickets during the general sale on November 18. However, on November 17, Ticketmaster canceled the sale citing “insufficient ticket inventory” to meet “extraordinarily high demands.” In a statement, Ticketmaster said it had anticipated heavy demand for tickets, but it was even greater than they had predicted. A record 3.5 million people registered as verified fans. The plan was to invite 1.5 million of those to participate in the sale for all 52 show dates, including the 47 sold by Ticketmaster, with the other 2 million placed on a waiting list. But, this plan, Ticketmaster said, was undermined by attacks by “bots”—automated software requests—as well as demand from those who had not registered beforehand.
“The staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes drove unprecedented traffic on our site, resulting in 3.5 billion total system requests—4x our previous peak,” Ticketmaster said.
“Even when a high demand on sale goes flawlessly from a tech perspective, many fans are left empty-handed,” Ticketmaster said in a statement. “For example: 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. While it’s impossible for everyone to get tickets to these shows, we know we can do more to improve the experience and that’s what we’re focused on.”
Swift posted on Instagram expressing her anger over the mess, saying it was “excruciating” for her to watch “mistakes happen with no recourse.”
“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,” she 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. 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.”
After the fiasco the ticket-buying caused, Ticketmaster gained the attention of lawmakers. A Senate committee on antitrust regulations will hold a hearing to examine the lack of competition in the ticketing industry. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who will lead the hearing with Senator Mike Lee, said in a statement that the competition problem became “painfully obvious” after Ticketmaster’s website failed fans trying to buy concert tickets.
“The high fees, site disruptions, and cancellations that customers experienced shows how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company does not face any pressure to continually innovate and improve,” Klobuchar said. “When there is no competition to incentivize better services and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences.”
In addition to Klobuchar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, tweeted that Ticketmaster was a monopoly and should be broken up.