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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Taylor Swift and the Ticketmaster monopoly

The ticket sale disaster for Swift’s upcoming tour is evidence that change is needed in the live entertainment industry


By CLAIRE SCHAD — cfschad@ucdavis.edu


When Taylor Swift announced her 15th studio album, “Midnights,” I was thrilled. As a lifelong Swiftie, I have loved everything that Swift has released. Her debut album “Taylor Swift” was the first CD I ever owned, and I would play it on repeat in my bedroom at the age of seven. Now, my Spotify account is loaded with every song from her 15 albums and I listen to her daily. 

So, when Swift announced her “Eras” Tour that would include songs from all of her iconic phases, I was ecstatic. I had to be there. Immediately after the announcement, I signed up for Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan Presale, which gives select fans early access to ticket sales. 

Luckily, on the morning of Nov. 14, I received the golden ticket — I had been selected for the presale and would have an opportunity to purchase tickets the next morning. 

So, the following day, I sat at my kitchen table with my laptop, wallet and phone all ready in front of me. Having read the instructions sent by Ticketmaster many, many times, I felt ready. Spoiler alert: I was not. 

I thought selecting and purchasing tickets would take me, at most, 45 minutes. I ended up spending close to four hours on Ticketmaster’s website. 

After an alarming number of error messages, website crashes and one presale being rescheduled, I was luckily able to purchase the tickets for myself and a few others. However, due to the site’s many issues, thousands of other Taylor Swift fans can’t say the same. Many more never even had the chance to purchase tickets because the public sale, set for two days later, was canceled by Ticketmaster

The site claimed that all of the presale issues were due to “historically unprecedented demand.” The high demand, however, should not have been surprising due to the popularity of Taylor Swift, whose fan base is one of the largest in the world with over 82 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone. In addition, her popularity and fame are well known and acknowledged by the music community — she has collected 11 Grammys and 43 nominations. As such, Ticketmaster should have fully been aware of the expected demand and prepared accordingly before the sale began. 

If you were one of the lucky few to make it into the presale, then you probably experienced dynamic pricing, a feature Ticketmaster utilizes that drives ticket prices up as more people view them. This causes prices to increase exponentially in the minutes after tickets are released. Due to the mass numbers of people in the “Eras” Tour presale — unless you were one of the first people to be let in — you were not going to pay face value for your ticket. Because of dynamic pricing, I ended up paying $109 plus fees for upper bowl tickets that were sold for $49 plus fees at the beginning of the presale

Ticketmaster claims that dynamic pricing helps deter bots from purchasing tickets to resell, but at what cost? Is it really fair that fans are forced to pay inflated ticket prices because a company with a net worth of over $16 billion can’t figure out a better way to limit bots? After all, Ticketmaster is able to profit off of the additional price difference on all tickets, making me doubt their motives for dynamic pricing.  

Despite their justification for this pricing system, the company released a statement saying the website received over 3.5 billion requests from users around the world on the day of the sale, many of which were bots. If Ticketmaster is going to justify dynamic pricing by claiming it gets rid of bots, it better actually do so.  

Finally, after almost four hours, when I made it to the point of checking out on Ticketmaster, I was hit with another slap in the face — the outrageous fees tacked on to each ticket. These came in the form of a service fee ($24.65 per ticket), a facility charge ($8 per ticket) and an order processing fee ($4.75 per order). For my four tickets, I paid over $130 in fees alone. 

When Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2010, the conglomerate took control of the entire live entertainment industry. Now, smaller entertainment ticketing companies have no shot at competing with Ticketmaster due to the sheer power they hold. This allows Ticketmaster and Live Nation to continue to tack on fees and raise ticket prices without worrying about the possibility of entertainers shifting their ticketing contracts elsewhere. 

Ticketmaster’s mishandling of ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour has led politicians to call for the breaking up of the Ticketmaster-Live Nation monopoly. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez tweeted that the merger “should never have been approved” and called on lawmakers to “reign in” the power of the conglomerate. 

While I am very grateful that I was able to secure tickets for Swift’s “Eras” Tour, I feel for those who never had a chance. Ticketmaster, with the continuous issues and fees, acts as a barrier to live entertainment for many. 

Live entertainment is a place where people can go to feel connected to both the entertainer and their craft. Artists, politicians and consumers must work together to make it more available to all. 


Written by: Claire Schad — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.