Breaking records is not new to Taylor Swift. Shortly after the release of her tenth studio album “Midnights,” she was shattering streaming records, becoming the first artist in history to hold the entire top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Unfortunately, when it comes to record-breaking ticket sales, the unprecedented demand for her upcoming Eras Tour has not only led to millions of frustrated fans, but possible legal trouble for infamous ticket vendor Ticketmaster.
On Nov. 1, 2022, American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift announced that she would go on a United States stadium tour, titled “The Eras Tour,” which will include multiple days at Philadelphia’s own Lincoln Financial Field. Three days later, on Nov. 4, she announced that more dates would be added to the tour due to “overwhelming demand,” and even more were added on Nov. 17. Demand was in part measured through Ticketmaster’s Presale registration, which allowed fans to register their information in hopes of being contacted with a presale code that was used on Nov. 15 to purchase tickets.
According to Ticketmaster, preferred access to the presale would be allowed for Capital One cardholders and those who had purchased tickets for Swift’s Lover Fest Tour through Verified Fan; a tour which had been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans who registered by Nov. 9 had a chance to receive a code on Nov. 14, the idea being that holders of presale codes would have earlier access to tickets. Little did anyone know, these fans would be the only ones able to purchase tickets.
According to Ticketmaster’s official apology after the incident, over 3.5 million fans pre-registered in hopes of participating in the Presale, and roughly 1.5 million were sent codes for a show date. Remaining fans were put on waiting lists, with the chance to join in the general sale later in the week. Although only 1.5 million verified fans received codes, Ticketmaster reported that 14 million fans attempted to purchase tickets when the sale opened at 10 a.m. on the 15th. This demand, combined with bot attacks, resulted in a reported 3.5 billion total system requests and a disaster.
Fans all over the country waited for hours in online queues, many not getting through the “waiting room” at all. Of those who did make it to the sale, only a lucky few were able to successfully purchase tickets. Fans encountered site crashes, code failures, and messages that, in the seconds it took to complete checkout, their selected tickets had been bought by someone else. Prices rose throughout the day, resulting in widespread confusion over pricing, specifically with fans wondering if Swift opted into “dynamic pricing.”
Alexa Viola, a freshman at Drexel, detailed her experience attempting to get tickets for Swift’s shows at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Viola, a presale code recipient, said “I was in line first for five minutes, and then I was in line for six, seven hours.”
Viola logged in early, following the instructions released by Ticketmaster, and was able to get through to the presale.
“I got in, I got two tickets, it was giving me a hassle saying that I wasn’t logged in and that my code was wrong,” she explained, “I finally got two tickets in the floor for $265 [each], I believe, went to checkout, got confirmed, everything was checking out, my screen went blank white and then refreshed, and it kicked me out and put me back into the queue with 2,000+ people in front of me.”
Viola waited in the queue, with no success: “When I finally got in seven hours later, the whole entire show was sold out. So, I didn’t get tickets.”
Metlife Stadium has a capacity of 82,500, even greater than Lincoln Financial’s capacity of 67,594, yet it sold out in a mere matter of hours. On Nov. 15, over 2 million tickets to the Eras Tour were sold. The rest of sale dates were canceled since remaining availability was low. After days of online outrage, Ticketmaster released their explanation of events, which did little to appease furious fans. The online discourse, however, has drawn attention to Ticketmaster’s possible violations of antitrust laws which prevent companies from becoming monopolies. Investigations are beginning to open up into Ticketmaster’s practices and powers, with numerous senators and general attorneys claiming to look into the issue. The New York Times has reported that the U.S. Department of Justice allegedly intends to open an antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster.
The calls for breaking up Ticketmaster’s “monopoly” can be traced back to a 2010 merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, a promotion company. According to David Creagan, an attorney at White & Williams LLP in Philadelphia who works with anti-trust law, “Under U.S. antitrust law, a monopoly can be legal or illegal, depending on how the monopoly was acquired and how it is maintained. A monopoly may violate the antitrust laws if it was acquired or is maintained by anticompetitive means, i.e., means that injure competition to the detriment of purchasers or consumers.” Mergers are a part of business, but mergers intended to take away competition can cause the danger of stifling monopolies forming, taking away the consumer’s choices and the ability for other companies to be successful.
Ticketmaster is as powerful as it is in part because of a number of exclusivity contracts with venues; which have been pointed to as evidence of a monopoly. As Creagan explained, “In this case, exclusivity contracts require concert and event venues to sell tickets only through Ticketmaster or Ticketmaster affiliates.”
Venues such as Lincoln Financial Field can sign these contracts agreeing to get access to certain opportunities in exchange for using Ticketmaster to sell tickets. These contracts bind the artists like Swift to Ticketmaster if they choose to use the venues that have made agreements.
So what would happen if the DOJ opened up an investigation into Ticketmaster?
“The DOJ would investigate the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation to determine if the merger reduced competition in the sale of tickets for music and other events,” stated Creagan, “The DOJ would look into whether the market power of Ticketmaster allowed it to set artificially high prices for tickets and/or to control the market for ticket sales and keep potential competitors out of the ticket distribution market and the market for concert promotion services.”
If Ticketmaster was found to have violated antitrust laws, the penalties could range from fines to the dissolution of the conglomerate.
As Creagan explained, “If the DOJ concluded that the merger was anticompetitive, it could try to “unwind” the merger, i.e., break Ticketmaster and Live Nation up into the two separate companies that they were before the merger. The DOJ could also assess monetary penalties against Ticketmaster/Live Nation for violating the terms of the consent decree reached with DOJ and antitrust regulators when the merger was approved.” Although many fans were left disappointed, Swift’s shows at Lincoln Financial Field on May 12, 13 and 14 have been sold out. Hopefully the fans that were able to fight their way through “The Great War” for tickets are still able to enjoy the experience in Philly as planned. As for those left behind, Swift (who has remained relatively quiet through the incident) is reportedly continuing to look into new opportunities to perform for fans.