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Ticketmaster Issue Over Swift Tickets Gains Attention of Lawmakers

It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair. Those words from the mouth of singer-songwriter Taylor Swift in her song “Change” sum up the scramble for tickets to her The Eras Tour by her fanbase collectively known as the “Swifties.”

Swift announced the tour last November, and Ticketmaster granted presale access to more than 1.5 million people; however, nothing short of chaos ensued after the presale opened Nov. 15.

The Ticketmaster website quickly flooded, causing it to crash. As a result, Swifties experienced hours-long wait times and technical glitches. Ticketmaster called off the public sale, citing “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory.” However, Swifties can purchase tickets through resale sites such as StubHub. For example, tickets for June 9 performance at Ford Field in Detroit sell for between $518 and $99,999 each.

Several factors play a role in ticketing and ticket debacles like this one.

“In our 2018 report, we found that ticketing companies charged fees averaging 27% and 31% of the ticket’s price in the primary and secondary markets,” said Michael Clements, the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s director of financial markets and community investment. “We also found that some ticket websites did not clearly display fees or disclosed them only after users entered payment information.”

However, Evan Gallo, New York State Sen. James Skoufis’ chief of investigations and council, said transparency only goes so far. After that, there needs to be more accountability.

“One thing Ticketmaster pointed to in the latest Taylor Swift debacle, as well as with Bruce Springsteen a few months back, was the level of bot activity infiltrating and permeating their system,” Gallo said. “There are plenty of nefarious actors out there that use advanced technologies to gum up and take advantage of sales.”

However, lawmakers are holding Ticketmaster accountable.

“They refuse to turn this information over to the appropriate law enforcement entities … who could prosecute these bad actors with just a shred more information,” Gallo noted.

While lawmakers work to bring transparency to the price of tickets and fees for the future, Gallo said, “When a business essentially has very little meaningful competition, they’re at liberty to jack up fees as much as they want. They know what they’re doing by presenting a menu to their clients and suggesting they maximize revenue at every available instance.”

Speaking of maximizing revenue, dynamic pricing for platinum tickets allows ticket prices to fluctuate from minute to minute based on demand.

“It’s a disgrace,” said Gallo.

Swifties are frustrated and, in some cases, furious over the debacle. Even Swift called the situation “excruciating” in an Instagram post. As a result of the snafu, dozens of fans have filed a class-action lawsuit against Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation.