March 25, 2023

Taylor Swift announced in November her long awaited Eras Tour, a five-month cross-country tour with multiple musical guests. Along with this announcement, dates for pre-sale code registration were announced by Ticketmaster. More than 3.5 million fans registered for a verified fan code, according to Ticketmaster, but on the day of the pre-sale, it all came crashing down.

Ticketmaster distributed more codes than expected, and as a result its website crashed and stadiums sold out before the general sale had even begun. The situation left fans who had codes but did not receive the chance to get tickets devastated. It also left no chance for fans who relied on the general sale to get tickets.

Amelia Brenes, junior political science and Christian studies double major, was one of the fans attempting to snag tickets with a pre-sale code.

“It was the most stressful experience in my life,” Brenes said. “It felt unorganized. They sent out too many codes. When you were in the queue, it would kick you out. When it happened, Ticketmaster gave up.”

On Jan. 24, the Senate began a hearing questioning Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, after many Taylor Swift fans began to protest and sue Live Nation over the pre-sale fiasco, according to The New York Times.

A CNN article about the hearing stated that Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold said he blames the situation in part on bots. He said the website got hit with three times more traffic than it normally has. However, CNN reported that there is no evidence of bots being the problem.

“In this specific instance, the interference of the bots as described by the CEO in hearings held in Congress recently could have been an uncontrolled variable,” said Dr. Greg Bowden, professor of organizational leadership. “We have noted that the malware epidemic online has affected us all. With the increase in spam, phishing and DDOS on the various web services we have experienced recently, all online vendors are struggling with the validity and authenticity of the digital communications they receive.”

Ticketmaster is known to dominate the ticketing industry, as they are larger than other ticket companies, such as SeatGeek. CEO of SeatGeek Joe Groetzinger told Congress what he thinks about Live Nation Entertainment.

“Live Nation controls the most popular entertainers in the world, routes most of the large tours, operates the ticketing systems and even owns many of the venues,” said Groetzinger during the hearing. “This power over the entire live entertainment industry allows Live Nation to maintain its monopolistic
influence over the primary ticketing market.”

Groetzinger also said that venues are afraid to lose Live Nation’s partnership if they do not use Ticketmaster for their ticket sales. Although Groetzinger said that venues are afraid to lose such a powerful company, Berchtold said that they do not place a number of tickets and how much the tickets will be, it is up to the venues.

Dr. Kenneth Minesinger, professor of law, shared his opinion on whether Ticketmaster and Live Nation are a monopoly.

“That’s really for the courts to decide, assuming the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) determines their conduct violates the FTC Act, Sherman Act or Clayton Act,” Minesinger said.

The Federal Trade Commission Act prevents unfair methods of competition and creates rules to prevent that. The Sherman Antitrust Act outlaws monopolization and the Clayton Antitrust Act prohibits mergers to prevent the creation of a monopoly. All of these acts could be used in court against Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment.

Bowden said that Ticketmaster and Live Nation’s hold on the industry has taken the power of the music industry away from artists.

“With the development of the internet and the free distribution opportunities of digital files, performing artists have lost control of their artistic creations, and the chance to perform live concerts has been monetized to the benefit of the production and talent companies,” Bowden said.

In the end, consumers are the ones paying the price. Pre-sale code holders were not guaranteed tickets, but with such a demand for a popular artist like Swift, too many codes were
given out.

Toward the end of the hearing, no easy answers emerged about how this situation can be fixed and what to do to prevent it from happening again. However, Minesinger offered some potential
solutions.

“The performers could demand change to protect consumers, or Congress and the FTC could enact additional regulation,” Minesinger said. “I’m not sure how effective either would be and might have the unintended consequence of driving up costs.”

The hearings are still continuing with no verdict for Ticketmaster and Live Nation yet. This problem could continue in the future, with other high-demand artists and tours like Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour on sale during February. This fiasco could determine the future of ticket sales not just for companies but for consumers as well.

“This example mirrors the model of Jeff Bezos — to look at complex systems and use the power of technology to automate and create savings from an economy of scale,” Bowden said. “So it comes down to this: Are the fans more willing to lose convenience and have more sites and steps to access their favorite artists’ performances, or will convenience take the day and require regulation to ensure an equitable access experience for all? I think we are all waiting for the answer to that question.”

Casey Maldonado | CBU Banner Design by Emily McGinn

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