By Ariana Ceballos
On Tuesday, November 15, thousands of Taylor Swift fans went into a battle for presale tickets for her upcoming “The Eras Tour.” My social media feeds have been filled with many fans sharing their very unfortunate experiences in the queues—many waiting five hours only to be sent to the back of the virtual line, others having the page crash on them, and many with tickets in their bags, but still not being able to purchase them. Overall, the process was a mess.
This experience has caused many people to demand a change from ticket sellers, especially TicketMaster, where many of the problems occurred. In fact, lawmakers like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted a bigger issue at hand. On Tuesday morning, she tweeted: “Daily reminder that TicketMaster is a monopoly, its merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in…Break them up!”
Sarah Whitten for CNBC also brought attention to the merger, stating, “Activists have accused Ticketmaster and Live Nation of abusing their market power.” The live show industry drastically changed with the company’s merger, the seizure of the field facing “longstanding criticisms about its size and power.” Evidently, the changes have been made only to serve the corporations rather than their consumers.
Whitten included information on a coalition of activists, “Break Up Ticketmaster.” They build their arguments based on the fact that Ticketmaster now controls 70% of the primary ticketing and live event venues market. By owning most of the market, many concert-goers have no choice but to purchase their tickets on TicketMaster.
And the resale market for tickets is not much better. In a CNN article by Frank Pallotta, he details the resale price of Taylor Swift’s tickets, “… at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on May 26 are listed for as much as $21,600 each on ticket resale site StubHub…That price tag will get fans a spot on the floor in front of the stage… for just getting into the stadium — that’ll cost at least $350 on Stubhub.”
As for Live Nation’s response to the hellish experience many suffered on Tuesday, Rolling Stone reports that chairman Greg Maffei claims that his company and TicketMaster are not to blame. “The singer, he suggests, is simply too famous – in fact, she’s apparently famous enough to fill 900 stadiums on presale alone.”
Maffei’s statement goes on to say, “The site was supposed to be opened up for 1.5 million verified Taylor Swift Fans…14 million people hit the site – including bots, another story…despite all the challenges and the breakdowns, we did sell over 2 million tickets that day…We could have filled 900 stadiums.” In a way, he does address the issues with the site, but rather than providing insight on how it might potentially be improved, Maffei diverts back to profitability.
He also remarks that Live Nation does not promote the shows but their rival AEG Live and Messina Touring Group, stating, “AEG, our competitor who is the promoter for Taylor Swift, chose to use us because we are, in reality, the largest and most effective ticket seller in the world.”
Undoubtedly, so-called “rivals” to the giant have no other option but to use it because it controls most of the industry. The fact that no alternative ticket sales site exists shows that TicketMaster and Live Nation are looking to take dominance over the market. Just the plain fact that their merger as NPR reports needed “conditional approval from the U.S. Department of Justice,” proves that they would rather profit for themselves at the price of their consumers.
So, what does one really pay in attending live shows? Clearly, live shows live for an audience and the crowd loves to support their favorite artists, but the price they end up paying exceeds the overall experience.
While many artists might not create the same buzz as someone like Taylor Swift, all fans should still be given the opportunity to at least attempt to purchase tickets. TicketMaster should try to fix its issues and make the experience easier for everyone.
But as Senator Amy Klobuchar states on the matter, “Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services…can result in the types of dramatic service failures we saw this week, where consumers are the ones that pay the price.” It calls into question: are they the giant because of their merger? Or in customer satisfaction?