For Taylor Swift’s fans (“Swifties”), 2022 was a year to remember.
With the release of her tenth studio album, “Midnights,” accompanied by the upcoming “The Eras” Tour (“The Tour”), the American singer-songwriter made a grand comeback to pop and was fully ready to perform the songs that her fans know all too well in person for the first time in five years.
Ticketmaster, the ticketing platform handling The Tour’s sales of tickets, designed and implemented a three-phase sales program to accommodate the foreseeable “extremely high demand” – TaylorSwiftTix Presale, Capital One Presale, and General Public Sale.
Swifties were eager and ready, only to find that it was next to impossible to secure tickets throughout this process. The ones who qualified for presales waited in a virtual queue for up to eight hours before the system crashed. Only the very fortunate few (about 2.5 million people out of 3.5 billion system requests) could purchase tickets. The rest would soon learn that the General Public Sale was cancelled due to insufficient ticket inventory, and they would have to purchase resale tickets at egregious prices on Ticketmaster’s Secondary Ticket Exchange as if it was a test of their loyalty to Swift.
The whole debacle infuriated Swift and Swifties. The songwriter-singer issued a prompt statement expressing her anger and disappointment towards the ticketing platform, “It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse,” she wrote in the statement. Her fans, by contrast, turned to the law for recourse. Up until this article, two separate lawsuits have been filed against Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, for fraud, price-fixing, and antitrust violations.
Between the two statements of claims, plaintiffs alleged that the ticketing platform committed civil fraud by overdistributing presale codes, intentionally allowing scalpers and bots to access presale codes, and continuously advertising the General Public Sale when knowing or reasonably believing the remaining tickets would not be sufficient after two phases of presales, etc.
They also alleged that Ticketmaster leveraged its dominant power in the industry to coerce major venues to recognize it as the exclusive ticketing service provider and together require the ticketholders to resell tickets only through Ticketmaster’s Secondary Ticket Exchange. It also allied with scalpers and bots to purchase tickets (that were already unreasonably priced and fluctuated arbitrarily) in the Primary Ticket Platform and resell them through the exchange program for additional service fees. Overall, Ticketmaster’s practices constituted tying arrangements, exclusive dealings, price discriminations, price fixing, group boycott, and market division schemes, violating the Cartwright Act and California Business and Professional Code and having caused substantial economic injury to the plaintiffs beyond the immediate financial loss arising from the botched presales.
The lawsuits are not the first time Ticketmaster attracted public controversy and scrutiny from authorities for its conduct. Predating this incident, the Department of Justice initiated an antitrust violation investigation on Live Nation Entertainment and found Ticketmaster’s nearly monopolistic power was predicated on its multi-year, exclusive contracts with critical stakeholders across the industry, which it would then use to threaten against smaller competitors for approaching its business partners.
Swifties have a meaty and hopeful battle against Ticketmaster, as some alleged conducts (e.g., tying the tickets sold in the primary market to the resale of tickets through its ticket exchange program), if proven to be true, are, per se, antitrust violations. After all, Taylor Swift (with her fans) has, and perhaps will again, fight for creators and consumers and revolutionize the entertainment industry.