How the Taylor Swift Eras Tour Ticketmaster Disaster Unfolded

Ticket window at FTX Arena on November 18 in Miami, Florida.Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Eras Tour or is it a bug tour?

Last week’s online sales debacle for Taylor Swift’s first tour in five years was so frustrating that fans of a certain vintage longed for the days of waiting in person for concert tickets.

What happened:

Tour announcement

Following the release of Taylor Swift’s sensational 10th album (Midnight) in October, a schedule of US stadium concerts beginning in March 2023 was announced on November 1. International dates (including Canada) will be announced at a later date. As is customary with high-demand shows, the Ticketmaster Verified Fan program has been introduced to filter out bots (automated software applications) from ticketing queues, reducing wait times and simplifying the entire process. For major tours, a typical pre-sale for holders of a certain credit card (in this case Capital One) was on November 15-17, with general public tickets going on sale from November 18.

Outage

On November 15, millions of Swift fans flooded the Ticketmaster website, causing regular outages, dropped connections and hour-long waits. Although more than two million tickets were sold, errors in the passcode verification caused many would-be buyers to lose tickets already placed in their ‘basket’. All told, about 1.5 million pre-registered fans were unable to get tickets, which ranged in price from $49 to $449 each. The frustration was summed up by Dave Pell, who tried to get a ticket for his daughter. “I’m failing as a father,” he wrote in his popular NextDraft newsletter.

Initial response

Greg Maffei, chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of Ticketmaster and concert behemoth Live Nation (which is not promoting the Eras tour), appears to have thrown Shake it off the singer herself under the bus. “It’s a Taylor Swift feature,” he said during a Nov. 15 appearance on CNBC about the ticketing site meltdown. “We had 14 million people on the site, including bots that shouldn’t be there.” According to Maffei, the demand “could fill 900 stadiums”.

Politicians react quickly

New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter that the combination of Ticketmaster and Live Nation was a “monopoly” that should never have been approved. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota sent a letter to Live Nation Entertainment President and CEO Michael Rapino on November 17 expressing her concerns about the live music industry. “Ticketmaster’s strength in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” wrote the Democratic senator, who chairs the Senate Competition, Antitrust and Consumer Rights Subcommittee. “This can result in dramatic service failures where consumers are the ones paying the price.”

The public sale has been cancelled

17th November Ticketmaster announced that “due to exceptionally high demands on the ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet this demand”, the public ticket sale set for the following morning was cancelled. Chances are there were few, if any, seats for sale at that point. The 52 concerts sold more than 2.4 million tickets, according to Ticketmaster.

Swift replies

The singer frustrated her fans – in Swifties parlance – by not quickly dealing with the ticket fiasco. After days of silence, Swift released a statement on Instagram on November 18, saying that “just watching the mistakes happen was unbearable for me.” She went on to say that it “really pisses me off” that fans who managed to get tickets felt like they had to go through “a few bear attacks to get them”.

Ticketmaster apologizes

Also on Nov. 18, the ticketing giant took to Twitter to apologize to Taylor as well as her fans — “especially those who had a terrible experience buying tickets.” The statement was accompanied by a lengthy explanation of how its system went down. Ticketmaster said “unprecedented” traffic on its site reached 3.5 billion total system requests, four times its previous high.

Investigation initiated

Prosecutors in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Swift’s home state of Tennessee are now investigating the debacle. “Trouble, trouble, trouble,” tweeted Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, referring to Swift’s 2012 hit. I knew you were in trouble as he asked the public to file complaints with his office. In Tennessee, Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said he wants to make sure consumers have a fair chance when buying tickets; The Nevada attorney general’s office said it is investigating Ticketmaster for “alleged deceptive or unfair business practices.”


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