Taylor Swift fans sue Ticketmaster over tour sale debacle

<span>Photograph: Sarah Morris/FilmMagic</span>
Photograph: Sarah Morris/FilmMagic

A group of Taylor Swift fans is suing Ticketmaster over what they call the “disastrous” recent debacle to secure tickets for her 2023 Eras US tour.

In November, Ticketmaster had to cancel the public on-sale date for the tour “due to extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand”, the company said at the time.

The fans are suing the ticketing behemoth and its parent company Live Nation for “fraud, price-fixing, and antitrust violations,” alleging that “intentional deception” allowed scalpers to buy the majority of tickets.

Prior to the planned public sale, Ticketmaster put tickets on sale through its Verified Fan programme on 15 November, which is designed to root out bots and which requires prospective ticket-buyers to register ahead of time and rank their preferred cities and dates.

Ticketmaster claimed that more than 3.5 million people registered for the programme, and that it sold more than 2m tickets that day, fielding more than 3.5bn system requests – four times any previous high. The company admitted that the site was overwhelmed, attacked by a “staggering number” of bots, and fans who didn’t have invite codes, and blamed it on “historically unprecedented demand”.

Within hours of the sale, tickets were being resold on secondary seller sites for as much as $22,000 (£18,000).

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County superior court, states that “millions of fans waited up to eight hours and were unable to purchase tickets as a result of insufficient ticket releases and other issues similar to the prior presale” and accuses Ticketmaster of insufficient preparation, Pitchfork reported.

It also acknowledges Ticketmaster’s monopoly on the live music industry: “Because no other venue can hold half as many people as the stadiums and venues working through Ticketmaster, Taylor Swift and other popular musicians have no choice but to work through Ticketmaster.”

The fan group accused the company of stating that “it has taken steps to address this issue, but in reality, has taken steps to make additional profit from the scalped tickets”, and claimed that bots and scalpers were able to remove tickets from a fan’s basket without the latter being given adequate time to complete the sale.

Days after the Verified Fan sale, Swift addressed the fiasco, writing that it had been “excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse”. In a statement posted to her Instagram Stories, the 32-year-old singer said she asked Ticketmaster “multiple times if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could”.

She continued: “It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them.”

Related: Swifties know: the Ticketmaster fiasco shows America has a monopoly problem | Arwa Mahdawi

Ticketmaster responded to Swift’s comments with an apology to the pop star and her fans, “especially those who had a terrible experience trying to purchase tickets”.

Swift made her comments on the same day that the New York Times reported an antitrust investigation by the US justice department into Ticketmaster’s parent company. The investigation, which predates the Swift controversy, is looking into whether Live Nation Entertainment has abused its power in the multibillion-dollar live entertainment industry.

US senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee are leading a new subcommittee to investigate the lack of competition in ticketing markets. “Ticketmaster’s website failed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to purchase concert tickets,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

“The high fees, site disruptions, and cancellations that customers experienced shows how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company does not face any pressure to continually innovate and improve.”

Ticketmaster denied any anti-competitive practices and said it remained under a consent decree with the Department of Justice after the 2010 merger with Live Nation, adding there was no “evidence of systemic violations of the consent decree”.

“Ticketmaster has a significant share of the primary ticketing services market because of the large gap that exists between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the next best primary ticketing system,” the company said.