Tickets — a Taylor Swift fan’s biggest desire when she announced her new Eras Tour — soon became fans’ wildest dreams when few could get ahold of the limited stock. Of the over 14 million people including bots that wanted tickets, only 2 million received them, all almost immediately. While competition was a major issue for those who wanted tickets, since fans only had a one in seven chance of getting one, the underlying system was also flawed.
Fans who wanted to purchase tickets to see Taylor Swift had a supposed three chances to do so, all through Ticketmaster. The first round of ticket sales was for those who signed up for a verified fan account months in advance. The second round was for those who had a Capital One credit card, to a brand deal between Swift & the credit card company. The final round, general ticket sales, never happened due to insufficient supply.
While the insufficient stock of tickets for general sales is linked to the enormous demand, fans who did have a chance to purchase tickets also encountered numerous issues with the site. Those who were given the chance to buy tickets were placed in long queues where they were moved from room to room among Ticketmaster’s servers, and in some cases removed from the queue altogether, forced to start over again. With a lack of available tickets, long wait times, removal from the queue in some cases and added fees on the tickets when a fan was able to purchase them, fans became angry with Ticketmaster and their operations.
However, this isn’t the first time that Ticketmaster has come under scrutiny for their practices. Before the events that occurred with Taylor Swift’s tour, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into Live Nation, Ticketmaster’s parent company. It found that Ticketmaster violated a legal agreement made in 2010 that forbade Live Nation from forcing its venues to use Ticketmaster as a way to sell tickets for events. Alongside the investigation of Ticketmaster’s practices, there has also been a recent investigation into Ticketmaster and Live Nation’s monopolistic hold on the ticket-selling market.
Much of this new antitrust investigation stems from Ticketmaster being found to account for 70% of live event ticket sales, making it by far the largest ticket-selling company in the United States. They did not always have such a large market share. A 2010 merger with LiveNation — an entertainment company that creates events at venues — led to Ticketmaster’s dominance over the industry. When the merger first happened, the DOJ allowed it to move forward pending a legal agreement that has since been violated by Live Nation.
But where should the government and its regulators go from here? While Ticketmaster claims the issues that were encountered by users during the ticket sale days were due to unforeseen demand that the website had never encountered, others, such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., pushed back against the company by writing in a letter to their CEO saying that “Ticketmaster continues to abuse its market positions.” Senator Klobuchar continued her letter by asking for a response from the company about how it has worked to not violate the legal agreement made in 2010.
And while much is still to be seen as to what federal regulators will do about the vast array of issues that Ticketmaster has, splitting the company up may become one of the best options for consumers if changes aren’t made soon. Assistant economics professor Zach Brown said that “splitting them [Ticketmaster and Live Nation] up would likely have some benefit to consumers, the benefit is probably not huge but I think that there should be more competition, it would lower the price and fees for sales.” However, Brown does caveat that doing so would be difficult since breaking up a large company like Ticketmaster is like “unscrambling an egg.”
While breaking up Ticketmaster and Live Nation may prove to be difficult, its overall results for consumers and the entire ticket sales market would be beneficial. For consumers, much of what would result would be cheaper tickets with little to no fees associated with them. While demand would not be something that could be solved by this action, the accessibility of ticket purchases through far more reliable sites would increase with competition forcing these companies to create far more reliable system.
Although major actions by the public are just now starting as a result of Swift’s tour, the results of the Eras tour have brought to light an issue that the live event ticket sales market has been dealing with for over a decade. In order for anything to come of Ticketmaster’s near monopolistic hold on the market, the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission alongside Congress must take swift action to regulate the company and eventually break it up to benefit consumers and the market alike. This all should be done before it becomes another story that we know all too well.
Tom Muha is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at email@example.com