Taylor Swift ticket debacle renews calls to split up Ticketmaster and Live Nation

Swift fans can't 'Shake It Off' as some tour tickets soar to more than $22,000.

November 17, 2022, 5:06 PM

Ticketmaster is pulling the plug on the general-public ticket sale for Taylor Swift's "Eras" tour that was set to take place Friday, Nov. 18.

The company tweeted Thursday: "Due to extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand, tomorrow's public on-sale for Taylor Swift's 'The Eras Tour' has been cancelled." It remains unclear whether the general sale will be rescheduled.

The announcement comes after backlash from Swift fans who experienced long waits and "error" messages when trying to purchase tickets during a "verified fan" pre-ticket sale Nov. 15.

Samantha Miller said she knew scoring tickets for Taylor Swift's 2023 "Eras" tour for her 13-year-old daughter wouldn't be easy, but she said her experience with Ticketmaster left her stressed, angry and empty-handed.

"The whole thing was like a bad joke," Miller told ABC News. The New York City mom said she made sure to register her daughter's name, email address and contact number a week before pre-sale tickets were available, so Ticketmaster could vet her "Swiftie" (as the popstar's fans are called) and confirm she was a "verified fan" and not a third-party ticket reseller.

Despite having a special code from Ticketmaster to access tickets, Miller was stuck waiting in an online queue for four hours before seeing the below message pop up on her computer screen:

"We're sorry! Something went wrong on our end and we need to start over. Broken things are a drag -- our team is on it so it doesn't happen again."

PHOTO: In this May 11, 2009, file photo, Ticketmaster tickets and gift cards are shown at a box office in San Jose, Calif.
In this May 11, 2009, file photo, Ticketmaster tickets and gift cards are shown at a box office in San Jose, Calif.
Paul Sakuma/AP. FILE

At the same time, tickets that were selling for between $49 and $449 each, were already being listed on resale sites like StubHub for as much as $22,700 per ticket. West Coast fans had to wait an extra three hours as Ticketmaster delayed those sales to help ease traffic on its site.

Despite the glitches, Ticketmaster says it sold 2 million tickets for Swift's first stadium concert tour in five years -- the most tickets ever sold for an artist in a single day. Unfortunately for Miller, she wasn't one of the lucky ones. She had to eventually abandon her efforts to "get back to my day job" and said she feels "guilty" about not being able to secure the tickets for her daughter.

Similar scenarios played out for thousands of disappointed Swift fans, renewing calls from activists and lawmakers to split up Ticketmaster and the concert promoter Live Nation, which merged in 2010.

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti told reporters during a news conference on Wednesday that he is looking into whether consumer protection laws were violated after Ticketmaster botched the rollout of Taylor Swift tickets.

"We have received complaints about the sale process, and we have previously looked into antitrust allegations involving Ticketmaster and Live Nation. We want to make sure that there are no issues here that merit legal response," Skrmetti said, according to a transcript of the news conference obtained by ABC News.

Consumer advocates say the Taylor Swift ticket debacle underscores the pitfalls of consolidation in the ticketing industry. The combined company, which controls 70% of primary ticketing and live event venues, has been accused of abusing its market power by hiking up ticket prices and adding on arbitrary fees.

House Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Ticketmaster a monopoly and said the merger with Live Nation should never have been allowed. "They need to be reigned in… Break them up," she tweeted.

Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal tweeted that Swift's tour sale is "a perfect example of how the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger harms consumers by creating a near-monopoly."

PHOTO: In this Sept. 20, 2022, file photo, Taylor Swift performs onstage during NSAI 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards in Nashville, Tenn.
In this Sept. 20, 2022, file photo, Taylor Swift performs onstage during NSAI 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards in Nashville, Tenn.
Terry Wyatt/Getty Images, FILE

Congressman David Cicilline, D-R.I., added his voice to the chorus, calling the excessive wait times and fees "a symptom of a larger problem" at "an unchecked monopoly."

Politicians are not the only ones targeting Ticketmaster. A consortium of organizations, including the American Economic Liberties Project and Sports Fans Coalition are lobbying to end the company's hold on the ticketing industry with their Break Up Ticketmaster campaign.

In a statement to ABC News, Ticketmaster said, "Even when a high demand on sale goes flawlessly from a tech perspective, many fans are left empty handed. For example: based on the volume of traffic to our site, Taylor would need to perform over 900 stadium shows (almost 20x the number of shows she is doing)…that's a stadium show every single night for the next 2.5 years. While it's impossible for everyone to get tickets to these shows, we know we can do more to improve the experience and that's what we're focused on." Ticketmaster added that, "Every ticket was sold to a buyer with a Verified Fan code."

On Oct. 26, President Joe Biden criticized companies adding on "junk fees" along with other "hidden fees" that banks and hotels charges, The Associated Press reported.

In a follow-up tweet Nov. 3, Biden said of the fees, "They're unfair, deceptive, and add up. That's why, last week, I called on my Administration to crack down on these fees and put that money back in your pocket."

The pandemic wreaked havoc on the live music industry as concerts and festivals were canceled and companies were forced to handle hoards of refunds. As a result, Live Nation's revenue for the second quarter of 2020 was down 98% from the previous year.

Since then, the industry has roared back as fans flock to live entertainment again, and concert tickets prices have jumped nearly 20% from pre-pandemic levels.

ABC News' Luke Barr contributed to this report.

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