Bots helped drive Taylor Swift ticket fiasco, Ticketmaster’s largest shareholder says

November 18, 2022, 4:13 PM UTC
NSAI Songwriter-Artist of the Decade honoree, Taylor Swift performs onstage during NSAI 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards at Ryman Auditorium on September 20, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Taylor Swift, pictured in Sept. 2022, is touring in 2023 — but fans have struggled to secure tickets.
Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Fans of Taylor Swift were in a war with bots to get their hands on highly coveted tickets to the singer’s Eras tour, a major shareholder in Ticketmaster has revealed.  

Ticketmaster was forced to cancel its general sale of tickets for Swift’s 2023 Eras tour on Thursday, citing “extraordinarily high demand” during the pre-sales.

Pre-sales for the 52 shows began on Tuesday for “verified” fans of the popstar, but ended in chaos and frustration for countless people when some verification codes failed and thousands were left vying for tickets to each tour date.

The fan verification process saw Ticketmaster distribute unique codes to pre-registered users, with the intention of preventing tickets from falling into the hands of scalper bots that go on to resell them for hugely inflated prices.

However, in an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Greg Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media—the biggest shareholder of Live Nation, which merged with Ticketmaster in 2010—said the strategy hadn’t exactly gone to plan.

“It’s a function of Taylor Swift,” he said. “The site was supposed to open up for 1.5 million verified Taylor Swift fans. We had 14 million people hit the site, including bots, which are not supposed to be there.”

Before the general sale for the tour even began, resale tickets had appeared—with asking prices for tickets on third-party sites soaring as high as $28,000.

In the wake of the pre-sale fiasco, fans of the Grammy-winning star—known as “Swifties”—have directed their frustration at Ticketmaster, shining a light on its dominance of the concert ticketing market.

A petition calling for the Department of Justice to investigate Ticketmaster had gained 38,245 signatures as of Friday.

Lawmakers have taken fans’ anger on board, with several speaking out about what they argue is an effective monopoly held by Live Nation.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation are already under investigation by Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmett following the disastrous presale event for Swift’s tour.

“Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, its merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be [reined] in,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a tweet on Tuesday. “Break them up.”

According to activist coalition #BreakUpTicketmaster, Live Nation and Ticketmaster now control 70% of the primary ticketing and live event venues market.

“They’re hiking up ticket prices, charging rip-off junk fees, and exploiting artists, independent venues, and fans,” the organization says on its website. “The Department of Justice can reverse this merger and bring competition back to the industry.”

However, Maffei defended the merged company on Thursday, pointing to its performance and relationship with its rivals.

“Though AOC may not like every element of our business, interestingly, AEG, our competitor, who is the promoter for Taylor Swift, chose to use us because in reality, we are the largest and most effective ticket seller in the world,” he told CNBC. “Even our competitors want to come on our platform.”

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