At 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, I logged into Ticketmaster from the small conference room I reserved for the sole purpose of purchasing six tickets to one of Taylor Swift’s three shows at Gillette Stadium. Gillette is her only stop in New England, and I knew competition would be fierce.
What I didn’t know is that I would be competing against Ticketmaster itself.
Weeks before that morning, when The Eras Tour was announced, Ticketmaster detailed its presale system. There would be a Verified Fan presale, where a select number of Swifties would be given codes to purchase tickets for assigned dates. Selection would be random.
This is where the problems started.
Over 3.5 million people registered for the presale. Ticketmaster says it invited 1.5 million to participate. But the online sales system presumably designed to ensure real humans had access to tickets failed its job.
According to a since-deleted blog post on Ticketmaster’s website Thursday afternoon, a large number of bot attacks — as well as fans who didn’t have presale codes — drove an unprecedented amount of traffic to the site. The demand caused the company to slow down and push back sales to stabilize its website.
As a user, that meant waiting for hours in the digital queue.
With no indication from Ticketmaster of what was going on at the time — it didn’t communicate the extent of the problem with fans until three hours after presale began on the East Coast — my laptop became a fifth appendage. I kept it open at my desk, carried it with me to an all-staff meeting, glancing down every minute to check and see if I had progressed in the queue. I almost brought it with me when I went to the bathroom. Hours went by without the loading bar moving so much as a millimeter. I felt like I was losing my mind — and checking Ticketmaster for updates offered me no respite.
Over 2 million tickets were sold, and I was lucky to snag six. Thousands of Swifties were not, and with the news that the general sale has been canceled because of a lack of remaining ticket inventory, it’s unclear what will happen to those remaining tickets.
Fans who still want to attend a show have one option: buy tickets through a reseller like StubHub, where tickets for the Gillette Stadium shows are selling for thousands of dollars — significantly higher than advertised prices.
That one company, Ticketmaster, has so much power over fan access to live music — between monopolizing the market following its 2010 merger with Live Nation, surge pricing on concerts with high demand, and tacking on fees that range anywhere from 27 to 40 percent of the sale price — seems ripe for regulation.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti opened an investigation into Ticketmaster on Thursday after his office received numerous complaints from fans trying to buy Eras Tour tickets. Skrmetti said he was concerned over a lack of competition that has led to poor experiences and higher prices for fans.
On Tuesday, members of Congress took to Twitter calling for Ticketmaster to be broken up. They’re right — and artists including Swift have a role to play. They can stop using dynamic pricing on ticket sales for their concerts — artists are the ones who decide whether this is applied to their shows — and support their fans’ calls to break up Ticketmaster.
In recounting these events to my co-workers, they told me about their days of waiting in line at a record store or going to a venue box office to secure tickets. A return to more localized ticket sales — online, even! — with better provisions to keep out scalpers could be the answer to getting tickets in the hands of fans. And an end to dynamic pricing can get tickets in the hands of more fans — not just the ones who can shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars to see their favorite artist.