Taylor Swift: Ticketmaster tour chaos explained – what happened and why is the US Senate involved?

When Taylor Swift announced her first tour five years ago, the demand for tickets was always high.

But in the wake of reports of service failures and delays on the Ticketmaster website, the public sale was cancelled.

Ticketmaster handled ticket sales for most of the shows SwiftThe 20-city, 52-date US tour included SeatGeek, although SeatGeek sold tickets to a handful of shows in Texas and Arizona.

Many fans were disappointed. But this is more than just the story of the frustrated Swifties — now the US Senate is involved.

Here’s a look at what happened.

Midnight release

Back in August, Swift revealed details of a new album, Midnights, that tells the stories of the “13 sleepless nights” throughout her life.

The album, her tenth, was released on October 21 and immediately broke streaming records, with Spotify announcing that it had become the most streamed album in a single day – after users reported a spike in dropouts apparently due to increased demand.

Following its release, Swift, 32, became the first artist to have a top 10 slot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US, and the album and its single Anti-Hero charted at number one in the UK.

Midnights Folklore and Evermore, Swift’s forays into indie and folk followed just five months apart in 2020 as the world was in various lockdowns during the pandemic.

After not touring since 2018, it seemed inevitable that an announcement would be made…

The IRAs round arrives in 2023

Swift announced the Eras Tour on November 1, telling fans that it will be “a journey through the musical eras of my career (past and present!)”.

Dates have been announced for the US leg of the tour, which will kick off March 18, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona, with international shows to follow, the star said.

Swift also confirmed that she will be joined by a number of artists during the tour, including bands Paramore and Hyme, and solo artists Phoebe Bridgers and Gracie Abrams.

She also shared a pre-show verification link, which means fans have to register first in order to be able to purchase tickets.

Extremely high demands

On Thursday, November 17, the day before tickets were scheduled to be available to the general public, Ticketmaster canceled the sale – citing “insufficient ticket stock” to meet “unusually high demands”.

This came after a pre-show two days earlier caused the website to crash, leaving many fans frustrated and unable to get tickets.

The ticket company had previously asked fans on Twitter to be patient as “millions” tried to buy tickets in the pre-sale, causing “historically unprecedented demand”.

Swift fans, known as Swifties, criticized the company on social media after experiencing long waiting times and outages with the site during the pre-sale period. Some report waiting in online queues for up to eight hours, and many find they are too late to buy tickets, which cost between $49 (£41) and $449 (£377) each.

A surprising number of bot attacks

Ticketmaster said in a statement that it had anticipated high demand for tickets, but it was apparently greater than expected.

The company said 3.5 million people have registered as verified fans.

The plan was to invite 1.5 million of those to participate in the sale for all 52 dates of the show, including the 47 sold out by Ticketmaster, with another 2 million being placed on a waiting list.

But Ticketmaster said that plan was undermined by “botnet” attacks – automated software requests – as well as demand from those who did not register in advance.

“The staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans without invite codes generated unprecedented traffic to our site, resulting in a total of 3.5 billion system requests – 4 times our previous peak,” said Ticketmaster.

“Never before has a fan verified for sale generated so much interest — or unwanted volume.”

What did Swift say?

Pic: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

after the disaster, Swift criticized Ticketmaster, saying that she and her team had been given assurances that they would be able to handle the expected surge in demand.

“It’s really hard for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and it’s painful for me to watch mistakes happen with no recourse,” she wrote in a statement on Instagram.

“There are many reasons why people are having difficulty trying to get tickets and I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved going forward.

“I wouldn’t make excuses for anyone because we asked them several times if they could handle this kind of request and we made sure they could.”

The star said that 2.4 million fans were able to purchase tickets, which is “really amazing…but it’s really upsetting that so many of them feel like they’ve been through so many bear attacks to get them”.

For those who missed it, she said she hopes to do more shows.

Why is the US Senate involved?

UNITED STATES - MAY 14: Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, and Mike Lee, D-Utah, are seen during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in the Dirksen Building titled
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee. Pic: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP

Ticketmaster, which largely dominates the ticketing industry, has left fans and artists frustrated for years with hidden fees, escalating costs, and limited ticket availability due to advance sales.

And when these kinds of problems affect Swift, arguably the biggest pop star in the world, it captures the world’s attention. Which means that American politicians are now looking into Ticketmaster’s dominance in the industry.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee — the chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, respectively — announced plans to hold a hearing.

“The problem of competition in the ticket markets was painfully evident when the Ticketmaster website failed hundreds of thousands of fans who were hoping to buy concert tickets,” Klobuchar said.

“The high fees, site downtime, and cancellations experienced by customers show how Ticketmaster’s dominant position in the market means that the company is under no pressure to innovate and continually improve…

“When there is no competition to incentivize better services and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences.”

She later added on Twitter that the case is “beyond Taylor Swift”.

The hearing date and witnesses will be announced at a later date.

What does Ticketmaster say?

The company posted a lengthy explanation on Ticketmaster Business, saying it realizes a record number of fans will want to buy tickets to Swift’s shows.

“First, we want to apologize to Taylor and all of her fans – especially those who had a horrible experience trying to buy tickets,” she said. “After that, we feel we owe it to everyone to share some information to help explain what happened.”

The company went on to say that the verified fan registration is designed to help manage high demand — “identify real humans and weed out bots.”

Still, demand has broken records, with 3.5 million orders on the system, he said — four times its previous peak. These unprecedented hits “disrupted the predictability and reliability” of verified fan registration.

Swift will need to perform a stadium show every night for 2.5 years to meet demand.

Taylor Swift performs during the induction ceremony to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, US, October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Gaelen Morse

Ticketmaster said that despite the problems, about 2.4 million tickets were sold – with two million on Ticketmaster making it the most tickets sold by an artist in a single day.

She also said that less than 5% of tickets for the tour “were sold or posted for resale on the secondary market”, while sales without the verification process “usually see 20-30% of inventory ending up in the secondary market”.

The company is now working on “supporting our technology for the new custom scale” of the Swift Tour.

He also stated that even when online sales go “flawlessly from a technical standpoint”, fans are often disappointed when they miss out.

For example: based on the amount of traffic to our site, Taylor would need to perform over 900 stadium shows (nearly 20 times the number of shows she performs)…that’s a stadium show every 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.”

Swifties in the UK and other countries outside the US are still waiting for details of the international dates – and they’re hoping their ticket purchase process will be a little smoother.

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