The Taylor Swift Chaos Is a Reckoning for Ticketmaster
Taylor Swift fans were eagerly waiting Monday for their golden ticket: a verified code that would grant them entry to Ticketmaster’s presale for the icon’s upcoming Eras Tour. The following day, when those who were selected signed on to purchase, they were met with chaos. Long waits and a crashing website forced many to walk away, hours later, empty-handed.
Incensed, the Swifties mobilized. They tweeted and made TikToks. They started looking into filing class action lawsuits against Ticketmaster and explored their own antitrust initiative. They became a loud enough chorus to reach the ears of lawmakers like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and US Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota). On Friday, as the outrage reached fever pitch, an ongoing antitrust investigation by the US Department of Justice into Live Nation Entertainment, Ticketmaster’s parent company, became public.
Swifties didn’t uncover a new problem—people have complained about Ticketmaster’s poor service and high fees for years. And the basis for the DOJ investigation likely isn’t the failed ticket run, but rather ongoing problems surrounding Ticketmaster’s 2010 merger with Live Nation, which is a major player in the global touring business. Swift isn’t the first artist to be entangled in the ticketing drama, but she might be one of the last.
Competitors have accused Live Nation Entertainment of coercing venues to use Ticketmaster, stifling competition in the ticket resale market, and holding back tickets. With these factors in play, experts say there could be legal standing to break up the behemoth. “The setting that created [the Swift ticket nightmare] is very much worthy of antitrust scrutiny,” says Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute.
While high-profile, the Swift saga is far from the first time Live Nation Entertainment has caught the attention of law enforcement. The US government had its chance to take action against the firm in 2019. The DOJ found that the company had leveraged its control over the touring business to push venues to use Ticketmaster, a violation of the 2010 consent decree that guided the merger. But rather than move to break Live Nation Entertainment up, the DOJ extended the consent decree to the end of 2025—and added an amendment that more clearly stated Live Nation could not threaten or retaliate against venues that did not sell tickets through Ticketmaster.
Swift’s tour is not managed by Live Nation, but by competitor AEG. Still, Ticketmaster was selected instead of AEG’s own ticketing platform AXS. AEG did not respond to questions about why it used Ticketmaster for the sales. Ticketmaster also canceled the November 18 public sale of tickets, citing a lack of inventory.
Experts say Ticketmaster’s status as one of the only games in town has allowed the company to coast without making improvements to its systems. Its Verified Fan presale program was meant to root out bots and ticket resellers, but this week’s chaos shows it was not effective at either. Neither Ticketmaster nor Live Nation responded to requests for comment.