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Ticketmaster’s homepage was temporarily knocked offline Tuesday as fans flooded the site to get tickets for Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour.
“HOW IS TICKETMASTER ALREADY DOWN ?????? #TaylorSwiftTix” one fan wrote, echoing the frustration of thousands of “Swifties,” the nickname for diehard Swift fans, vying to see their favorite artist in her first concert tour since before the pandemic.
Swift’s 2023 U.S. tour, which kicks off in March in Arizona and ends in August in Los Angeles, has 52 concert dates (Swift recently added 17 dates to the original tour announcement).
Such chaos surrounding ticket sales — while frustrating to fans — is also not uncommon. In recent years, buying concert tickets has become increasingly competitive and expensive, as Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, have taken a growing share of the music tour business.
Backlash against the ticketing companies has also grown: When a major artist announces a tour, fans inevitably complain on social media about Ticketmaster’s high fees and unchecked scalping. Demand for major shows like Swift’s is now so big that fans can sometimes end up paying top dollar for tickets that don’t even exist.
“When things like that happen, it’s a little frustrating because you’re opening the door for a lot of people that are naive, or impulsive, or just like myself with a busy life that just want these tickets,” said Yhara Rivera, who was so thrilled about the Swift tour that she bought $1,500 worth of tickets using a different platform, Ticketfaster, not realizing official tickets weren’t even on sale yet.
“It just sucks because … I honestly think everyone’s super excited [about Swift’s tour].”
By Tuesday morning, Ticketmaster was trending on Twitter, with fans flooding the site with complaints. “Swifties” was also trending on Twitter.
Some fans reported that the queue had been “temporarily paused,” causing uncertainty as to if and when they’d ever obtain tickets
Ticketmaster and Live Nation did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for Ticketmaster said the “site is not down” and that “people are actively purchasing tickets.”
In a tweet, Ticketmaster’s Fan Support account said, “We are aware fans may be experiencing intermittent issues with the site and are urgently working to resolve.”
Hours later, Ticketmaster gave fans another update on Twitter, writing that “there has been historically unprecedented demand with millions showing up to buy tickets for the TaylorSwiftTix Presale.”
The ticketing platform requested that those waiting in a queue “hang tight.”
“Queues are moving and we are working to get fans through as quickly as possible,” Ticketmaster wrote, adding that the time slot for West Coasters who want to get tickets has moved from 10 a.m. PT to 3 p.m. PT.
As of 1:05 p.m. ET, “hundreds of thousands of tickets have been sold,” Ticketmaster said.
A spokesperson for Swift did not respond to a request for comment.
In recent years, Ticketmaster has offered North American fans the option of registering as “Verified Fans” to enter a lottery to buy tickets for certain shows. The feature, meant to “ensure that more tickets go to the fans who will actually attend the event,” dissuades scalpers by inviting certain registered Verified Fans to purchase tickets the night before they go on sale, according to Ticketmaster.
Ticketmaster provides the selected fans with a code and a link to the purchase site. When tickets go on sale, the link leads fans to a “Smart Queue” that “keeps ticket bots out.” Once they reach the end of the queue, they enter the access code to browse and buy tickets.
Ahead of Swift’s tickets being released, Ticketmaster reminded fans that “no Verified Fan tickets have been sold.”
“Many unofficial sellers will list tickets on secondary marketplaces even before they go on sale,” the company wrote in an email to fans, adding also that “codes cannot be purchased. You should not trust anyone trying to sell you a code.”
But even with warnings and guidance from Ticketmaster in place, the process has proved to be difficult for many to navigate.
Last year, fans of Olivia Rodrigo ended up disappointed after they said Ticketmaster’s technical difficulties kept them from buying the coveted tickets when they went on sale.
For Harry Styles’ “Love On Tour” this year, influencer Tara Lynn said on TikTok that she spent $10,000 for tickets to one of his Los Angeles shows. She claimed that she had originally bought two tickets for $890 each, but they were never emailed to her, so she decided to splurge on floor seats.
Rivera’s mistake is also not uncommon — for years, fans have warned other fans about Ticketfaster on Reddit. A spokesperson for Ticketfaster did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Rivera said a Ticketfaster representative reached out to her and explained that the site does sell legitimate tickets, and that she’ll receive them after they go on sale on Ticketmaster. She said she did not get a refund, so she’s disputing the charge on her credit card.
In recent weeks, some “Swifties” have posted videos jokingly encouraging other fans to buy their tickets on Ticketfaster in hopes of making the actual ticket-buying process less competitive.
Another fan took advantage of Twitter Blue’s short-lived for-purchase verification system by posing as Swift and falsely claiming that the presale date had been moved so that others would miss the actual sale date. The account has since been suspended.
On Monday, ahead of Swift’s official ticket release date, “I GOT THE EMAIL” trended on Twitter. Users shared screenshots of emails from Ticketmaster that said “Your invitation to TaylorSwiftTix Presale powered by Verified Fan.” “You’ve been selected!” the email reads.
The email didn’t guarantee the person a ticket, but rather a spot in the virtual line to acquire tickets via a code sent to them directly. Those who weren’t selected quickly lamented how they did not get a code.
Ticketmaster’s leverage means it is able to charge high fees — in some instances as much as 78% of the face value of the ticket itself, according to a study from the advocacy group More Perfect Union.
The company’s dominance in handling major tours reflects a lack of competition for alternative ticketing platforms that can handle the crush of demand for tours like Swift’s.
“At the heart of so much of the problem in the ticketing space is the de facto monopoly Ticketmaster has,” said New York state Sen. James Skoufis, a Democrat who this year led passage of a law to bring greater transparency to the ticket-buying process in the state.
“Everyone except federal regulators view Ticketmaster as a monopoly, and from that come all the bad things that happen when there’s a monopoly in an industry,” Skoufis said.
Ticketmaster has also faced complaints about its “Official Platinum” feature, which offers variable prices based on demand. For example, tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming tour were listed as high as $5,000 each on the first day, according to CNBC.
That news prompted Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, to write a letter to Live Nation calling for “much needed transparency to the sale, pricing, and distribution of live-event tickets.”
“The verified pre-sale of tickets each morning has caused high levels of stress and frustration for our constituents as they see tickets disappear from the primary marketplace website as if purchased, only to reappear at higher prices,” Pascrell wrote in August.
Ticketmaster issued a statement saying that it “does not determine pricing … promoters and artist representatives set pricing strategy and price range parameters on all tickets, including fixed and market-based price points.”The fee situation has gotten the attention of the White House.
Last month, President Joe Biden announced he would begin cracking down on what he called junk fees that are often initially hidden from consumers when they search for a ticket, or are added on after buying.
“Each year, these ‘junk fees’ … that companies charge cost Americans tens of billions of dollars, weighing down family budgets and making it harder for people to pay their bills,” Biden said. “So my administration is taking action to eliminate these fees.”
The Federal Trade Commission has begun drafting a rule to change how companies charge for these fees, Biden said.
Live Nation appeared to welcome the news.
“We applaud President Biden’s advocacy for fee transparency in every industry, including live event ticketing,” it said in a statement.
As for the Swift ticket sales chaos on Tuesday, Ticketmaster urged fans on Twitter to avoid going through its homepage to get tickets.
“If you received a code to the TaylorSwiftTix Presale, please login and access the queue through the link you received via text rather than entering through the Ticketmaster homepage,” Ticketmaster tweeted. “This will ensure an optimal shopping experience.”
One fan replied, “Has anyone actually been able to get tickets??”
Rob Wile is a breaking business news reporter for NBC News Digital.
Morgan Sung is a trends reporter for NBC News Digital.
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