WASHINGTON — Months after a system glitch left many of Taylor Swift’s superfans without tickets to her upcoming tour, a small group led by Texans gathered in person and virtually on Tuesday to call for an end to Ticketmaster’s monopoly on the entertainment industry.
A group protesting outside the US Capitol wore anti-Ticketmaster T-shirts and held signs like “ticketswindler, your reputation has never been worse”, a reference to one of Swift’s albums. Online, the much larger community of Swifties — a nickname for Swift superfans — has taken to social media to express their opinions on the company as well. Ticketmaster was top trending topic on twitter with 26,000 tweets.
The outcry came as the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned the executives of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, two entertainment giants that merged in 2010, about their business practices, especially the Swift tour’s presale crash.
Jennifer Kinder, a Dallas lawyer who represents 323 Swifties in the lawsuit against Ticketmaster, said there is something fundamentally wrong with Ticketmaster’s ticketing system and hopes the company will be disbanded.
The lawsuit was originally filed in December with just 26 plaintiffs, but the number has since increased. They allege that Ticketmaster and Live Nation engaged in fraud and violated antitrust laws during the presale.
Swift’s “The Era” tour is her first tour since the start of the pandemic, and fans are hungry for tickets. Swift is expected to play 52 shows in 17 states, including three in Arlington. Ticketmaster has sold tickets for 47 of these shows.
During the pre-sale in November, codes were sent to millions of “verified fans” for pre-tickets or waiting lists. Many have waited for hours to purchase tickets due to increased traffic and website crashes.
Ticketmaster canceled a general sale due to a lack of tickets to meet demand, leaving fans without seats.
Those who bought tickets shared stories of long waits and extreme ticket prices.
Kinder said one plaintiff tried 41 times to pay off the tickets in her shopping cart, was charged $14,000, but never received the tickets. Another received a verified code, bought six tickets, but they were later removed from her Ticketmaster account and resold.
Kinder helped organize an online and in-person protest against Ticketmaster and flew in from Dallas to attend. She said she is optimistic about the outcome of the hearing and hopes this attention will help keep the issue in the spotlight to spur change.
“It can’t just be changes that make Congress happy. It has to be changes that make the consumer happy,” Kinder said. “If they [Congress] isn’t going to… just break it all down, then they’ll have to tell consumers that their access to live entertainment really doesn’t matter.”
Kinder said she finds it hard to believe that Ticketmaster is blaming bots and hackers for the crash because of the money the company makes from commissions. She suggested that the company is working with many reseller bots to collect more commissions.
“They are interested in having it resold two or three times because they get a commission every time it flips,” Kinder said.
Similarly, Jenn Landry, a Houston-based plaintiff who helped round up others for Kinder’s lawsuit, said that Ticketmaster is “weaving a web” and, given their market dominance, should be able to defend against cyberattacks.
“For people who are passionate about artists and live entertainment… they want to reconnect with their post-COVID community,” Kinder said. “[Ticketmaster] counts on … the exploitation of the consumer.
Landry said the hearing is an important sign that Ticketmaster will have to answer not only to private individuals, but also to the government.
Although she was able to get tickets during the pre-sale, Landry said she “doesn’t feel good about how things went” and also ran into a number of issues. As a frequent Ticketmaster user and concert goer, Landry said she’s never seen price spikes like the one that happened on the Swift tour presale.
“They need to be dismantled because artists and consumers need to have a choice,” Landry said. “What unites us is our activities… You should not be allowed to take that away from us. Consumers should have the right, just like artists, to come together and not be deceived.”
The lawsuit’s first hearing will take place on March 17 in Los Angeles. Kinder said “the Swifties will be at full strength” and plans to be in and out of the courtroom.
“Even a small army like this shows that the army is much larger, and when the opportunity presents itself, it will take part and show its strength,” Kinder said.