Bad Blood Between Customers And Ticketmaster, Taylor Swift Fans See Red, Hoping These Things Will Change
12/13/2022On December 2, 2022, dozens of Taylor Swift fans sued Ticketmaster in California state court for, among other things, alleged state-law antitrust violations.
This lawsuit arose from “the ticket sale disaster” that occurred on November 15 and 16, 2022. Ticketmaster had set up a presale for “verified fans” for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour on Ticketmaster’s website. Although designed to make it easier for fans to access tickets, Swift fans soon learned that their experience would be no fairytale. Ticketmaster grossly underestimated demand, leaving millions of fans with access to the presale without tickets and leading Ticketmaster to cancel the general sale of tickets altogether. None of plaintiffs could get tickets. This debacle was the last straw for many fans, who now allege that Ticketmaster’s “anticompetitive behavior has substantially harmed and will continue to substantially harm Taylor Swift fans, as well as competition in the ticket sales marke[t] and the Secondary Ticket Services Market.” Indeed, plaintiffs allege that “the massive disaster of the Taylor Swift presale is evidence enough” that Ticketmaster’s monopoly is not due to “superior or reliable” service.
Plaintiffs allege that Ticketmaster has managed to monopolize both the primary ticket sales market and the secondary resale market by entering into agreements with the vast majority of large venues in major U.S. cities. Because of this, fans of major artists like Swift have no choice but to buy their tickets from Ticketmaster, which in turn allows Ticketmaster to charge supracompetitive prices. Further, plaintiffs allege that Ticketmaster must also be engaged in price fixing with the venues and scalpers to sustain the high prices.
As disappointed Taylor Swift fans now know all too well, trying to purchase tickets from resellers is challenging. According to plaintiffs, Ticketmaster has leveraged its primary-market power to force all resales to occur on its own platform. On that platform, Ticketmaster is able to charge certain fees, allows scalpers to charge exorbitant prices, and engage in price discrimination. “Because of how risky buying resold tickets outside of Ticketmaster is, Ticketmaster has left itself as the only real choice for buying tickets.”
Plaintiffs further allege that Ticketmaster has fended off would-be competitors by (1) engaging in a group boycott with venues and (2) carving off small segments of the market to those competitors in exchange for an agreement to price fix. All in all, plaintiffs allege a grab bag of antitrust theories including tying, exclusive dealing, price discrimination, price fixing, group boycotts and market division.
Senators too are not exactly enchanted with Ticketmaster. Last month, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights announced that it plans to hold a hearing on the ticketing industry’s lack of competition while Senators Richard Blumenthal, Amy Klobuchar and Edward Markey urged the Department of Justice to consider unwinding the merger between Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. and Ticketmaster, which gave the combined firm monopoly power in the market for major concerts. Specifically, they allege that Ticketmaster now controls 60% of the market for major concert promotions and controls ticketing for 80 of the top 100 venues in the U.S.
Although it is unclear whether they will have success—some of their theories are shakier than others—what is clear is that many Swift fans are telling Ticketmaster that they are never, ever, ever getting back together.
Taylor Swift, Bad Blood, on 1989 (Big Machine Records, 2014).
Taylor Swift, Red, on Red (Taylor’s Version) (Republic, 2021).
Taylor Swift, Change, on Fearless (Taylor’s Version) (Republic, 2021).
Taylor Swift, Today was a Fairytale, on Valentine’s Day (Big Machine Records, 2010).
Taylor Swift, You’re Not Sorry, on Fearless (Taylor’s Version) (Republic, 2021).
Taylor Swift, All Too Well, on Red (Taylor’s Version) (Republic, 2021).
Taylor Swift, Enchanted, on Speak Now (Big Machine Records, 2010).
Taylor Swift, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, on Red (Taylor’s Version) (Republic, 2021).