When Taylor Swift announced what would be her first tour in five years, ticket demand was always high.
But after reports of service outages and delays on the Ticketmaster website, general sales were called off.
Ticketmaster handled ticket sales for most shows Fast‘s 20-city, 52-date US leg of the tour, though SeatGeek sold tickets to a few performances in Texas and Arizona.
Many fans are disappointed. But this is more than just a story of frustrated Swifties – now the US Senate is involved.
Here’s a look at what happened.
The release of Midnights
In August, Swift revealed details of a new album, titled Midnights, featuring the stories of “13 sleepless nights” from throughout her life.
The album, her tenth, was released on October 21 and immediately broke streaming records, with Spotify announcing it had become the most-streamed album in a single day – after users reported a huge spike in outages, apparently caused by the surge in demand.
Upon its release, Swift, 32, became the first artist to claim all top 10 slots on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the album and lead single Anti-Hero also charted at number one in the UK.
Midnights followed Folklore and Evermore, Swift’s forays into indie and folk which came out just five months apart in 2020 as the world was in various states of lockdown during the pandemic.
Having not toured since 2018, it seemed inevitable that an announcement would come…
The Eras Tour arrives in 2023
Swift announced The Eras Tour on November 1, telling fans it would be “a journey through the musical eras of my career (past and present!)”.
Dates for the US leg of the tour have been announced and will begin 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 on the tour, including bands Paramore and Haim, as well as solo artists Phoebe Bridgers and Gracie Abrams.
She also shared a verification link for a presale, where fans had to register first to buy tickets.
‘Extraordinarily high demands’
On Thursday, November 17, the day before general tickets were to be made available, Ticketmaster canceled the sale – citing “insufficient ticket stock” to meet “extremely high demands”.
It came after presale two days earlier caused the site 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” attempted to buy tickets in advance, sparking “historically unprecedented demand”.
Swift’s fans, known as Swifties, criticized the company on social media after long wait times and site outages during the presale. Some reported waiting in the online queue for up to eight hours, with many feeling they were too late to buy tickets, which cost between $49 (£41) and $449 (£377) each.
‘Incredible number of bot attacks’
In a statement, Ticketmaster said it had expected high demand for tickets, but it was clearly even greater than they predicted.
A record 3.5 million people registered as verified fans, the company said.
The plan was to invite 1.5 million of them to participate in the sale for all 52 show dates, including the 47 sold by Ticketmaster, while the other 2 million would be placed on a waiting list.
But this plan, Ticketmaster said, was undermined by attacks by “bots” — automated software requests — and by demand from those who didn’t register in advance.
“The staggering number of bot attacks and fans not having invite codes drove unprecedented traffic to our site, resulting in 3.5 billion system requests – 4x our previous peak,” said Ticketmaster.
“Never before has a verified fan sale attracted so much attention – or uninvited volumes.”
What did Swift say?
Following the debacle, Swift criticized Ticketmaster, saying she and her team were confident they could handle the expected surge in demand.
“It’s really hard for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and unbearable for me to see mistakes happen without redress,” she wrote in a statement on Instagram.
“There are many reasons why people had such a hard time getting tickets and I am trying to figure out how to improve this situation in the future.
“I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them multiple times if they could meet this kind of demand and we were assured they could.”
The star said 2.4 million fans were able to buy tickets, which was “really amazing… .
To those who missed it, she said she hoped to do more shows.
Why is the US Senate involved?
Ticketmaster, which overwhelmingly dominates the ticketing industry, has for years frustrated fans and artists with hidden fees, rising costs, and limited ticket availability due to advance sales.
And when issues like this affect Swift, arguably the biggest pop star in the world, it draws global attention. Which means US politicians are now investigating Ticketmaster’s dominance in the industry.
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee – chair and senior member, respectively, of the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights – have announced plans for a hearing.
“The problem of competition in the ticketing markets became painfully apparent when the Ticketmaster website abandoned hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to buy concert tickets,” Ms Klobuchar said.
“The high rates, disruptions and site cancellations that customers have experienced demonstrate how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position ensures that the company is not under pressure to continuously innovate and improve…
“If there is no competition to drive better services and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences.”
The issue goes “way beyond Taylor Swift,” she later added on Twitter.
The date of the hearing and the witnesses will be announced at a later date.
What does Ticketmaster say?
The company posted an extensive disclosure on its Ticketmaster Business website, saying it knew a record number of fans would want to buy tickets to Swift’s shows.
“First of all, we would like to apologize to Taylor and all of her fans – especially those who had a terrible experience buying tickets,” it read. “Next, 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 was designed to help manage high demand – “identify real people and get rid of bots”.
Demand broke records, however, with 3.5 million system requests, it said — four times the previous peak. This unprecedented traffic “disturbed the predictability and reliability” of verified fan registration.
“Swift would have to give a stadium show every night for 2.5 years to meet the demand”
Ticketmaster said some 2.4 million tickets have been sold despite the problems – with two million on Ticketmaster making it the most tickets ever sold for an artist in one day.
It also said that less than 5% of tickets for the tour “have been sold or posted for resale on the secondary market”, while sales without the verification process “typically see 20-30% of the inventory end up in secondary markets”.
The company is now working “to bolster our technology for the new bar set by demand” for Swift’s tour.
It also said that even when online sales are “technically flawless”, there are often fans who are left disappointed when they miss something.
“For example, based on the volume of traffic to our site, Taylor would have to do over 900 stadium shows (nearly 20x the number of shows she does)…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 focusing on.”
Swifties in the UK and other countries outside the US are still awaiting details of international dates – and hoping their ticket sales process will go a little smoother.