Taylor Swift Fans Sue Ticketmaster’s Parent Company
A group of 26 fans of the singer-songwriter Taylor Swift filed a lawsuit on Friday accusing Ticketmaster’s parent company of anticompetitive conduct and fraud several weeks after a chaotic, glitch-filled rollout of tickets for Ms. Swift’s upcoming tour left thousands of eager fans empty-handed and unhappy.
The 33-page complaint, filed in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County, came after Ticketmaster canceled the public sale of tickets last month for Ms. Swift’s Eras Tour, 52 shows scheduled to begin in March. The resulting outcry from fans prompted calls from lawmakers to break up the 2010 merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
The complaint accuses Ticketmaster of anticompetitive conduct, saying the company has long perpetuated a “scheme” by forcing fans to exclusively use it for presale and sale prices, which are higher than what a competitive market price would be.
Ticketmaster also “forced attendees to exclusively use” the platform that it operates for the resale of tickets, called the Secondary Ticket Exchange, to obtain fees and profits above what it could earn in a competitive market, the complaint states. That “anticompetitive behavior,” according to the lawsuit, harms fans and the ticket market.
Fans who tried to get tickets during a presale in mid-November reported waiting in queues for hours or being locked out of online sales. They had to preregister on Ticketmaster to be designated Verified Fans, but, for many, that didn’t help. Ticketmaster ultimately canceled its planned public sale of tickets amid the high demand.
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“Hundreds of thousands of people waited from four to eight hours and never got an opportunity to buy tickets, so they just want the system to change,” said Jennifer Kinder, a lawyer representing the fans.
The lawsuit asks the court to stop Ticketmaster from engaging in similar conduct in the future and to fine the company $2,500 for each violation of a state code that governs unfair competition in California, where the parent company, Live Nation, is based.
“It has to be made fair,” said Ms. Kinder, who added that she and her 11-year-old daughter were Swift fans. “This is not a fair market. This is not supply and demand. This is a manipulated market that benefits Ticketmaster.”
In 2010, Ticketmaster, a ticketing giant, merged with Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promotion company, becoming Live Nation Entertainment. The company, which says it processes 500 million tickets per year in more than 30 countries, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Greg Maffei, the chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, said in an interview on CNBC last month that the company “could’ve filled 900 stadiums,” and he partly blamed Swift’s popularity for the problems. “The reality is, Taylor Swift hasn’t been on the road for three or four years, and that’s caused a huge issue,” he said.
Ticketmaster apologized in November to Swift fans for the problems with its ticket sales for the Eras Tour.
It said that more than two million tickets for the tour were sold on Nov. 15, the most for an artist in a single day. Ticketmaster said it had faced a “staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have codes” to buy tickets, resulting in 3.5 billion system requests, four times its previous peak.
Even before the botched sale of the Swift concert tickets, Live Nation had come under scrutiny for its power and size. The Justice Department has in recent months been investigating its practices and whether the company maintains a monopoly over the multibillion-dollar live music industry, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
Ms. Swift called the situation “excruciating” in a sharply worded statement on Instagram last month that did not name Ticketmaster.
Ms. Swift wrote that she was “extremely protective” of her fans and had brought “so many elements” of her career in house in order to improve fan experiences “by doing it myself with my team who care as much about my fans as I do.”
“It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse,” Ms. Swift added. “There are a multitude of reasons why people had such a hard time trying to get tickets and I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward. I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could.”