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Taylor Swift, Ticketmaster and Trouble with the Live-Music Industry

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Northwestern chapter.

My experience with the “Eras” Tour presale disaster

The very first concert I ever attended was Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” tour in 2009. Sitting in the balcony of Allstate Arena, I was awestruck by seeing my idol in person, floating around the venue in a flying balcony and singing “Love Story” in a fluffy white ball gown. For seven-year-old me, that was the closest I had ever been to seeing something truly magical. Since then, I’ve been there for it all. From singing “Safe and Sound” with my best friend Emily in our fourth-grade music showcase to blasting “Long Live” before my high school graduation, Taylor Swift’s music has been the ‘invisible string’ guiding the course of my life. With Swift’s last tour being the “Reputation” Stadium Tour in 2018,  I have told myself one thing as her six subsequent album releases have fully dominated my Spotify playlists: I would be at her next tour, no matter what.

Needless to say, when Taylor Swift announced her 2023 “Eras” Stadium Tour, I was ecstatic. On one hand, I was overjoyed at the thought of getting to see Taylor in the flesh once again. However, I also knew that getting tickets within a reasonable price range would be no easy feat.

But with 52 shows across the United States, three of them being in my home city of Chicago, surely I could snag a few tickets, right? Some of my worries were quelled by early figures citing that general ticket prices would range between $49 and $499 as well as the fact that stadiums have capacities of over 50 thousand fans. By implementing additional precautions such as the “Verified Fan” program, which originally claimed to allow a select number of Swift’s fans to access tickets early, there HAD to be a way for me to get to at least one show—Right??

After waiting in the online queue for over four hours simply to register for the Verified Fan presale, I was disappointed to find out that I did not receive an access code. Other family members and friends did, though, so I placed my fate in their hands when Tuesday came around. As others waited patiently for hours on the Ticketmaster website, some even skipping classes or work just for the occasion, I started to get worried as the sun went down with no updates regarding tickets. 

Finding myself out of luck after round one, I decided to try my luck using the Capital One presale access on Wednesday. However, this attempt brought on much of the same problem, with the website constantly glitching, my parents and I waiting in the queue for hours on end and being unable to select tickets without another user snagging them from our carts. 

In the midst of all this chaos, I began noticing countless posts circulating online about the absurd prices of resold tickets on third party ticket brokers like Seatgeek and Stubhub. Almost immediately after the presale, I found myself speechless at the audacity to resell a concert ticket for over tens of thousands of dollars. I wondered, are people actually going to pay for this?  Avoiding panic, though, I mentally prepared myself to fight for my life in the general sale on Friday morning. But, of course, Ticketmaster had yet another surprise for me! In a tweet on Thursday afternoon, Ticketmaster announced that the general ticket sale would be canceled, citing “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”

“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,” Taylor Swift wrote in a statement via Instagram on Friday. “It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them.”

In 2010, Ticketmaster merged with fellow event giant Live Nation, solidifying a tight hold over the ticket sales industry. With less competition from other sellers, Ticketmaster can afford to markup prices in conjunction with market demand, and many antitrust groups have since become skeptical over the ethicality of the company.

Several lawmakers have also expressed their disapproval of the company’s extreme ticket-gouging policies, including U.S. Representatives David N. Cicilline and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.

“Taylor Swift’s tour sale is a perfect example of how the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger harms consumers by creating a near-monopoly,” said Blumenthal via Twitter on Tuesday. “ I’ve long urged [the] DOJ to investigate the state of competition in the ticketing industry. Consumers deserve better than this anti-hero behavior.”

This whole ordeal has ultimately challenged my own ideas about the live-music industry and concert culture in recent years. The ability to wait aimlessly on a flailing website all day just for the chance to buy price-spiked tickets takes immense privilege, and this ultimately isolates a large portion of Swift’s core fan base. As a college student, it is extremely difficult for me to justify spending copious amounts of money and skipping classes during midterm season in hopes that my worn-down high school Chromebook can muster up the strength to make it through the Ticketmaster queue. Concerts are some of my favorite experiences when I am lucky enough to be able to attend them, because there is nothing quite like hearing your favorite song sung back at you by an arena of fans feeling the same thing as you. It is saddening to think that so many die-hard Taylor Swift fans will not get this opportunity because of the unfair pricing by ticket resellers and Ticketmaster’s confusing and messy presale process. However, I hope that this serves as a lesson for future events by placing a newfound emphasis on accessibility and fairness.

It’s no secret that I love Taylor Swift. My water bottle is covered in stickers boasting her lyrics; my treasured “Red” edition cardigan is a staple of my winter-wardrobe; all of my friends are very much sick of hearing me dissect the lyrics from “Midnights” and elaborately speculate about what each line actually means (The roommate mentioned in “Maroon” is definitely Louis Tomlinson. Do with that information what you will). But nonetheless, whether I somehow acquire tickets to her tour or not, this does not make me or anyone else in a similar situation less of a fan. At the end of the day, it’s all about the music, and I hope that we can all sing together one day.

Julia Benkendorf

Northwestern '26

Julia is a first-year student from Chicago, IL studying Journalism at Northwestern University. In her free time, you can find her swimming at the athletic center, exploring downtown Evanston with friends, chasing her dachshund puppy, Tilly, around the park and over-analyzing Taylor Swift's cryptic Instagram posts. Julia would like to thank her mother for always inspiring her love of style and fashion, as well as for always encouraging her to follow her passions.