NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Attorney General wants to take a closer look at Ticketmaster and Live Nation after reports of massive technical issues arose during the presale ticket event for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.
The music giant’s tour, which has three May show dates in Nashville, hasn’t officially gone on sale to the general public yet, but fans were able to purchase tickets through a special presale event that took place Tuesday. Users registered for the opportunity to buy tickets through Ticketmaster earlier this month and waited to see if they were selected to receive special presale codes.
But when the event opened online Tuesday morning, Taylor Swift fans said there must have been a glitch and reported multiple errors. Fans were first locked out of the system for hours while the online queue was “paused.” Some users’ queues closed or simply didn’t work. Ticketmaster issued a formal statement after pausing the queue, saying there was “historically unprecedented demand” for the singer’s presale, asking for “patience as we continue managing this huge demand.”
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Swifties cried foul, pointing out online that Ticketmaster was responsible for the number of presale codes provided and should have anticipated the demand. Issues continued after the queue resumed and fans were let in to purchase their seats.
The issues have now made their way to Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti. He announced Wednesday morning that his office received “a number of complaints” about the ticket sale process, prompting an investigation into the matter.
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“There are no allegations at this time about any misconduct, but as the Attorney General, it’s my job to ensure that the consumer protection laws and antitrust laws in Tennessee are being honored,” he said in a call with reporters via Zoom.
According to Skrmetti, a prior settlement agreement with Ticketmaster gives the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office broader authority to investigate than would otherwise apply under law, so the office can make inquiries and obtain information to determine whether a further investigation or legal process is necessary.
The first issue, Skrmetti said, was the representations made to presale attendees.
“We know that consumers were given presale codes to purchase tickets, and we need to look into exactly what was promised them and whether that was provided,” he said.
Additionally, he said, there were complaints about the lack of customer service, with some people were told they would need to wait up to five days to get any customer support.
“If there were any representations made with respect to the process in advance, that could be an issue,” he said, “We’re going to look into that.”
The second issue, Skrmetti said, was about antitrust laws.
“We’re looking at a company with an extremely dominant market share—I’ve heard it may be up to 70% of the concert venue ticket sales,” he said. “Any time you have that kind of concentration of market share, there’s the risk that the lack of competition will not just drive up prices for consumers; it will also reduce the quality of the product.”
He continued, “Potentially, this is a situation where the quality of the product is reduced, where the infrastructure provided for ticket sales doesn’t rise to the level that the consumers deserve, because we’re not talking about a company that needs to compete as much to get the consumers’ dollars.”
Finally, the Attorney General said, his office would be looking at the resale market, stating Ticketmaster not only sells directly to consumers but also “facilitates resales” of its tickets.
“If it looks like scalpers have been able to scoop up a lot of these tickets and then resell them through the platform, there’s an incentive there for the company to profit twice off the sales of these tickets,” he said. “I’m not saying it happened, but we’re going to make absolutely sure it didn’t.”
“It depends on what representations are being made,” he added. “If people think that they have a fair chance to buy tickets but then there is some sort of structural incentive where scalpers have a better opportunity to get the tickets and resell them, then the consumers have been deceived and that’s in violation of our consumer protection laws. I’m not saying that’s what happened here, but it’s something we’re concerned about and we’re going to take a look at.”
Skrmetti said it was worth looking into whether or not Ticketmaster was a monopoly, noting the Department of Justice and the states “took a hard look” at the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation and secured a consent decree that would have theoretically reduced the antitrust risks. However, he said, if people were not getting the product that they were promised and paid for through Ticketmaster, it “could be an indicator” that there was not enough competition and would need to take a closer look.
Skrmetti reiterated there were no formal allegations against Ticketmaster or Live Nation at this time, but that his office was “concerned” about the situation.
“We are concerned about this very dominant market player, and we want to make sure that they’re treating consumers right and that people are receiving a fair opportunity to purchase tickets that clearly mean a great deal to them,” he said.
More presale events are expected to take place this week, and general ticket sales are set to begin Friday.
Given Swift’s global popularity, Skrmetti said he was interested in looking at why Ticketmaster wasn’t more prepared for the demand for tickets.
“There was plenty of coverage that Taylor Swift is an unbelievably successful artist,” he said. “As an industry player, you would think Ticketmaster would be well aware that these are probably going to be the most popular tickets or close to the most popular tickets they’ve ever had. One of the things that we’re concerned about is whether, because they have such a dominant market position, they didn’t need to worry about that. You would think a company in that situation would recognize there was going to be an absolute flood of interest in the tickets and especially where they released the presale codes, you’d think they’d have a good idea of the volume that was coming.”
If Ticketmaster is found to have violated consumer protection laws, there could be financial penalties, Skrmetti said, “but more importantly, there could be injunctive relief to ensure that they don’t do it again.”
If there are consumer protection violations, Skrmetti said his office could get a court order to force the company to make sure the problems don’t happen again. If there are antitrust violations discovered, there could be more serious repercussions, he added.
On why Tennessee is leading the charge, Skrmetti said the state was the home of Music City, and music was woven into the local economy. The situation, he said, was not just a matter of fans harmed but also those in concert production and promotion in the area that could be affected.
Skrmetti said he had been in contact with at least one other state attorney general on the matter—though he did not say which state—which could help, as different attorneys general could have different abilities to assist in an investigation.
“This is a company that we’ve looked at in the past; this is a company that’s been the subject of numerous complaints going back decades. There may be other people who are interested, but this is something that we are interested to make sure that they are treating consumers fairly,” he said.