Ticketmaster’s dominance has also led to high ticket fees (as high as 78 percent, according to advocacy group More Perfect Union), which hit music fans hard. “What happened this week demonstrates the two significant costs of monopoly,” says Stacey Dogan, a professor at the Boston University School of Law who focuses on antitrust cases. “We see really high prices, and we see a system crashing, arguably, because they haven’t had an incentive to innovate.”
On Thursday, Ticketmaster blamed a “staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes” for driving “unprecedented traffic on our site, resulting in 3.5 billion total system requests—4x our previous peak.” The statement has since been deleted from its website.
On Instagram, Swift said she and her team had asked, multiple times, if Ticketmaster “could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could.” She also said she has taken many parts of her empire in house to improve the quality of fan experience (a move that benefits Swift, too). “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,” she wrote.
For too long, bots have blighted ticket sales. They contribute to shortages by flooding booking systems with requests and buying tickets en masse. US officials have tried to tackle them, but haven’t had much luck. Congress passed a law in 2016 (the Better Online Ticket Sales, or BOTS, Act) attempting to crack down on bots gobbling up tickets. The Federal Trade Commission brought the first case under the act against three ticket brokers in New York in 2021. The European Union has also voted to ban ticket-buying bots.
But, over the years, Ticketmaster has made its sale process more complicated. At times it sends customers to virtual waiting rooms and, as it did with Swift’s tour, requires codes to book. It’s a complicated system that can confuse people, but may actually give a leg up to scalpers and bots who use the system regularly and are better prepared for the rush of a ticket release.
Moss says there’s evidence for another antitrust case now, and the DOJ, under President Joe Biden, might take a different position. But lawmakers could also take action with legislation tackling ticket transparency mandates and block bots from creating chaos. Swifties aren’t the reason to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation, but rather a new force pushing an old conversation back into the spotlight. “Fans have suffered because they have no choice,” says Moss. “You would think under this more aggressive [US attorney general], we would hopefully see a case.”