Ticketmaster Apologizes to Taylor Swift and Her Fans for Sales Debacle

Ticketmaster has formally apologized to Taylor Swift and her fans for the ticketing situation that left millions frustrated and enraged this week. The company’s apology came in a statement issued Friday night, about a half-day after Swift had expressed her anger about the fiasco in a feisty post, describing herself as “pissed off” about an “excruciating” situation and seeming to lay blame for the headline-making problems at Ticketmaster’s feet.

In its statement late Friday, the company wrote: “We strive to make ticket buying as easy as possible for fans, but that hasn’t been the case for many people trying to buy tickets for Taylor Swift ‘The Eras’ Tour. First, we want to apologize to Taylor and all of her fans – especially those who had a terrible experience trying to purchase tickets.”

Much of the lengthy statement linked in a tweet sent out by Ticketmaster at around 11 pm ET Friday was identical to one the company had published and then deleted on Thursday — but now with an apology newly tagged onto the beginning. The previous day’s version of the since-revised “explanation” did not include any apologetic language, raising the further ire of many fans before it was removed from Ticketmaster’s website.

Even now, the statement focuses on statistics indicating that the demand for tickets was unpredictable, and touts the on-sale as mostly a success story and a record-breaker, pointing out that, while there were problems, “2 million tickets were sold on Ticketmaster … on Nov. 15 – the most tickets ever sold for an artist in a single day.”

That Ticketmaster would have to modify its previous defensive stance to include an apology was inevitable after Swift expressed her unhappiness with the company Friday morning. In a statement on her Instagram Stories, Swift wrote, “I’ve brought so many elements of my career in-house. I’ve done this SPECIFICALLY to improve the quality of my fans’ experience 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.”

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Although Swift didn’t name Ticketmaster in her statement, she did refer to a “them” that left no doubt who she was referring to. “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,” she wrote. “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. 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 the amended statement issued Friday night, Ticketmaster was still very much emphasizing the positive, arguing that the Verified Fan program, which adds additional steps in getting in a queue for tickets, had been especially successful in keeping tickets from going to scalpers. “Less than 5% of the tickets for the tour have been sold or posted for resale on the secondary market,” the company noted. “On-sales that don’t use Verified Fan typically see 20-30% of inventory end up on secondary markets.”

Ticketmaster’s statement, titled “Taylor Swift The Eras Tour Onsale Explained,” can be read in full here. (The earlier version sans the apology to Swift can still be seen in a Music Business Worldwide story here.)

In a repeat of its earlier language, Ticketmaster suggested that their rollout of tickets was not “perfect,” without edging too far towards culpability. “The biggest venues and artists turn to us because we have the leading ticketing technology in the world — that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and clearly for Taylor Swift’s ‘The Eras Tour’ on-sale it wasn’t. But we’re always working to improve the ticket buying experience. Especially for high demand on-sales, which continue to test new limits. We’re working to shore up our tech for the new bar that has been set by demand for the Taylor Swift ‘The Eras’ Tour. Once we get through that, if there are any next steps, updates will be shared accordingly.”

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The company announced earlier in the week that the general-public on-sale for Swift’s tour was being canceled altogether, because so little inventory was left after Verified Fan and Capital One cardholder pre-sales exhausted the vast majority of available tickets for the 52 US stadium shows the singer has scheduled for next summer.

Ticketmaster also contended that it would be impossible to meet the demand for Swift tickets. “Based on the volume of traffic to our site, Taylor would need to perform over 900 stadium shows (almost 20x the number of shows she is doing),” the company wrote in its statement. “That’s a stadium show every single night for the next 2.5 years.” The company did not say exactly what kind of site traffic it was measuring to reach the conclusion that Swift would have to sell out close to a thousand successive stadium shows to meet US demand.

Friday night was an unusually busy one for both Ticketmaster and Live Nation on the public-relations front. The two related companies (Live Nation in Ticketmaster’s parent) were nearly simultaneously issuing statements defending themselves amid heated controversies that have risen to the boiling point this week, although Ticketmaster was in the position of belatedly apologizing for the Swift mess.

Live Nation’s wholly unapologetic late-evening statement was in response to reports that the Justice Department was looking into antitrust issues with the companies, and came after a resultant drop in Live Nation shares of nearly 8% in trading Friday before closing at $66.21.

In its own, separate statement, defending Ticketmaster policies and practices, Live Nation wrote that there were nothing untoward in the company’s massive dominance, contending, “Ticketmaster has a significant share of the primary ticketing services market because of the large gap that exists between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the next best primary ticketing system. The market is increasingly competitive nonetheless, with rivals making aggressive offers to venues. That Ticketmaster continues to be the leader in such an environment is a testament to the platform and those who operate it, not to any anticompetitive business practices. … We innovate and invest in our technology more than any other ticketing company, and we will continue to do so.”

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Although complaints have come in about Ticketmaster having aggressively moved into hosting resale tickets on its own site, Live Nation wrote, “Secondary ticketing is extremely competitive, with Ticketmaster competing with StubHub, SeatGeek, Vivid and many others. No serious argument can be made that Ticketmaster has the kind of market position in secondary ticketing that supports antitrust claims.”

Live Nation expressed a possibly surprising agreement with one idea often broached by upset fans, that the many additional fees tagged on to each ticket sale should be combined into a single price that consumers see. Live Nation “strongly advocates for all-in pricing so that fans are not surprised by what tickets really cost,” it said in the statement.

It remains to be seen whether Live Nation stocks will go bullish next week or continue to be subject to — as Taylor Swift might put it — “bear attacks.”

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