LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When Taylor Swift announced her nationwide stadium concert tour “Eras” on Nov. 1, there were tickets already posted for sale on StubHub.
And those tickets were already going for at least twice as much as the face value for similar seats during the first pre-sale a solid two weeks later.
UPDATE: In a hearing on Jan. 24, U.S. Senators questioned Ticketmaster on whether its dominance in the ticketing industry led to its spectacular breakdown last year during the sale of Taylor Swift concert tickets.
That pre-sale turned into a fiasco and Ticketmaster blamed a staggering number of ticket bot attacks for overwhelming its system, shutting out many Taylor Swift fans from buying tickets to one of her concerts.
Now they’re all sold out online through Ticketmaster, but fans can still find a ton of them elsewhere online on resale sites.
“If I had endless supplies of money, I could definitely go to StubHub or something,” Carrie Cotton, a longtime “Swiftie,” said.
But she simply can’t afford to take her and her two daughters because resale prices, in some cases, are more than quadruple the original price.
FOCUS questioned StubHub’s Head of Government Affairs, Laura Dooley, about these major markups and asked her why this wasn’t considered ticket scalping.
“Ticket scalping, I would argue is an antiquated notion,” Dooley answered. “We’d like to call it ticket resale because that’s really what it is.”
What tickets she says can’t be resold on StubHub are ones bought first using ticket bots, which are federally illegal.
“If we’re made aware that a ticket on our site was purchased using bots, we will take that ticket down,” she said.
However, admittedly some may get through.
“What we’re not in a position to do is to look at every single ticket listed on our site and verified if it was used by a bot or not,” Dooley acknowledged.
She says StubHub relies on primary sellers, such as Ticketmaster, to outsmart ticket bots on the front end, which Ticketmaster claims it did with Taylor Swift tickets in the Nov. 15 pre-sale.
On its website, Ticketmaster stated despite system disruptions “all 2 million tickets sold for the Verified Fan onsale were sold to Verified Fans.”
Ticketmaster shared this statement with FOCUS
We strongly supported the passage of the BOTS Act, but those with enough motivation will try to break the law for their own profit which is why we welcome help from any policymaker interested in both strengthening and better enforcing this law.
Bad actors use any info they can get their hands on to cheat the system – so unless the BOTS Act has real teeth, sharing price and inventory information gives bad actors that use bots to secure tickets a playbook to scoop up the tickets that are most valuable to them - scamming real fans in the process.
In the meantime, Ticketmaster continues investing millions to develop new tech solutions to keep bots out, and get more ticket into the hands of real fans. Fans and artists alike would benefit from Congress, regulators and the live entertainment industry working together to better enforce this law and get tickets away from bots and into the hands of real fans.
ON BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
- Artists work with their management, promoters and venues to decide ticket prices, when to announce prices, and when ticket inventory goes on sale. Ticketing marketplaces execute that strategy once it’s decided.
- By requiring registrations, Verified Fan is designed to help manage high demand shows – identifying real humans and weeding out bots. Keeping bots out of queues and avoiding overcrowding helps to make wait times shorter and onsales smoother. As an example, less than 5% of the tickets for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour have been sold or posted for resale on the secondary market. Onsales that don’t use Verified Fan typically see 20-30% of inventory end up on secondary markets
- More info on that particular tour here
Ticketmaster also provided a statement to FOCUS, saying “Verified Fan is designed to help manage high demand shows – identifying real humans and weeding out bots.”
StubHub argues there needs to be more transparency on both the primary and secondary market to help beat bots.
“Ticketmaster sells, we estimate, eight out of every ten of those first tickets sold, so it’s pretty significant,” Dooley pointed out. “When tickets go on sale, what consumers don’t really have is an understanding of how many are going to be available to them that day, and how they’ll be priced.”
Ticketmaster, however, warns that in the current climate “sharing price and inventory information gives bad actors that use bots to secure tickets a playbook to scoop up the tickets that are most valuable to them – scamming real fans in the process.”
Ticketmaster says artists work with their management, promoters and venues to set ticket prices, and according to StubHub, promoters, venues and industry insiders who get tickets are why you’ll find them posted for resale before seats are sold to the public.
StubHub cited a 2016 New York Attorney General’s Office report which concluded that on average only 46% of the pool of tickets for popular concerts are reserved for the general public, while 38% are held for pre-sales.
“There should be a spotlight on it so that consumers really understand how tickets are distributed into this industry,” Dooley said.
She also advises that Taylor Swift fans keep an eye on resale sites for lower prices closer to her actual shows.
That’s really Cotton’s only option at this point, but she complains it shouldn’t have to be this way.
“StubHub is for people to profit off of tickets that they got for regular price,” Cotton said. “It’s not right.”