After massive technical problems marred the Nov 15. pre-sale for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, forcing some fans to queue for several hours to buy tickets or fail to buy them entirely, Ticketmaster is changing tactics to sell the remaining 170,000 seats for the artist’s 52 shows. The company, hoping to avoid long fan wait times and site crushing web traffic from bots and Swifties, is going back to an older technology: The 20-year-old Ticketstoday platform, modeled after The Grateful Dead’s own fan club system and still used by jam bands like Phish and Ween. The system has been updated in recent years and even deployed for artists like Ed Sheeran and Madonna, although it’s never handled 170,000 tickets for a single sale.
The move, coupled with Ticketmaster’s agreement to not participate in secondary ticket sales for the Eras tour, shows how eager ticketing companies are to work with a mega earner like Swift while avoiding the crush of traffic that disastrously caused widespread disruptions to her Nov. 15 presale. The record-breaking sale is now the subject of multiple congressional inquires around the Live Nation-owned company. These include a request from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the crash and a call from her counterpart on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), to hold a hearing on the “lack of competition in ticketing markets.”
The decision to use Ticketstoday — originally built for Dave Mathews Band’s fanclub platform MusicToday by manager and Red Light Management founder Coran Capshaw in the early 2000s and sold to Live Nation in 2008 — would significantly reduce fan wait times and the potential for another site crash by gating off the most vulnerable parts of the ticketing platform to uninvited fans and bot attacks thought to be responsible for the disruption issues. Instead of making fans queue up again to order their tickets, this will essentially assign tickets to them based on their preferences.
Despite receiving an unprecedented level of negative publicity, Billboard estimates Swift’s Nov. 15 presale generated approximately $554 million in sales for Ticketmaster (which ticketed 47 dates on the Eras tour) and Seat Geek (which ticketed five dates as the primary ticketing company for the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys).
The 170,000 remaining tickets not sold during the presale have a cumulative face value worth $37 million, Billboard estimates. Once Swift completes the sale of her remaining tickets for the Eras Tour, Billboard estimates that she will have generated $591 million in the U.S. alone. Based on projection, Taylor would easily capture the title of Billboard Boxscore’s highest-grossing female touring artist of all time, topping the current title holder Madonna who’s Sticky & Sweet Tour (2008-09) currently holds the No. 1 slot grossing $407 million, and the number four slot on the all-times tour chart, currently topped by Ed Sheeran, whose Divide tour from 2017-2019 grossed $776.2 million.
Typically, Ticketstoday helps artists sell a small portion of their available tickets – usually about 8% per show — directly to their most loyal fans, much like a lottery system. Fans receive an email about a limited number of VIP or high demand tickets available for sale for an upcoming show, and then those who want to buy the tickets select a pricing option and provide their credit card information in advance. If there are more fans wanting tickets than tickets available, a digital lottery is held and the fans selected have their credit cards automatically charged.
While Ticketmaster stayed online during the attack and sold a record 2.2 million tickets in 12 hours, the site could barely handle the traffic created by 14 million fans and billions of bots the company claimed hit the site. This system using Ticketstoday will pace out the sales, and they will be processed away from the public, avoiding any similar potential issues. To determine which fans would get to participate in the upcoming sale, Ticketmaster used its Verified Fan platform . Fans who bought tickets to the 2020 Lover Festival, canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been prioritized, as well as those who bought select Taylor Swift merchandise, like a “F— the Patriachy” keychain that went on sale in August. Participating fans will be sent an email requesting their credit card number and choice of tour seating options representing various price ranges and seat locations. Ticketmaster will then work to match fans with their purchase request and charge their card on file. The entire process will take about four weeks and is expected to be completed by Dec. 23.