How did Taylor Swift‘s 2023 Eras tour presale turn so calamitous? Ticketmaster service delays and website crashes outraged fans trying to buy tickets to the superstar’s 2023 tour this week, causing widespread outcry and condemnation for the ticket service as high up as Congress. And, finally, on Thursday (Nov. 17), company officials announced they had decided to cancel the general ticket sale scheduled for Friday — blaming a surge of unregistered fans and billions of bots for the failure.
Fans already bought up more than 90% of the ticketing inventory on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Ticketmaster, breaking the record Tuesday for the most tickets ever sold in a single day by a touring artist at 2 million. But with that success came catastrophe. More than 3.5 million fans registered for the chance to buy Swift tickets, and 1.5 million were invited to participate in Tuesday’s ticket sale for a crack at seats on the 52-date tour. Company officials say, however, it wasn’t pre-registered fans buying tickets who caused the crash on Tuesday, but that tens of millions of uninvited fans and billions of bots trying to access the sale early were to blame.
A Wednesday presale for Capital One card holders again brought a second unreported massive amount of traffic to the site, as millions of fans — most without presale codes or an invitation — again tried to flood the presale meant only for a few hundred thousand card holders.
With little inventory left and even bigger crowds expected Friday, on Thursday Ticketmaster and Swift’s team decided to cancel the final onsale. It’s unclear how the remaining ticketing inventory will be distributed or sold. Meanwhile, the bad press has brought unwanted attention to the ticket giant.
Earlier Thursday, in an open letter to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, argued that “Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” resulting in “dramatic service failures,” like the crash of Tuesday’s Taylor Swift sale.
Hours after the letter surfaced, Ticketmaster published a blog on its website offering an in-depth explanation of what caused the Swift presale to crash. Ticketmaster’s explanation for the crash — that it misjudged demand for presale tickets and was ill-prepared for the millions of fans that tried to log in — is not likely to satisfy Klobuchar and the bi-partisan criticism that the company is cutting corners due to it’s massive marketshare in the concert space.
According to Ticketmaster, about 3.5 million fans pre-registered for Taylor’s Verified Fan program — “the largest registration in history,” the company’s blog claims. The huge amount of demand “informed the artist team’s decision to add additional dates” to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour earlier this month, increasing the number of shows on sale from 26 to 52 stadium shows — 47 of which would be ticketed by Ticketmaster.
Despite doubling the number of shows that it was now selling tickets for, Ticketmaster didn’t increase the window of time it would need to process the large uptick in volume. That meant that instead of having 11 East Coast shows go on sale at the same time (10 a.m. EST), Ticketmaster was now putting 21 shows on sales at once.
Making matters worse, far more people showed up to buy tickets than was expected. On Monday night, the day before the presale, Ticketmaster sent out invitations to 1.5 million fans who had signed up for the presale with instruction on how to purchase tickets. “Historically, around 40% of invited fans actually show up and buy tickets,” according to Ticketmaster’s blog post, meaning Ticketmaster was only expecting about 600,000 people to actually try to log in. Not only did far more invitees show up, millions more uninvited guests tried to crash the party. Ticketmaster estimates that with uninvited guests and massive armies of bots, about 3.5 billion requests were made requesting access to the presale, causing the system to meltdown.
Company officials ended up having to do what they probably should have done in the first place — pushing back the remaining sales to give the Ticketmaster team more time to deal with the traffic issues and high demand. About 15% of fans attempting to buy Swift tickets experienced some type of disruption while trying to buy tickets or were unable to do so because of the site crash, according to the Ticketmaster blog. Still, the company did sell more than 2 million tickets that day — the most ever sold for a single artist in a day — and Ticketmaster has agreed to not allow Swift tickets to be sold on any of the secondary resale sites it controls, restricting markups to fans on its service.