Taylor Swift fans headed to court in Los Angeles Monday to face off against Ticketmaster after the ticketing giant fumbled online sales to the mega-star’s latest tour.
Ticketmaster and parent-company Live Nation face a lawsuit from Swifties across the country filed in December for “unlawful conduct” in the pop star’s chaotic tour sale. The plaintiffs claim that the ticketing giant violated antitrust laws, among others.
Today was a status hearing – class action status was discussed, and though the defense is not anticipating asking for class action, they asked to reserve the right to do so.
Arguments heard today in the court hearing by disgruntled fans are mostly procedural. The plaintiffs are asking Ticketmaster to award them at least $2,500 each in damages. But lead plaintiff Julie Barfuss of Salt Lake City says the case is about giving everyday fans a better chance to see their favorite artists.
“I tried in total of 41 times that first day to get tickets. It kicks you out into the queue and you’re back in and then I kept getting errors,” Barfuss told CNN. “Then, I again spent a couple hours trying to do it the second day. When I finally got in and was going to buy tickets, they were like $1400.”
Ticketmaster wants a motion to compel arbitration, meaning it will force the prosecution to settle the matter out of court. The plaintiffs’ attorney has to provide emails for what they anticipate will be 340 plaintiffs by the end of the month.
Lead plantiff’s counsel John Genga isn’t expecting any “smoking guns” from Ticketmaster today, he told CNN. But he argued that the entire experience of the fan is relevant to the case.
“The entire experience is going to be relevant to even arguing the motion to compel arbitration,” Genga said. “Because if they were hurrying through or stuck in a queue for eight hours, that may all affect whether they knowingly agreed to something.”
Jurisdiction was also discussed, though it has not been resolved. The plaintiffs want the case to go back to state court, rather than federal court.
The lawsuit alleges Ticketmaster and its parent company were anti-competitive, imposing higher prices on fans in the presale, sale and resale market. It claims Ticketmaster forces concertgoers to exclusively use its site and controlled all registration and access to Swift’s “The Eras Tour.”
“It has nothing to do with the money. It has everything to do with TicketMaster is the only venue in town. It’s the only place to get tickets,” Swift fan Penny Harrison told CNN. “The hope is that in 10 years from now that they’ll look back and say this was the turning point. This was when competition branched out and ticket prices came down.”
In today’s hearing, Swifties are seeking a penalty of $2,500 for each violation, which could add up quickly, based on the millions of angered fans who did not receive tickets.
The December lawsuit also claimed that since Ticketmaster has agreements with the large stadiums in the tour, Swift “has no choice” but to work with Ticketmaster due to the size of her fan base. It also alleges that Ticketmaster profits off the resale of tickets in the secondary market by adding a service fee to its fan-to-fan exchange.
“Ticketmaster is a monopoly that is only interested in taking every dollar it can from a captive public,” according to the lawsuit.
Pre-sale tickets for “The Eras Tour” frustrated Swift fans across the country in a debacle that stayed in the headlines for weeks. In November, “Verified Fans” were sent a presale code — but when sales began, heavy demand snarled the website and millions of Swifties could not get their hands on a ticket. Presale tickets for Capital One card holders brought similar frustration — and then Ticketmaster canceled sales to the general public, citing “extraordinarily high demand” and “insufficient remaining ticket inventory.”
The lawsuit alleges the company “intentionally and purposely mislead TaylorSwiftTix presale ticket holders by providing codes to 1.4 million ‘verified fans,’” despite the shortage of seats. Ticketmaster said more than two million tickets were sold on the first day of sales for her upcoming tour — the most ever sold for an artist in a single day.
“Millions of fans waited up to eight hours and were unable to purchase tickets as a result of insufficient ticket releases,” the lawsuit said. “Ticketmaster intentionally provided codes when it could not satisfy demands.”
In a blog post that has since been taken down, Ticketmaster said its “Verified Fans” system, a mechanism aimed at eliminating bots by giving presale codes to individuals, couldn’t keep up with the intense demand. Roughly 3.5 million people signed up for the program to buy Swift tickets, its “largest registration in history.” That unprecedented demand, combined with a “staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes” drove “unprecedented traffic” to its site, Ticketmaster said, and, essentially, broke it.
Ticketmaster apologized to Swift and her fans for the “terrible experience” some had trying to purchase tickets and said it would work to “shore up our tech for the new bar that has been set by demand” for Swift’s tour.
The ticketing debacle also drew the ire of several lawmakers, leading to a Justice Department investigation and a congressional hearing.
“We want answers. We want to know why it happened. We want to know could it have been prevented? If it was preventable, why wasn’t it? What can we do to make the live event industry more accessible to the average consumer?” one of the plaintiffs, Joe Akmakjian of Denver, told CNN.
“I see this as a predatory monopoly, and if we can have a monopoly for something fun like sporting events and concerts, I’m worried that that will pave the way for monopolies in other industries, like health care and transportation that really affects the way people live day to day.”