- Ticketmaster badly botched its sale of Taylor Swift tour tickets last week.
- The DOJ has launched an antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster’s parent company.
- Now groups of lawyers — who are also die-hard Swifties — are mobilizing to advocate for fans.
Last week — the week of November 14, 2022 — will go down in history.
And not just in Taylor Swift history. Swift has made plenty of headlines in the past, like when she reportedly gave a fan $90 to get Chipotle for her birthday or pulled all of her music off Spotify. But the recent Ticketmaster debacle Swift’s fans want to challenge corporate monopolies, and change the laws underwriting them, forever.
Facing endless questions and concerns over the chaos that ensued during presales for Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour, fans gathered on social media to commiserate and take action. Swifties are now crafting ways to allow more fans to enjoy the Eras Tour, such as creating fan-to-fan resale ticket Twitter threads to evade lucrative scalper websites. Some, who are lawyers themselves, are even looking to represent on behalf of those who say they’ve had the uniquely troubling Ticketmaster experience.
How Ticketmaster’s chaotic handling of the Eras Tour presale may lead to its undoing
So how did we get into this mess?
Last week, fans were given two main presale opportunities for tickets to Swift’s Eras Tour: a Verified Fan presale and a Capital One Cardholder presale. Between the two presales, there were copious technical issues: Verified Fan codes were rejected; many endured a five-hour queue; and glitches at checkout led fans to lose their nearly-secured tickets.
Then, the General Onsale, which was an opportunity for fans to get tickets who didn’t secure them in presales, was canceled less than 24 hours ahead of time. Ticketmaster has since released a statement apologizing to fans, blaming the blunder on a “huge volume” of traffic that its technology couldn’t handle. Unfortunately, the statement was not satisfying enough; frustration had already come to a head within the Swiftie fandom.
“Going onto the timeline after, everybody was just absolutely devastated,” Barnett said. “And I know that sounds stupid to people who don’t love Taylor Swift the way that a lot of us do. But it was absolutely heartbreaking to see.”
Barnett connected with fellow Swiftie and JD Jordan Burgers on Twitter. The two realized there might be an actual case against Ticketmaster. Barnett posted a tweet calling on Swiftie’s lawyers, or those who loved Taylor Swift and had law experience, to brainstorm ideas, and the legs of a movement began.
—blake is on her own 🌼🐥⛺️ (@blakeerose13) November 16, 2022
Swift-loving legal experts, led by Burger and Barnett, have now formed a group called Legal Vigilante, a play on Swift’s song “Vigilante Shit.” The core group consists of over 50 professionals across industries, including law, government, public relations, and computer science. Barnett told Insider she’d received over 1,200 responses as of Thursday — anyone from lawyers, to people who work in finance or banking, to those with antitrust experience.
“Everyone just jumped in to say, ‘This is wrong. The merger [with Live Nation Entertainment] should’ve never happened,'” she said.
How Swifties are calling for legal action and taking their power back
Ticketmaster sells nearly 500 million tickets per year across concerts, events, and sporting games, according to Salesforce. In 2010, its merger with Live Nation made for a monumental relationship within the concert industry, combining two of the top companies in live entertainment.
government officials and antitrust experts felt uneasy when the merger was first approved. And now, they’re using recent events to express grave concerns about Ticketmaster’s monopoly over the concert industry. In response, the Department of Justice opened an antitrust investigation into the company two days after the infamous Eras Tour presales had concluded.
Groups like Swiftie-run Vigilante Legal are building a grassroots movement to advocate for the real victims in this story: the fans.
“One of the biggest priorities for us is to educate people about the distinction between the artist and what they can do,” Burger told Insider. “But the other component is to be able to assist the government in gathering evidence. The law in these scenarios, especially in antitrust, affords citizens the right to bring cases on behalf of the government in the betterment of consumers.”
Vigilante Legal hasn’t just been looking for lawyers and publicists – they’re sourcing evidence from a growing number of Swifties who claim they experienced discriminatory and questionable service from Ticketmaster, including a potential Americans with Disabilities Act guideline violations. They’re collecting these stories to bring forward to the FTC and attorneys general within each state. They’re also creating templates for Swifties to send letters to their local representatives.
And they’re not the only legal Swiftie movement to gain steam on social media. The Gen Z-led organization Voters of Tomorrow announced their new antitrust initiative SWIFT (Swifties Working to Increase Fairness from Ticketmaster) on Nov. 17. They aim to bring together Gen Z organizers to advocate for expanding legislation federal authority to oversee and prevent future monopolies around entertainment.
—Voters of Tomorrow (@VotersTomorrow) November 17, 2022
“We are using our online platform to unite those — both Swifties and not-yet-Swifties — who are as angry as we are about Ticketmaster’s monopolization of the ticket sales market,” the organization’s spokesperson Jack Lobel told Insider. “This impacts not only music fans but fans of sports, arts, theater and other industries.”
But, for now, Swifties are tackling one goal: take down Ticketmaster.
In addition to grassroots efforts and legal investigations, some Swifties have created resale tickets Twitter threads to connect fans with tickets to Eras Tour concert dates without the premium markups of common scalper websites and Ticketmaster’s own resale platform. Fan pages on Instagram are recruiting those lucky enough to have snagged a ticket to provide an inside look at these shows for those unable to attend. They’re coming up with solutions to right the systems that wronged them.
The Eras Tour was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back
Lobel also made an important distinction in this fight: This isn’t Taylor Swift’s fault. This isn’t even about Taylor.
The momentum may be thanks to her Eras Tour, but this is about holding a monopoly accountable. One that fans and legal experts believe exploited the excitement of fans, of all artists and events, for extravagant financial gain.
“I don’t blame Taylor for something that Ticketmaster is doing,” Stacie Osborn, a Texas lawyer helping lead legal affairs for Vigilante Legal, and who herself is a long-time Swiftie, told Insider. “Taylor Swift is powerful, but this is a billion-dollar corporation that has control of 80% of the market in the United States.”
In putting the onus on Ticketmaster, activists and experts are expecting better for the entire concert industry.
As the fight against Ticketmaster and wage monopolies on, one thing has been made abundantly clear: Swifties are not the stereotypical screaming tween girls they’re made out to be. Fans who grew up with her music are now adults with professional careers and now hold their own strong, independent value systems.
But fandoms, especially those mainly composed of young women, often struggle to have their concerns validated. Singer Harry Styles spoke about this issue in Rolling Stone in 2017. “How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going,” he told the publication .
Given the right tools (social media) and inertia (a chaotic and questionable presale), fans can take on issues that are negatively impacting consumers.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to impact government at all levels,” Burger said. “This is the power of the people to come together and affect some fantastic change. It’s really about foundational fairness. And we don’t anticipate stopping with Ticketmaster.”
Correction: November 22, 2022 — An earlier version of this story did not include Blake Barnett’s full name.