There’s nothing like the sinking feeling I get in my stomach when my most-played artist announces that to see their tour, I’ll have to go through Ticketmaster.
For me the platform has, in many ways, spoiled what it means to be a fan of live music, either by seeming to prioritise profit for themselves over allowing fans to buy at decent prices, or making the purchasing process so stressful that it sucks all the joy from it.
From the dynamic pricing that forces fans to pay way over face value for popular events, to the technical difficulties that can plague in-demand shows, it is clear the world’s biggest ticket seller doesn’t seem to be very good at selling tickets – and fans have had enough.
This week, tickets for the Eurovision 2023 live shows went on sale, managed by Ticketmaster.
To say it was a traumatic experience would be an understatement – and I was one of the lucky ones.
Not that I’ll be writing a letter of gratitude any time soon.
Ticketmaster servers have previously been shown to struggle with in-demand events, so it was no surprise the site crashed before the countdown to the sale had even ended.
The purchasing process was anything but smooth, as fans reported being thrown out of virtual queues, having to reset passwords at the most inconvenient times, and seeing their payments declined.
As a result, countless Eurovision fanatics missed out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the music extravaganza in person.
Getting a ticket for an artist you love shouldn’t be just down to luck – there needs to be proper strategies in place, clear communication from ticket-selling platforms when technical issues do arise, and a plan of action for those moments when demand is unprecedented.
Take Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour ticket sale – when I saw there were 500,000 fans in front of me in the online queue, I knew I probably had more of a chance of bumping into Queen Bey herself at Tesco than securing a spot at Tottenham Hotspur stadium.
It was carnage, with regular floor seats with a face value of £56 soon rising to as much as £400 and the website seemingly refusing to play ball, something Ticketmaster ought to have been on top of.
I don’t claim to know the technical ins and outs and I do understand that, sometimes, things just go wrong.
However, when your ticket distributing platform pockets millions from music lovers every year, surely the least that fans can expect is a website that can handle demand.
If it can’t, then you need to make a change so that fans aren’t left unable to even view available tickets, let alone buy them.
Ticketmaster appears reluctant to put in the work when the world’s biggest stars place their trust in them to do one job.
Every major event sees complaints from people who didn’t receive their codes or can’t load the website
Buying tickets for shows used to be fun, almost like a game. You may not have secured access to the show, but at least you felt you were in with a chance.
It may have been chaotic and I’ve always gone into a sale hoping for the best but prepared for the worst.
However, it was never soul-crushing. It was never humiliating. It was never a ‘we’re going to charge you £300 for a standard ticket because we can’ situation.
I vividly remember using every device in my household, basically anything with a screen, to secure One Direction tickets back in the day.
I would be frantically refreshing websites while my mum repeatedly called the box office (remember when people did that?) and even had friends camping out on the street for days to buy tickets directly from venues, which seems like a very distant memory now.
But that was when general sales were the best way to secure tickets – now, Ticketmaster appears to prioritise presales, operating a ‘verified fan’ system that means you have to sign up in advance of a tour going live, then receive a unique code to try and get to the front of the queue.
The problem being, though, that every major event sees complaints from people who didn’t receive their codes or can’t load the website, and the supposedly exclusive sales frequently have their deadlines extended, making me question what the point even is.
Buying tickets was once such a thrill and, despite not always being successful, I knew that, if I wasn’t to get tickets, I had still done everything I could, because the power was in my hands.
That’s why, in 2023, not getting tickets is more devastating, because it’s all out of your control.
The website goes down and all you can do is refresh. The prices are too high and all you can do is let the tickets go. The queue is moving too slowly and all you can do is wait, cursing the fact that even signing up for a verified fan presale doesn’t guarantee you a ticket.
And those presales are the only way to even attempt to get a ticket, with the general sale to see Suga of BTS even scrapped after the presale saw ‘extremely high demand’.
It’s just another way that, in my opinion, Ticketmaster has ensured that concerts are no longer accessible.
Of course, they’re always accessible if you have the funds, thanks to the revolting dynamic pricing system and ‘platinum’ tickets, which can both see prices rise into the hundreds or even thousands of pounds, based on ‘demand’ for the artist.
These tickets tend to sell out too, and while it’s a fan’s personal choice to spend big on live shows, there’s no denying that Ticketmaster exploits this, knowing full well that (often young and impressionable) people will do anything to gain a spot in the arena to see their beloved bands.
Dynamic pricing also means ticket prices are not released ahead of time since they’re subject to change, so if you planned on budgeting your money and putting a certain amount aside to see your favourite band, you can think again.
The distributor has, understandably, come under fire for the system, which has been used for some of the world’s biggest artists.
Ticketmaster has previously claimed that methods such as dynamic pricing prevent touts from bagging the tickets and selling them on for extortionate fees.
But resale sites already have tickets listed as high as £12,000, so make of that what you will.
One thing that provides me with hope amidst this mess, though, is that fans are fighting back.
In December 2022, a group of Taylor Swift fans filed a lawsuit in the US against Ticketmaster and parent company Live Nation after a disastrous sale for her Eras Tour.
They accused the ticket giants of ‘fraud, price fixing and antitrust violations’, as well as ‘intentional deception,’ claiming the ticketing giant allowed scalpers to profit over genuine fans.
The suit saw outraged Swifties demand $2,500 (£2,093) for each violation, which could potentially amount to several million in total.
I’m pleased to see fans taking matters into their own hands, and I hope they succeed in forcing some change, but it shouldn’t have come to this.
Going to live shows is one of the greatest pleasures in life. For me, nothing beats the euphoria of an artist walking out onto the stage for the first time and a packed venue erupting into screams.
Hearing thousands of fans belting out lyrics is my favourite sound in the world, and I get goosebumps every time a stadium lights up with torches for a ballad.
First appear at Ticketmaster has sucked all the joy out of seeing my favourite singers live