- Yati Sanghvi experienced a lot of challenges while buying tickets for a BTS concert on Ticketmaster.
- She argues it's just one example of the live-entertainment company taking advantage of its monopoly.
- Some Congress members are taking steps toward correcting it.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
On September 27, South Korean boyband BTS announced a series of four concerts in Los Angeles — their first live in-person shows in more than two years. As a huge fan and someone who'd had tickets to their canceled 2020 tour before getting reimbursed, I was thrilled.
But getting tickets to see one of the biggest boy bands in the world is not an easy task. For me, the stress and anxiety stem from one question: How will Ticketmaster screw me over this time?
Ticketmaster is notorious for making live-entertainment ticketing an absolute nightmare. The company has a long history of monopolistic practices, acquiring its rival Ticketron in 1991 and merging with Live Nation in 2010 despite the objections of several lawmakers. As of 2018, the company was ticketing 80 of the top 100 arenas in the country.
Such outsized control means Ticketmaster is often fans' only avenue for snagging tickets to see their favorite stars perform, leading to a frustrating experience I've faced many times. But trying to secure tickets for the BTS stadium shows was by far my worst experience yet.
Due to high demand, ticketing for BTS's concerts took place over the course of 5 days
The first four days were tiered presales for fans who had tickets to their canceled 2020 tour, members of BTS' paid "Army Membership" fanclub, and Ticketmaster's Verified Fans. The final day was the general public sale.
On October 6 at 5:30 p.m., I anxiously logged into Ticketmaster and waited to enter the queue for day two of the ticketing schedule. I felt hopeful about getting a pair of floor seats for at least one of the concert days.
According to many fans on Twitter, by the end of day one of sales almost all the best seats — including VIP, floor, and the 100 level — were booked. On day two, when I began ticketing, we were told VIP soundcheck seats wouldn't be available.
After spending more than two hours in a queue, I made it to a seat selection page, only to be shown error messages. I was able to get around the glitch by reentering the queue altogether — a troubleshooting method I learned thanks to Twitter.
Nearly three hours after I first joined the ticketing queues, I finally landed a pair of 400-level seats.
I thought I'd try for better tickets during the next day's presale
Instead, I received an email saying I had to sit out because Ticketmaster was "unable to validate" my information.
Meanwhile, I was astonished to see fans reporting tens of thousands of seats at every level, including VIP, still available to buy — seats I and those who ticketed with me never had access to the day before.
Ticketmaster eventually canceled the general public onsale altogether, announcing on Twitter that the shows were sold out. Meanwhile, according to Twitter, countless tickets were already popping up for outrageous prices on resale websites used by scalpers.
By the end of the week, I felt fortunate that I managed to get any tickets at all. I bought a pair for the November 28 show and was able to snag another two tickets for the November 27 show from a fan whose plans had changed. Many fans didn't get so lucky.
"sorry but Ticketmaster had two years to figure out how to improve their ticketing system knowing when concerts come back the demand was gonna double. Especially BTS ticketing has always been insane and they knew, I can't believe how messy and unprofessional it was handled," one fan tweeted.
—ivanna⁷ (@inlovejhs) October 9, 2021
BTS fans' awful ticketing experience is one of many
Earlier this year, fans of Lorde criticized Ticketmaster's endless queues and website crashing as they tried to secure tickets to the singer's "Solar Power" tour. This month, fans of Adele complained about Ticketmaster's "Verified Fan" presale system and outrageous resale prices, while Olivia Rodrigo fans were outraged by multiple technical difficulties.
When tickets went on sale for the US leg of Harry Styles' "Love On Tour," which was postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to COVID-19, fans on Twitter were especially vocal about Official Platinum Seats, which are tickets sold at flexible prices by event organizers in order to enable "market-based pricing," according to Ticketmaster's website.
Fans like me, however, see them as an excuse to hike up prices.
—Sandra Donda (@Sandra_Donda) November 5, 2021
"Ticketmaster can only get away with such exorbitant 'scalping' behavior because it has a 70% market share and no meaningful competition," Mark Perry, economist and professor at the University of Michigan, told me.
In a recent oped for The Hill, Perry wrote that Ticketmaster can also hold back tickets to create a false sense of scarcity. The method leaves consumers in the dark about the true supply of tickets and whether more tickets will be released later, causing a purchasing frenzy. This, I believe, is exactly what BTS fans experienced.
With the resurgence of live events, economists and lawmakers are calling on the government to address Ticketmaster's monopoly on the live-entertainment market
In 1994, the band Pearl Jam tried to retaliate against the company in the hopes of keeping ticket prices low and looking out for fans. The US Department of Justice investigated Pearl Jam's claims but the band ultimately lost, with the DOJ concluding Ticketmaster didn't breach antitrust laws.
When it came time for Pearl Jam's next tour, they were forced to use Ticketmaster just like everyone else. "This was a battle in which not even the biggest band in the world had a chance," the Independent's Ed Power wrote in 2019.
But times are changing. In April, five members of Congress signed a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Federal Trade Commission acting chair Rebecca Slaughter urging strong antitrust regulation enforcement against Live Nation Entertainment "to protect consumers' future access to live events."
Two years ago, Congressman Pascrell also reintroduced the BOSS Act to Congress, which would further regulate the live-event ticketing industry by requiring transparency about the volume and pricing of tickets.
"The BOSS Act is the best way to restore a pro-consumer ticket market by challenging Ticketmaster's anticompetitive monopoly position," Perry said, adding that the bill is now being reconsidered in Congress.
If passed, it would also mean some relief for people like me. Not only would it take away some of the stress and pressure associated with ticket purchases, it would also create a more equitable system for all music fans.
Ticketmaster did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.