Back to news

The chaos behind the broken ticketing system 

The daunting nerves and the overwhelming excitement you get ten minutes before the floodgates open to rush and buy tickets for your favourite artist. 

Whether you’ve prepared all night with a clear strategy to guarantee a ticket, gone through pre-sale to bolster your chances or even rocked up right before tickets are on sale, there’s always a quiet optimism that you will secure your place at the front for a gig. 

Well, that is right up until the point you're launched into a ridiculously long queue or the demand for the show overwhelms the ticket agency so much so it crashes. 

That’s before we’ve covered the eyewatering costs or the resellers. Quite frankly, the whole thing takes the piss. 

But before the age of online ticket agency bandits, you’d phone up the box office, queue outside or pick the ticket up at your local record store, which if anything, adds to the whole concert experience. Whereas now, the dreaded lottery of ticket agencies has the certainty of securing your place at a concert plunged on a teetering scale. 

Now, it has become a painful experience trying to buy tickets through agencies, and there’s always some form of chaos looming it is always the case that when something new is implemented to combat those issues, more problems begin to arise. It seems now that every time a major headline artist's ticket sales begin, Ticketmaster will, without fail, be trending on X as people voice their anger with the platform. 

As painful as it is, how broken truly is the ticket system in its current state? 

The majority of the time, the issue stems from the demand for the tour. Ticketmaster’s site evidently cannot cope with the demand of fans wanting to buy tickets for their favourite artists. Millions of people are competing for a limited number of tickets, and of course, that means the site just crashes. 

Take the most recent Glastonbury sale. The most iconic and popular festival in the country consistently sells out within an hour, with coach tickets this year selling out within 25 minutes. This isn’t helped by the scramble to get registered and the added fiasco of trying to get onto the ticket agency. This year was, of course, no different. 

Increased demand was the main excuse given, which led to many being disappointed when the ‘screen of death’ brought all hopes of snagging tickets to Worthy Farm dashed.

To combat this, fans have been calling for a fairer way to distribute the tickets by a ballot, which - in theory - is the fairest way to obtain in-demand concerts by giving fans equal opportunity to get tickets. 

However, the tour that has thrown the ticketing crisis into the limelight is Taylor Swift’s ‘The Eras Tour’. Acquiring tickets has become a new extreme sport. 

With Swift’s additional two shows at Wembley in London next year, it takes her total at the stadium to eight and will have played 151 shows across five continents by the time the tour ends in December 2024. This will gross more than £813 million for the music sensation. 

As reported by Buzz Bingo, 2.1 million fans were left without tickets, of the estimated 750,076 tickets available for the tour, which sits at 75% of people not seeing Taylor Swift, and that's in the UK alone. 

This exceptionally high demand has forced the Ticketmaster site to crumble on many occasions and, in some cases, cancel the general sale entirely. For the US leg of the tour, Swifites were invited to sign up for the pre-sale link, and the site was only supposed to be open to around 1.5 million verified people. However, 3.5 million hit the site and secured themselves over two million tickets across the 52 shows. 

And then shockingly, the site inevitably crashed. 

Ticketmaster gave the reason for the cancellation of the general sale, which was due to ‘extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand, tomorrow's public on-sale for Taylor Swift's The Eras Tour has been cancelled’. 

You would be wrong in assuming that the ticket agency had learnt their lesson from this disaster of a pre-sale, but more and more horror stories surrounding ‘The Eras Tour’ come to light, as website crashes have become more frequent than hearing that fans have secured their tickets. 

Fans overwhelming the site hasn’t been exclusive to Taylor Swift, with Coldplay’s ‘Music of the Spheres Tour’ also forcing the Ticketmaster site to crash. 

It has since become one of the most commercially successful run of shows of all time and broke numerous attendance, gross and demand records globally. More than a million tickets for the first European leg were sold in 24 hours, according to Billboard.

After the band concluded their second Latin American leg, Coldplay had the biggest tour of the continent's history. In Spain, they achieved the fastest sales of all time. The pre-sale for the Optus Stadium in Australia, saw the biggest demand ever registered on Ticketmaster, with 300,000 attempting to buy tickets. Billboard ranked that the ‘Music of the Spheres Tour’ grossed £489.5 million, making it the fourth-highest-grossing concert run of all time. Even without the added numbers, it’s clear this tour was a big deal. 

However, with these flattering numbers, there are some harsh realities of the incompetence of Ticketmaster’s site when they have to deal with exceptional demands. More than 700,000 customers tried to buy tickets for the Manchester and Cardiff shows, which of course, caused the Ticketmaster website to crash. 

But this was an issue observed throughout the world. Queues were in the thousands, and the demoralising number popping up on your screen all but confirms it’s impossible to get tickets. Netherlands 700,000, Italy 700,000 and the UK 560,000. It is a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? 

By this time, you would expect Ticketmaster may have ironed out the issues that were prevalent by the time Coldplay hit an astronomically high queue. Yet this wasn’t the case, as ticket sales after that continued to highlight how prone its website is to technical issues. 

Back to Taylor Swift, and one of the most difficult pills to swallow when assessing ‘The Eras Tour’ is the re-sellers. Currently, the average ticket on the UK tour is £600. Eye-watering, yes, but in comparison to other figures floating around, it’s a bargain. The debacle of the canned US general sale saw scalpers looking to flog the tickets for £19,000. I felt sick just writing that figure, let alone putting my credit card details into the site. 

Resellers have become a constant issue to fans and ticket agencies, and even made it to the House of Commons, when Labour MP Kevin Brennan, a father of a Swiftie, called ‘to protect our daughters from this sort of rip-off merchants’. After a lower-tier ticket was listed for £3,352 on Viagogo. 

Prices of tickets, in general, have soared, no help to the cost-of-living crisis, but online ticket sales reached £26.8 billion in 2023, up 65% from the previous year. 

But to really hammer home how much of a monopoly Ticketmaster is, the new dynamic pricing system is the perfect example. Simply, the price of the remaining tickets increases the more in demand the concert is. It’s a clear money-grabbing scheme that infuriates the fans, something that Bruce Springsteen found out the hard way when opting into the new scheme.

The legendary rocker has been renowned for keeping his tickets at a bargain rate and has donned a reputation for this. But dynamic pricing has unravelled all that, especially when some tickets shockingly rose to nearly £4,000. 

Yes, the pricing scale can go either way, but come on, it’s Bruce Springsteen. Do you really expect prices to go down? 

Gigs are already more expensive to go to, and seeing your favourite artists feels like it is now a luxury. But paying the new dynamic pricing or reseller fees has made attending gigs more and more unfeasible. And we’ve not even surfaced all the issues regarding pricing. 

It’s a long day for anyone when Robert Smith, frontman of The Cure, is on your back. Ticketmaster were unfortunately met with the full force of Smith’s rath in his traditional all-caps Twitter rant regarding their hidden fees. 

The Cure’s US tour was priced specifically to keep ticket prices affordable. However, slap some service fees, facilities charges and a processing fee on top of the initial pricing, and fans were seeing the fees alone costing more than the face value of the ticket. 

One individual had their fees racked up to £21.55, with their ticket only being £18. The add-ons were imposed as part of the Verified Fan program, which gives fans an opportunity for advanced sales to combat selling the ticket to bots for them to just be resold. That was the specific reason Smith chose to sell on Ticketmaster, to combat the reselling fiasco. 

But the frontman was far from pleased as he addressed the fees as ‘unduly high’ with him being ‘as sickened as you all are’. After a social media spout with the ticket agency, Ticketmaster issued an £8 refund for those unduly high fees. 

Perhaps one of the most shocking strands of reselling is speculative ticketing. This is where touts list tickets on third-party selling platforms without having actually bought the ticket. 

Beyonce’s Renaissance tour fell foul of this, when scalpers listed up her tickets as far ahead as a week in advance of the general sale for as high as £2400, without even having made a transaction to acquire the ticket. 

The dreaded lottery of buying a ticket for your favourite artist is still a painful and expensive experience when battling with the issues surrounding ticket agencies, which need to be resolved. The only saving grace I can offer when buying a ticket is by the time the concert does roll around, the tickets were bought so far in advance that it is basically free once you get to the venue.