Ticketmaster's got bad blood with Taylor Swift fans — and now the Department of Justice and Wall Street, too.
Shares of Live Nation (LYV) closed down nearly 8% on Friday, hitting their lowest levels since February 2021, as the nightmare week for Ticketmaster's parent company continued after a report from The New York Times said the Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into the company.
The investigation, which reportedly pre-dates the botched sale, comes after hundreds of thousands of fans were unable to purchase pre-sale tickets for Swift's upcoming "Eras" tour. Ticketmaster canceled a general ticket sale on Friday following problems during the pre-sales earlier in the week.
Swift responded to the debacle with a statement on Friday, writing on Instagram, "It's difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse."
"I'm not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured that they could," the statement continued.
Ticketmaster attempted to explain what went wrong during Tuesday's pre-sale in a follow-up statement released on Thursday, citing "unprecedented" site traffic and a "staggering" number of bot attacks.
Ticketmaster said over 2 million tickets were sold through the pre-sale – the most tickets ever sold for an artist in a single day. The company also noted every ticket was sold to a buyer with a Verified Fan code.
According to Ticketmaster, there were 90% fewer tickets posted for resale on secondary markets than a typical on sale, with the company adding that it is not currently reselling any "Eras" tour tickets.
"The biggest venues and artists turn to us because we have the leading ticketing technology in the world — that doesn't mean it's perfect, and clearly for Taylor's sale it wasn't," the statement added.
'Part of the solution'
Some analysts believe an antitrust investigation into Live Nation following this botched sale isn't necessarily fair, however, telling Yahoo Finance that Ticketmaster has attempted to solve a big problem in the live events industry — the unregulated secondary ticket market.
"Live Nation and Ticketmaster have become sort of a corporate punching bag, but I actually believe that Ticketmaster is part of the solution — it's not part of the problem," Douglas Arthur, analyst at Huber Research Partners, told Yahoo Finance.
"The secondary market is the wild wild west, and it's unregulated...fans pay too much and the artist doesn't benefit from the proceeds," he added, explaining that Ticketmaster's dynamic pricing and Verified Ticket Program attempts to bring some order and regulation to that market.
Ryan Sundby, an analyst at William Blair, agreed that a DoJ probe doesn't solve the problem at hand.
"I don't quite get that line of thinking," he stated. "From a regulatory standpoint, Ticketmaster is doing what everyone wants them to do — get tickets directly into the hands of the fan."
A potential break-up could be a material risk, however, as "the two companies are kind of joined at the head because of their mutual dependency on each other," Arthur said, warning a potential untangling would be incredibly complicated after Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010.
"It would be a very complicated, lengthy period with lots of lawsuits. I'm not sure the end result would be any better, either," he added. Ultimately, "this [Taylor Swift] situation is a one-off for me. The demand was through the roof — they misjudged that, but this is a one-off."
Sundby added: "From a big picture perspective, the fact that people are wanting to go see live music with this much enthusiasm should be really good for Live Nation in the long-term."
Live event surge pressures demand
Thanks to sold-out tours from Coldplay to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Live Nation reported its highest quarterly attendance ever as over 44 million fans attended 11,000 events in the third quarter, up 40% versus the same period in 2019.
"Ticket sales for shows in 2023 are pacing even stronger than they were heading into 2022, up double digits year-over-year," Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said on the company's latest earnings call.
So far this year, over 115 million concert tickets have been sold, up 37% from this point in 2019. Fans are also spending 20% to 30% more at venues, on average, compared to 2019, despite some concerns about a recession.
Alexandra is a Senior Entertainment and Media Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193 and email her at email@example.com