Live music events have long been one of the most exciting, liberating, and community-driven experiences you can possibly have. Concerts primarily became a safe space to be your truest self, in a collective identity with people who love the same artists you do, and were a breeding ground for life-long friendships and sacred memories formed between the artist and the fans.
It is no secret that in a post-pandemic world, concerts have shifted onto a completely different axis. With extortionate ticket prices and concert etiquette becoming non-existent, concerts have slowly dwindled away from what they used to be, but at least fans still had the option to attend them if they so wished, right? Wrong.
Ticketmaster has been at the forefront of criticism basically since its formation. The website has always faced criticism from the public for network servers crashing due to high demand (remember the One Direction tour days?) despite being the biggest ticketing site globally. More recently, the leaders of ticket purchasing were subjected to backlash for allowing shows to sell out before general sale, most notably the BTS Permission To Dance Las Vegas shows where the four nights sold out during fan club presale, leaving not one single seat available for a general sale. TicketMaster has consistently made errors in one way or another, but the current backlash for their most recent mess is their largest to date. Welcome to the stage, Verified Fan.
So, some of you may be asking, what IS a verified fan? TicketMaster Verified Fan was established to help with the concert scalpers crisis. As per the Verified Fan page, “We’re committed to getting tickets in the hands of fans. Not touts or bots.” Artists such as Billie Eilish previously used the service to allow a small select fan presale to try and keep tickets with fans, but even during the early days, the servers had meltdowns and ended with tickets still not in the pockets of fans.
To begin to explain why Verified Fan is such a mess, we need to go back to the beginning of its downfall. At the end of 2022, five years after her last tour, none other than Taylor Swift announced her soon-to-be record-breaking The Eras Tour. In order to try and keep tickets in the hands of fans, Taylor and her team opted into Ticketmaster’s verified fan presale to, in TicketMaster’s own words help fans have “the best opportunity to get more tickets.” The shortened version of the disastrous sale ended with a select few being picked to attempt to purchase tickets, 14 million people on Ticketmaster for a presale that 3 million registered for, with thousands of tickets being up on StubHub and Viagogo within hours of the sale occurring.
During the United Kingdom and Europe leg sale of The Eras Tour, the issues only continued to arise. Verified Fan registration ended up being the only form of a general sale for the global pop stars’ UK and Europe tour, something that scared many Swifties as the whole ticketing process became a lucky dip to potentially see their favourite artist. Upon the verified fan codes being released, thousands took to social media expressing their lack of invitation to buy tickets. Thousands ended up not being emailed about their status, and months after the sale had occurred, some have still yet to receive an update regarding if they are even on the waitlist.
Most recently, Ticketmaster has come under fire again for the new princess of pop-rock Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS World Tour. Olivia has amassed unprecedented global fame since her rise in 2021 following the global smash debut album SOUR, which led her to follow the same route as Taylor and using verified fan as her ONLY general sale option. Queues of up to half an hour began on Ticketmaster to even register for Olivia’s tour, and upon selection day, many did not receive a code.
Once the sale officially began on September 21st, almost immediately fans watched as dynamic pricing went into effect as a result of high demand. Once the second wave of fans got accepted into the verified fan sale, over 75% of the remaining tickets were platinum-priced only. Within hours of both Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift’s sales, tickets were on websites such as StubHub for nearly triple the face value (with the latter having tickets on resale for £17,000.)
What once started out as an additional presale to help genuine fans have a better chance at accessing tickets for in-demand artists tours has become a war ground for concert-goers. Less and less genuine fans are being granted access to even attempt to see their fave artist live and instead, start thinking about savings for a resale ticket. In turn, the push for verified fan to become an option for artists comes across to fans as Ticketmaster sussing out how sought-after an event is to price up platinum tickets prior to general sale and ensure maximum profit.
How can this be combated? Well, that is simply too hard to answer. Ticketmaster is the largest ticketing platform on the planet and holds a monopoly over the industry, with many artists exclusively selling with them due to their connection with global powerhouse Live Nation, which runs the majority of event promotions. Many have suggested that verified fan should consist of answering questions about the artist in order to access the presale, but that only alienates casual listeners who genuinely enjoy the music from attending the concerts.
Live music should not be jumping through hopes and lucky dips in order to have the possibility of buying a ticket. Verified fan does not consider the average fan, it does not consider the huge fandoms, it just causes immense stress during ticket buying and emptying the pockets of those who just want to escape reality and sing their hearts out for a couple of hours.