There is no question that a massive swell of demand is responsible for a lot of the mess that consumers experienced during this week’s Taylor Swift Eras Tour ticket sales disaster. With the artist fresh off a history-making week where she had all ten spots atop the Billboard singles chart, tickets to see her perform were going to be red hot. But questions are starting to bubble up about whether or not a significant number of tickets being held-back played a major role in the chaos.
“Holdbacks are one of the dirtiest secrets in the industry,” writes New York State Sen. James Skoufis in an opinion piece published Friday by NBC. “It’s likely that at each of Taylor Swift’s 52 upcoming concerts, thousands of tickets will be “held back” and never released to the general public… According to a report compiled by the New York Attorney General’s Office, over 50% of tickets to top shows between 2012-2015 were not reserved for the general public. Holdbacks should be banned or severely limited.”
Every media outlet should ask Ticketmaster how many tickets were “held back” at each @taylorswift13 concert.
These are tickets that never go on sale and are handed over to VIPs, “friends and family,” and platinum credit card members.
Hint: thousands. At each show.
— James Skoufis (@JamesSkoufis) November 16, 2022
As Sen. Skoufis points out, holdbacks are a devastatingly common industry practice in modern ticketing. In many instances, tickets are held back from initial sale for things like presales to venue partners, or specific credit card holders, or to be offered to season ticket holders and other VIPs. But they are also known to be kept aside and distributed directly for resale on secondary marketplaces, or held off to give consumers the impression of a show being “sold out” – only to be slowly released back to the market, allowing prices to be kept as high as possible due to consumers being deceived about how many were available in the first place.
Industry insiders are well aware of this practice, and how it has been weaponized in the age of “verified fan” and presales that “sell out” the entire building (but not really). Consumers, however, typically believe when they hear an artist’s shows are sold out due to “unprecedented demand” – which is a phrase that Ticketmaster and Live Nation have used to justify things like surge dynamic pricing practices in ever-higher frequency in the last ten years, that an event is actually sold out – not just out of tickets being sold at the initial stage with many left over.
“While demand for Taylor Swift tickets is extraordinary, it has become common for primary ticket sellers (companies like Ticketmaster hired by event organizers to sell their tickets) to hold back hordes of tickets from going on sale to create artificial scarcity in order to hold prices higher,” reads a section of a “Taylor Swift Ticket Buying Tips” publication from the National Association of Ticket Brokers released Friday. “Often few tickets are offered when tickets go on sale to the public or, in the case of Taylor Swift, the public on-sale was altogether cancelled. There is no transparency around ticket holdbacks and NATB has long called for this to change.”
It is not idle chatter to question whether or not holdbacks played a huge role in what has happened this week. On Taylor Swift’s reputation tour, “verified fan” was used to convince fans that demand was outrageously high. Then there were major issues during the onsale process for tickets, which the company attributed to outrageous amounts of people showing up to buy tickets for the shows, adding several new dates along the way, justified by the demand. Ticket prices were set as high as any tour in history, but were also justified by the perceived demand. but then things started to shift, as news of some shows seeing huge chunks of the building actually being unsold, rather than sold out.
As shows approached, there were widespread instances of bargain-basement prices available for tickets on the secondary market, or available in 2-for-1 deals for certain markets – even given away entirely. In at least one documented instance, a single show had more than 20,000 tickets given away, in order to fill the stadium to a level that was contractually obligated by the Messina Touring Group, which is in charge of Taylor Swift’s touring.
There have been many attempts to legislate transparency regarding ticket holdbacks in recent years, but all have failed to see passage into law, largely due to Live Nation Entertainment’s aggressive lobbying – the company is known to spend as much as five times more on lobbying than anyone else in the ticketing space. When Canadian lawmakers attempted to require holdback transparency, companies like Live Nation actually said that tours would skip Ontario and Toronto – the most populous province and city in the country – rather than disclose that information. The eventual law that was passed did not have a holdback provision in it.
It is impossible, especially at this early date, to know the extent of holdbacks and the impact on this week’s Taylor Swift Eras Tour ticket sales. But some quick math based on numbers Ticketmaster included in a since-deleted blog post defending its role in the Eras Tour ticket mess implies that there could be a substantial number of tickets that haven’t been put on sale at all – despite them having cancelled the general sale scheduled for Friday due to not having enough tickets left to sell.
I’m no math wizard but 52 shows (47 serviced by #Ticketmaster and let’s say 100K tickets per show = 4.7 million tickets. TM says they sold “over 2MM”. Let’s say 2.5MM. They’re holding back a ton of tickets. #TaylorSwift
— Don Shano (@don_shano) November 17, 2022
Folks, in simple terms, #Ticketmaster is pulling a Jordan Belfort on Steve Madden. They are literally going to hold tix back in the name of more profit.
And folks, if looking for a reason to dislike TM/Live Nation who is doing this, don’t forget Saudi Gov’t has $500 mil stake https://t.co/XhclLd99J5
— Matt Dewire (@hotwiredewire) November 17, 2022
Are those figures accurate? Part of the point is that it’s impossible to say – Ticketmaster, SeatGeek, Live Nation, AEG Presents, Messina Touring, or anyone else involved in this mess would never disclose the actual number of tickets that have been offered to fans vs. how many were held back and for whom. For now, Taylor Swift fans have two options – buy tickets now on the secondary market at whatever outrageously high amount the implied demand has pushed them to, or wait it out, and see how far prices fall in the months between now and the singer taking the stage in the middle of 2023.
For fans who don’t want to wait to see whether or not they can grab some holdbacks that get released down the road, links to ticket resale pages that currently offer Taylor Swift Eras Tour tickets and the full tour schedule are included below:
Taylor Swift Ticket Links
Tickets at MEGASeats.com | No Service Charge/Free Shipping – 10% Off Using Code TICKETNEWS
Tickets at Event Tickets Center
Tickets at Scorebig
Tickets at StubHub
Tickets at Ticket Club | Free Membership Offer
Tickets at TicketNetwork
Tickets at TickPick
Tickets at TicketSmarter
Taylor Swift The Eras Tour Dates
Friday, March 17 – Glendale, AZ | State Farm Stadium !&
Saturday, March 18 – Glendale, AZ | State Farm Stadium !&
Friday, March 24 – Las Vegas, NV | Allegiant Stadium %&
Saturday, March 25 – Las Vegas, NV | Allegiant Stadium %&
Friday, March 31 – Arlington, TX | AT&T Stadium %+
Saturday, April 1 – Arlington, TX | AT&T Stadium %+
Sunday, April 2 – Arlington, TX | AT&T Stadium %+
Thursday, April 13 – Tampa, FL | Raymond James Stadium %+
Friday, April 14 – Tampa, FL | Raymond James Stadium %+
Saturday, April 15 – Tampa, FL | Raymond James Stadium %+
Friday, April 21 – Houston, TX | NRG Stadium %+
Saturday, April 22 – Houston, TX | NRG Stadium %+
Sunday, April 23 – Houston, TX | NRG Stadium %+
Friday, April 28 – Atlanta, GA | Mercedes-Benz Stadium %+
Saturday, April 29 – Atlanta, GA | Mercedes-Benz Stadium %+
Sunday, April 30 – Atlanta, GA | Mercedes-Benz Stadium %+
Friday, May 5 – Nashville, TN | Nissan Stadium $&
Saturday, May 6 – Nashville, TN | Nissan Stadium $&
Sunday, May 7 – Nashville, TN | Nissan Stadium $&
Friday, May 12 – Philadelphia, PA | Lincoln Financial Field $&
Saturday, May 13 – Philadelphia, PA | Lincoln Financial Field $&
Sunday, May 14 – Philadelphia, PA | Lincoln Financial Field $&
Friday, May 19 – Foxborough, MA | Gillette Stadium $&
Saturday, May 20 – Foxborough, MA | Gillette Stadium $&
Sunday, May 21 – Foxborough, MA | Gillette Stadium $&
Friday, May 26 – E. Rutherford, NJ | MetLife Stadium $&
Saturday, May 27 – E. Rutherford, NJ | MetLife Stadium $+
Sunday, May 28 – E. Rutherford, NJ | MetLife Stadium $+
Friday, June 2 – Chicago, IL | Soldier Field #?
Saturday, June 3 – Chicago, IL | Soldier Field #?
Sunday, June 4 – Chicago, IL | Soldier Field #?
Friday, June 9 – Detroit, MI | Ford Field #?
Saturday, June 10 – Detroit, MI | Ford Field #?
Friday, June 16 – Pittsburgh, PA | Acrisure Stadium #?
Saturday, June 17 – Pittsburgh, PA | Acrisure Stadium #?
Friday, June 23 – Minneapolis, MN | U.S. Bank Stadium #?
Saturday, June 24 – Minneapolis, MN | U.S. Bank Stadium #?
Friday, June 30 – Cincinnati, OH | Paycor Stadium ^+
Saturday, July 1 – Cincinnati, OH | Paycor Stadium ^+
Friday, July 7 – Kansas City, MO | Arrowhead Stadium ^+
Saturday, July 8 – Kansas City, MO | Arrowhead Stadium ^+
Friday, July 14 – Denver, CO | Empower Field at Mile High ^+
Saturday, July 15 – Denver, CO | Empower Field at Mile High ^+
Saturday, July 22 – Seattle, WA | Lumen Field *+
Sunday, July 23 – Seattle, WA | Lumen Field *+
Friday, July 28 – Santa Clara, CA | Levi’s Stadium *+
Saturday, July 29 – Santa Clara, CA | Levi’s Stadium *+
Thursday, August 3 – Inglewood, CA | SoFi Stadium *?
Friday, August 04 – Inglewood, CA | SoFi Stadium *?
Saturday, August 5 – Inglewood, CA | SoFi Stadium *&
Tuesday, August 8 – Inglewood, CA | SoFi Stadium *&
Wednesday, August 9 – Inglewood, CA | SoFi Stadium *&
Last Updated on November 18, 2022