By Lauren Barry, Consultant, Presciant
Ticketmaster dominates the live-venue market. Its acquisition of Live Nation has resulted in a ticket-vending monopoly for the $12 billion company. In the past month, however, Ticketmaster fumbled the box office for two of the most important global figures in the music industry: Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny. Artists and musicians now have to think twice before associating their brand with the Ticketmaster brand because it may put their own brand at risk.
20 days after Taylor Swift lived up to her name and took very swift action to limit the damage to her brand, Ticketmaster did it again! Ticketmaster once more messed up its ticket selling and has placed the Bad Bunny brand in jeopardy. Bad Bunny, known for his eclectic style and powerful music, is one of the most popular and most streamed music brands in the world. He was scheduled to host Mexico’s largest concert this December 2022. But for thousands of fans, the night was taken away from them before it even began—thanks to Ticketmaster.
A multitude of disappointed fans was turned away from the entrance when fake tickets triggered a system error and denied entry to thousands of customers with valid tickets—most bought directly from Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster stated that the demand for a Bad Bunny concert ticket that night was “the highest in Mexico’s history, registering more than 4.5 million people in search for one of the barely 120,000 available at the Estadio Azteca.” This huge demand resulted in an unprecedented number of duplicated tickets sold and a “temporary intermittence in the reading system” that deprived frustrated fans of experiencing what was supposed to be one of the greatest nights imaginable.
Bad Bunny, unaware of the outside troubles, continued his eccentric, dynamic performance to a half-filled stadium. The President of Mexico saw the turmoil as an insult to his country. He asked that Bad Bunny make up for it by coming back to Mexico City and playing for free for the fans. He also demanded that Ticketmaster issue a full refund plus 20% compensation to any fan unable to attend the concert despite spending hundreds of dollars for an actual ticket. Bad Bunny, who previously stated he is overworked and tired from his tour, has not commented on the possible make-up show. Not acting as Taylor Swift did to apologize and make things right was a bad error on Bad Bunny’s part. We believe it may have done severe damage to the value of his brand.
This is the second time this winter that Ticketmaster failed in large-scale ticket vending. The ticket site now faces an antitrust investigation from the US Justice Department. All of this is a major warning. This raises a big red flag for any musician thinking of partnering with Ticketmaster, as the Ticketmaster brand is now toxic. This is not only putting the brand but all brands doing live concerts at risk. The damage to less well-known brands with less robust reputations may be greater. They are more likely to be able to bounce back quickly.
Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny’s differing reactions carry major learnings for any brand in any industry thinking of partnering with a third party it does not control.
For all brands:
- Think twice about who or what your brand is tied to
- Apologize: Say how sorry you are immediately, even if it is not your fault
- Act: Take action to compensate (overcompensate) those harmed
- Step out: Speak out on behalf of your customers and try to get your guilty partner to change their behavior
For their partners:
- Put your customer first: Prioritize individuals, not bots or scalpers, don’t sacrifice your customers for a few extra margin points.
- Mistakes do happen: When they do, apologize and take action to make things right fast.
Brand experience matters more than anything else. You must deliver what you promise to your customer.