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Ticketmaster faces a big test: Beyoncé's Renaissance tour

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The wait is over. Beyonce, or, as some folks call her, Queen Bey, is back. And tickets for her first solo tour in five years are finally on sale this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREAK MY SOUL")

BEYONCE: (Singing) Hold up, oh, baby, baby. You won't break my soul. You won't break my soul. You won't break my soul. You won't break my soul. I'm telling everybody, everybody, everybody, everybody.

FADEL: So how's it going for Ticketmaster this time around? Here to answer that question is NPR's Jonathan Franklin. Good morning.

JONATHAN FRANKLIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila. Thanks for having me.

FADEL: So, Jonathan, has anything changed with Ticketmaster since what we saw happen back in November?

FRANKLIN: Well, you know, Leila, that's a very good question. When Taylor Swift tickets went on sale, so many people tried to buy them at the same time that Ticketmaster's website just flat-out crashed.

FADEL: Yeah.

FRANKLIN: But this time around, Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, say they're going to be making some changes. The companies say they're going to stagger their ticket sales, so you'll be able to buy tickets for certain cities before others go on sale. And that way, all of her fans in Toronto, for example, won't flood the website at the same time as her fans in Miami. And since Beyonce just became the most awarded artist in Grammys history, people are definitely wanting to go see Queen Bey.

FADEL: Yeah. So if I'm a Beyonce fan, what is the process of getting a ticket?

FRANKLIN: Well, luckily, Ticketmaster is using a system that it had for a while called Verified Fan. And they're asking for fans to register in advance for their preferred shows. They say that fans will be vetted individually. So the company is really hoping that people are buying tickets for themselves and not for reselling. And they're making the tickets nontransferable up to a certain point. So if you do wind up with a ticket, you'd better hope you can really make it to her show.

FADEL: That's a process. How's it going so far, and what happens if the site melts down again?

FRANKLIN: Well, thankfully, Leila, the pre-sale started yesterday and it seems to be going pretty smoothly, fingers crossed. And there's no reports of any major website crashes. Once the demand exceeds the supply, Ticketmaster will resort to more of a lottery-style selection process that will put random verified fans on the waitlists. But, Leila, that waitlist doesn't mean, necessarily, you'll get a ticket. And the pressure is definitely intense as both fans and Congress are watching the situation to see how the presale goes and if there are any, you know, glitches or hiccups.

And the website failures are not the only thing that they're watching. It has gotten so bad to the point where President Biden called for Ticketmaster and other companies to lower the service fees that are oftentimes slapped onto tickets for concerts or sporting events. And even Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has called Live Nation a, quote, "monopoly." And then she suggested that using an antitrust law to break things up. And the day after Beyonce announced her tour, the Senate Judiciary Committee issued a not-so-subtle warning to the company, saying in a tweet, quote, "we're watching."

FADEL: So they'll have Congress to deal with and the BeyHive. So we'll see what happens. That's NPR's Jonathan Franklin. Thank you so much for your reporting.

FRANKLIN: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREAK MY SOUL")

BEYONCE: (Singing) And I'm telling everybody, everybody, everybody. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.