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Taylor Swift fans rally for Ticketmaster hearing in Los Angeles

                                Taylor Swift performs during the opener of her Eras tour at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
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Taylor Swift performs during the opener of her Eras tour at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

LOS ANGELES >> After the Ticketmaster meltdown last fall, Swifties with bad blood are on tour. Their most recent stop: Los Angeles.

About a dozen aggrieved fans traveled from across the United States to downtown Los Angeles to testify in a federal civil lawsuit against Ticketmaster, which was filed in L.A. County in December. More than 300 plaintiffs are accusing Live Nation Entertainment, Ticketmaster’s parent company, of fraud, price-fixing, antitrust-law violations and misleading buyers while selling advance tickets to pop superstar Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour.”

After the hearing, fans huddled at the steps of the federal courthouse for a rally, holding homemade signs that contained barbs aimed at Ticketmaster.

“We put everything on pause just to come out here and make a stand,” plaintiff Penny Harrison said. She had flown in from Washington, D.C., with her 16-year-old daughter.

“We’re done rolling the dice — we don’t want to play Monopoly anymore, we want to have healthy ticket competition,” she added. Harrison was holding a sign with the words, “ARE YOU READY FOR IT!” piercing a broken heart that had “Ticketmaster” and “Live Nation” written on the two severed pieces.

Harrison was among the thousands in November who tried to get “Eras” tickets through Ticketmaster’s presale portal for her and her three children — all Swifties — only to walk away empty-handed.

The ticket seller’s presale system for Swift’s tour crumbled, with the company blaming the problem on a “staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes.” The crash kept many “Verified Fans” who had done everything right from getting tickets. The next day, unable to meet demand, the company was forced to cancel the tour’s public sale.

On that day in November, Harrison had canceled work and a doctor’s appointment to camp at her laptop for hours. After the site collapsed, she tried again the next day from her doctor’s office while she waited for the rescheduled appointment.

Her bank rejected the credit card purchase; because of the high price, the bank thought it was fraudulent, Harrison said. With seconds left on the clock to purchase the tickets, Harrison resorted to borrowing a credit card from a stranger sitting next to her in the waiting room. No luck.

Cassandra Diamond, another plaintiff, sacrificed an eight-hour shift as a bartender and drove from Fresno to speak at Monday’s hearing. A lifelong fan whose devotion began under the Christmas tree as a child when she unwrapped a CD of Swift’s 2008 debut album, Diamond had saved $500 to catch Swift during her two-night stop at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood. But even that wasn’t enough.

“I’m here because Taylor wanted us to see your show between $50 to $500,” she said, holding a sign that said “Our pennies made your crown!” and was signed by “karma.” “And there’s no reason that we should be asked to pay, you know, way, way, way more than that.”

In court Monday, more than 30 plaintiffs, including 25 who took part virtually, spoke at the hearing about the kind of lawsuit status the plaintiffs are seeking. Jennifer Anne Kinder, a personal injury attorney from Dallas and lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said she plans not to seek class-action status because she feels individual jury trials would be more effective in getting change.

Although plaintiffs are asking Ticketmaster for at least $2,500 each in damages, they say the ultimate goal is to break up what they see as Live Nation Entertainment’s monopoly over the live entertainment industry and give the average fan a better chance at buying a ticket. Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, a deal that raised concerns about a monopoly. The company is being investigated by the Justice Department for possible antitrust violations.

Kinder, who tried and failed to get tickets last fall, said she hopes the lawsuit will expose the forensic data behind Ticketmaster’s sales collapse.

“We want all of the forensic data about what happened on that day, not just what happened to our plaintiffs, but how the bots got in, what spyware they use to keep them out, and why the platform wasn’t large enough to accommodate all of the users,” Kinder said. “Who were the users, because they weren’t all Taylor Swift fans, right?”

“I think that’s the single best source of information we’re gonna ever have about the power and control they have,” Kinder added, “and that the only remedy is complete breakup.”

The three lawyers behind the lawsuit are a small legal team compared with the volume of plaintiffs and the amount of attention the case has been getting. Also helping out is a legal assistant, Melanie Carlson of Washington, D.C., who recently dropped out of a doctorate program to join Kinder’s firm for the case.

A former advocate in the “Free Britney” movement to end pop star Britney Spears’ yearslong conservatorship, Carlson called the Swifties’ rage against Ticketmaster her “Trojan Horse” in holding the mega-corporation accountable for its control of the live entertainment industry. She said the company banks on classism, keeping lower-income people from buying tickets and leaving up-and-coming artists who have limited funding with few choices besides the entertainment giant.

“There’s a lot of reasons to be mad at Ticketmaster beyond getting tickets, because they’re the live entertainment master,” she said. “You mess with them, you have no career — everyone falls in line.”

After the presale debacle, Harrison eventually managed to get two tickets for Swift’s tour stop in Philadelphia. But the fight is about those who couldn’t afford tickets, and for future generations of fans, she said as she pointed to her daughter.

And, even though she got a pair of tickets, it’s not all joy in the Harrison household.

“I have three kids — which one do I say, ‘No, you didn’t make the cut today?’” she asked.

She and one of her children will be hanging out during the show in Philly’s Lincoln Financial Field parking lot, where spots can range from $150 to $300, trying to celebrate in their own way.

“I will be dancing on the outside,” Harrison said. “And crying on the inside.”

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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