This summer, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé sent their fans into a frenzy.
When tickets to their tours quickly sold out, fans went to extreme lengths to catch the stars on stage for the first time since 2018. Some snuck into Swift’s Eras Tour by bagging security gigs, while others flew across the globe from Dallas to Stockholm to land a seat at Beyoncé's Renaissance World Tour.
It’s why, for those lucky few who managed to get their hands on tickets the old-fashioned way, the two show-stopping spectacles offered more than the chance to have fun—for many, it meant business.
Ticket resellers were able to earn hundreds—even thousands—through sites like StubHub and Viagogo, where Swifties could purchase a seat at The Eras Tour for upwards of $35,000.
The ticket scalping has sparked fan fury, new tax laws and interest from the U.S. Senate—but Cris Miller, the global MD of Viagogo, defended the eye-watering resale price of in-demand tickets in an interview with Fortune.
“Buyers make their own decisions,” he says. “If they see a ticket up there that's out of their price range or their comfort zone, don't buy it.”
He’s not offering a harsh reality check for those lusting over tickets they can’t afford. Instead, he argues, the value of tickets up for resale is based on what consumers are willing to spend and has nothing to do with the platform itself.
“We don't put any restrictions on, [neither] a cap or a floor—so it can go as low as $1 and they can go as high as people posted,” Miller adds. “The reality is that the demand is what sets it.”
Why Viagogo won’t cap ticket prices
The business of snapping up tickets and selling them for a profit isn’t without controversy, and ticket scalpers have felt the wrath of a swarm of angry Swifties on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Makes me sick [that] seconds after tickets for the Taylor Swift Eras Tour in Miami go on sale, how many damn scalpers and scammers there are selling tickets stopping fans from going to see Taylor,” one fan said as they joined the mounting complaints.
Some even directed their anger at Viagogo directly, with one fan asking how it was “even legal” that tickets were being sold at almost 10 times their face value, even with a restricted view.
Even British politicians waded into the backlash.
"Why hasn’t the government done more to protect our daughters from this rip-off merchant?" lawmaker Kevin Brennan asked the U.K.'s House of Commons earlier this year.
But Miller’s argument is that even if Viagogo did introduce measures to cap how much ticket resellers can charge, it wouldn’t eradicate ticket scalping.
“The secondary market has been around since live entertainment existed. In the days of the gladiators there were probably people selling tickets outside the stadium,” he says. “My point is, that we didn't we didn't create any of it, we're just trying to put a bit more order and security and safety around it.”
If people can’t resell on Viagogo—or if they’re disincentivized to do so because of price caps—Miller, an events industry veteran, firmly believes they will simply side-step such services in favor of the black market.
“When you see other marketplaces that try to put restrictions in place, usually for the highest demand events, they don't have any tickets at all,” he cautions.
Pointing to soccer in the U.K. as an example, he adds: “The black market is gigantic and that's because there is a restriction on resale amongst the clubs.”
So he thinks of sites like Viagogo as a force for good, saving youngsters from the dangers of buying tickets off of strangers on the streets or from some “sketchy website."
“We don't think that's a better route for fans, because there's no recourse for them if something goes wrong,” he adds.
Are fans to blame for 'sensationalist pricing'?
Just because someone lists a ticket for Swift's Eras Tour at over $35,000, it doesn’t mean the tickets are actually fetching that much.
“You see a lot of sensationalist pricing, but they don't sell because no one is willing to pay that,” Miller says, adding that the average Eras Tour ticket sold on Viagogo was in the region of $500 in the U.S. and £100 ($122) in the U.K., where demand was weaker.
Still, even he was stunned by how much cash people were willing to splash to inch closer to Taylor Swift in the flesh.
“We've seen thousands and thousands of dollars and pounds go for people sitting in really good seats,” he says, noting that tickets for groups of six in particular were a hot commodity.
“No disrespect to Beyoncé, but it's like in a different category,” he insists. “The prices are a reflection of just the enormous amount of demand that's out there that we've never seen before—and I've been doing it for 20 years.”
Ultimately, if you’re looking for someone to blame for the sky-high price of tickets, it’s the fans paying an arm and a leg to see their favorite artists. At least, that’s what Miller suggests.
“The sellers will set a price that they think is the right market price and the buyers are the ones that ultimately dictate what that price is—meaning that if they feel comfortable with that price and that location, they'll buy it,” he says. “But prices drop when the buyers are not interested."
As well as avoiding purchasing overpriced tickets and artificially driving up its value, another factor Miller thinks frustrated fans should consider is ticket holdbacks.
Essentially tickets are held back from the general public for friends, family and those working closely to the artist.
“There's no limit to how much they can take,” he explains. “So what's unclear to the general fan is how many dates they're going to do, you don't know how many tickets are in each price band.”
Research by the New York Attorney General's Office revealed more than 50% of tickets to top shows between 2012 and 2015 were not released to the general public.
“So the odds are stacked against the general fan in a lot of cases and then what happens is when it goes on sale and there's no availability, there's frustration,” Miller tells Fortune. “The alternatives at that point are looking for tickets on the resale market, which tends to potentially drive prices up artificially because we're unclear about how many tickets actually are in the market itself.”
Miller says he’s an advocate for more transparency from the primary market on what’s available.
“It's important that we educate people on what is taking place as much as possible and then hopefully, fans will demand more information up front,” he says.