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Ticketmaster troubles bring questions about the giant's partnership with ASU

ASU's mobile-only ticket system has hindered the fan experience for some but made it easier to attend for others

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ASU student section reacts to an ASU touchdown against NAU at Sun Devil Stadium, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. ASU won 40-3.

On a seemingly ordinary evening in late 1974, ASU students Albert Leffler and Peter Gadwa met with businessman Gordon Gunn III over lasagna and sangria in a Tempe duplex. The group was discussing starting a ticketing company that would incorporate emerging computer technology. Two years and many meetings later, Ticketmaster was born.

Ticketmaster has long been known for its exorbitant fees and technical headaches, and has been facing increased scrutiny in the wake of their bungling of ticket sales for Taylor Swift's "The Eras Tour" late last year, in which many fans were denied tickets. 

The New York Times reported in November the U.S. Department of Justice opened an antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster's parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, over whether its behavior has indicated an abuse of market power. 

The Swift tour fiasco and the ongoing DOJ investigation raise questions over whether ASU athletics' partnership with Ticketmaster is truly bringing its fans an ideal live sports experience. 

In 2017, 43 years after that first meeting, Ticketmaster returned to its roots, partnering with Sun Devil Athletics to become the athletic department's "primary ticketing source" for on-campus ASU sporting events, according to the press release announcing the partnership.

"As the most innovative university in the country, we strive to be pioneers in all aspects of our athletic department," said Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson in the release. "Our new partnership with Ticketmaster exemplifies that vision, as we recognize the seamless and advanced experience Ticketmaster provides to our fans when it comes to purchasing tickets to our events. We look forward to simplifying that experience for Sun Devil Nation as we enter this very unique relationship with Ticketmaster."

But to many, the Ticketmaster experience at ASU sporting events is neither simple nor seamless. 

Ticketmaster's digital ticketing platform requires event goers to scan a unique barcode upon entering, which makes a phone with adequate charge a requirement for admission. 

In addition, in order to purchase a ticket and access it to gain entrance to an event, each entrant must have an account with Ticketmaster.

This becomes particularly burdensome due to Ticketmaster's oft-quirky system, which, by nature of being online, can be worsened by poor connection outside busy events. 

Sutter Holden, a junior and head committee chair for 942 Crew, ASU's student section, said that hosting ticket information on the ASU Gameday app, accessed using students' ASU accounts, creates confusion when students first look to obtain tickets.

"One of the hard parts I've seen on communicating it is that when you're making the Ticketmaster account, it makes you change your password," Holden said. "When a lot of people first log in they get scared thinking that all their passwords have changed for (MyASU) when it's just Ticketmaster." 

942 Crew uses its social media presence to encourage student attendance at sporting events and makes a special effort to ensure students know what to expect when navigating Ticketmaster. Preston Quijano, a junior studying finance and the Crew's junior chair, said glitches in Ticketmaster's system can make that process frustrating.

"There's a lot of times where Ticketmaster makes you reset your password even though you just reset it," Quijano said. "So sometimes it's like a lack of, not a system, but, it's kind of harder for students to realize that your password doesn't need to be reset 24/7, it's just at the Ticketmaster end."

The technical issues with Ticketmaster's ticketing process was exacerbated by ASU's transition to mobile-only ticketing in 2020. Mobile ticketing led to the end of physical paper tickets, to the dismay of some fans of ASU sports.

Fletcher King, who graduated from ASU in 2019 and was a member of 942 Crew, said there is something lost in a mobile-only system.

"While I like the ease of carrying tickets on my phone, a physical ticket feels more fulfilling," King said. "It can also be a sort of canvas for game photos or other art."

Holden and Quijano both acknowledged that their fathers collected physical tickets, but noted that younger fans have found different ways to collect memories from meaningful sporting events. 

"I feel like now with a newer age of technology and everything, people are not saving up those tickets," Quijano said. "With the social media aspect, saving the actual game is taking a video from the game rather than saving the tickets."

King proposed a hybrid system where tickets are available both through Ticketmaster online and for print at home or at the box office.

Holden did indicate, however, that having tickets accessible online can be helpful when preparing for a game.

"I just like that it's saving me from having to go to the box office or like printing out a physical ticket and everything," Holden said. "You can go on your phone from anywhere, when you're going to the bathroom and everything, to get your ticket. It's available any time, you don't have to go somewhere or print something out or have access to a printer and everything."

Edited by Kathryn Field, Reagan Priest and Piper Hansen.

Reach the reporter at and follow @_alexwakefield on Twitter. 

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