Olivia Rodrigo

Ticketmaster Crashes During Olivia Rodrigo Presale—Here's Why

Specialized web browsers for ticket brokers combined with overwhelming fan demand is overwhelming Ticketmaster's infrastructure.
Ticketmaster Crashes During Olivia Rodrigo Presale—Here's Why

Ticketmaster was temporarily crushed under the weight of people trying to buy Olivia Rodrigo concert tickets, leaving fans locked out and upset yet again. Rodrigo’s “GUTS” tour tickets are some of the hottest and most expensive on the secondary market, and, after announcing two new shows in Los Angeles, Ticketmaster’s servers were seemingly crushed by massive demand, with many people unable to even join the “Virtual Waiting Room” to attempt to buy tickets. 

Ticketmaster has not yet explained exactly why this happened with Rodrigo’s latest presale, but 404 Media has been documenting the popularization of new tactics ticket brokers use to buy highly sought-after tickets, which all involve hitting Ticketmaster’s servers and the Virtual Waiting Room as many times as possible. Twitter is full of people posting screenshots of error messages that they got while trying to join the Olivia Rodrigo presale today, and when 404 Media tried, we repeatedly got server errors as well.

The “Virtual Waiting Room” is a system created by Ticketmaster that essentially creates a lottery for fans to buy tickets. It is nominally designed to give everyone an equal chance to get to the “front of the line” to buy tickets. Ticketmaster allows an individual web browser and account to join the waiting room only one time, meaning everyone trying to buy tickets should be able to enter the lottery only once. 

In response to this restriction, a series of specialized web browsers for ticket brokers have been created for ticket brokers, which treat each individual tab as a separate browser session that can be assigned its own IP address and its own Ticketmaster account. These browsers are built specifically to let brokers bombard virtual waiting rooms with tons of different sessions from a single computer. These browsers are relatively sophisticated and are very expensive. The most popular, Insomniac Browser, costs $399 per month. Another, called Private Tabs, costs $500 per month and includes proxy IP addresses. 

Versions of these types of browsers have existed for years, but in recent months Private Tabs has added lots of new features, and many competitors have also launched, making such technology more accessible to brokers. 

Private Tabs advertises that it connects with SIM boxes, which are specialized pieces of hardware that lets each tab of the browser use a different phone number and, by extension, a different Ticketmaster account and IP address: "These hardware devices allow you to add 512 phone numbers to your Private Tabs account,” the company advertises. It includes a “Waiting room manager: ‘Manage 100+ accounts at once!’”

Ken Lowson, a ticket broker who popularized the use of bots on Ticketmaster in the early 2000s, was raided by the feds in 2010, and is now a whistleblower and fan advocate, told me that these types of browsers are essentially “the new bots.”

“There’s a new type of Bot in Town. It’s called a Mass Tab Browser Bot, and there are many options to choose from,” he said. “The Browser makes up a new computer number for each Tab you use, and then you buy IPs from Overseas, so each window has a different IP. It’s worse than it ever has been for Fans.”

It is impossible to say exactly what is happening with the Olivia Rodrigo presales, but it is safe to assume that Ticketmaster’s servers are getting pinged by a mix of her fans and ticket brokers using browsers like Private Tabs. One broker 404 Media talked to, who we granted anonymity to speak about industry matters, said “ALL brokers buy [Ticketmaster] accounts,” adding that they believe Insomniac Browser is the most popular among brokers.