Ticketmaster, Look What You Made Me Do

Ticketmaster, Look What You Made Me Do

Peyton Rohr, Staff Writer

After Ticketmaster’s failed ticket rollout to Taylor Swift’s the Eras Tour, swifties rallied and called as many people to action as they could. Nobody expected the US Senate to hear this call, but that’s exactly what happened. On January 24, the Senate came together to hold a hearing discussing not only the ticket rollout of Taylor Swift’s tour, but also if Ticketmaster and Live Nation qualify as a monopoly. Spoiler alert – they do.

One of the main topics of discussion was the 2010 merger of Ticketmaster, the largest ticketing company in the US, and Live Nation, the largest concert promoting company in the US. At the time, concerns were raised about this merger creating a monopoly, but ultimately the Department of Justice allowed the merger to occur under the condition that TicketMaster and Live Nation signed a consent decree. This consent decree prevented the joint entity from retaliating against a venue for using a service other than Live Nation or Ticketmaster. However, in an investigation in 2019, the Department of Justice found multiple violations of this consent decree, and rather than change the writing or legislation, they agreed to extend the consent decree to 2025. While this was a good start, it does not address the issue at hand; how to bring competition back into the live music industry and stop Live Nation and TicketMaster overpowering rule over the industry.

On the topic of competition, a lot of the hearing was spent deciding whether or not Ticketmaster and Live Nation should be considered a monopoly. According to Investopedia, “a monopoly is when a company and its product dominate an entire industry whereby there is little to no competition and consumers must purchase that specific good or service from the one company.” Out of the 5 witnesses that were not from Ticketmaster and Live Nation, 4 of them, as well as numerous senators, believed, without a doubt, that the company is a monopoly. The question then became how to combat it the monopoly, rather than if they company is one.

Almost every person in the hearing had different solutions to this problem, but a few stood out. The first was amending antitrust laws to better protect competition in the ticketing industry. Antitrust laws help foster competition in the corporate world, with various acts that protect against things like unlawful mergers that will lead to monopolies and deceptive acts towards consumers. By amending antitrust laws, it will free up the enforcers and courts to act against TicketMaster and Live Nation. As the law is written now, the government does not have a ton of power to stop the monopoly, but with some changes to legislation, it could greatly limit TicketMaster’s power and increase competition in the ticketing industry. If the government and lawmakers are able to step in when violations of the consent decree are detected, it prevents Live Nation and Ticketmaster from violating it, which will keep them from exerting their power over venues.

While antitrust laws directly impact the power Ticketmaster has in the industry, other solutions included addressing TicketMaster’s faulty infrastructure. These solutions figured if TicketMaster is the main ticketing service, they need to solve issues like bots and scalpers. One solution to the bots issue presented was the presentation of the Boss Act. Currently, the Bots Act is in place, which prevents a person from purchasing tickets by finding a way around a ticketing company’s online infrastructure. Under this act, Tiektmaster has a lot of power to find and act against bots and scalpers. However, it clearly has not been working, as shown by the Swift debacle. The Boss Act would provide government bolstering of bot regulation and support accountability for hidden fees and bots. With the government and Ticketmaster working together, it will limit bots and scalpers, and greatly increase the quality of the consumer experience. Another viable solution presented in the hearing was to only allow the transferring of tickets at face value. By only allowing tickets to be resold at face value, it takes away the incentive for scalpers to purchase tickets to mark up the prices because they simply wouldn’t be allowed to do it. This solution seems both the most possible, and the easiest to enforce and moving forward, should be made a priority to introduce.

While Taylor Swift’s ticket sale brought the issues to light, Ticketmaster’s control over the ticketing industry is a much larger issue that needs to be solved. Live Nation has 70% of the market in the concert promoting industry, owns a majority of the major venues, and TicketMaster has 87% of ticketing contracts in the NHL and NBA and 93% of the contracts in the NFL. In a capitalist economy that values competition, it is simply unacceptable for a singular entity to own this much of the market. Consumers have no choice but to purchase from TicketMaster because venues have no choice but to work with them. When venues chose to use other companies, they received significantly less concerts from TicketMaster and Live Nation. The failing infrastructure of Ticketmaster is a consumer’s only choice when purchasing tickets to see their favorite teams and artists, which exposes the issues within the company. In order to improve the consumer experience, it is absolutely essential to break down the monopoly of TicketMaster and Live Nation and reintroduce competition back into the ticketing industry. While it will take time, it has to start somewhere, so it is imperative that the government acts on the solutions and issues presented in this hearing.