(The Hill) – Taylor Swift fans have bad blood with Ticketmaster after the platform canceled the general sale of the pop star’s upcoming tour after a chaotic pre-sale this week, shedding new light on an issue supporters of antitrust reform already knew only too well.
Critics have warned of the company’s dominance since its merger with Live Nation in 2010, and the latest fiasco with Swift’s upcoming tour, which has sparked outrage among its huge fanbase, has given ammunition to lawmakers trying to revamp antitrust laws to ratchet up the pressure.
The impetus from Swift fans comes as the Biden administration has pledged to take a tough stance on the competition. The New York Times reported on Friday that Ticketmaster is under investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) into whether it abused its market power.
The investigation is believed to predate Swift’s tour ticket sales, but the high-profile nature of the incident has brought the issue into the spotlight.
“The enormous interest in this performer and this episode, regarding the availability of tickets to see her perform, is a great example of what we see so often in American public life – this shift in policy, action, is often catalyzed by a single event,” said William Kovacic, former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and professor of law at George Washington University.
“There are all sorts of issues and issues that don’t immediately impact the country on a large scale, but it does. And all of a sudden you have an uproar and the legislators are listening to that. Government agency officials are listening to this,” he added.
In addition to the DOJ investigation and pressure from Congress, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (R) said Wednesday he would launch an investigation into Ticketmaster after complaints that the ticket sales process for the Swift’s tour “did not go smoothly”.
Ticketmaster said the problems arose due to unprecedented demand for tickets to Swift’s tour, her first in five years, which follows the release of four new studio albums and two re-recordings of her earlier works.
More than 2 million tickets were sold for the tour on the first day of presales on Tuesday, breaking Ticketmaster’s record for the most sold in one day, Variety reported, citing an announcement from the company.
That day the site crashed. Ticketmaster said it sent codes to 1.5 million fans to participate in the presale, directing another 2 million to a waiting list. The company said it decided the number of people in each group based on its historical data of fans attending and buying tickets.
Although the company uses a system to organize the number of customers buying presale tickets, fans complained online on Tuesday that the website continues to crash and wait times for their turn to buy tickets are long. hours.
On Thursday, Ticketmaster said it would cancel the general sale scheduled for Friday “due to extraordinarily high demands on the ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet this demand.”
Although Ticketmaster said the problems were due to high demand, proponents of antitrust reform say the business is the problem.
“Because they have very little competition, [Ticketmaster] doesn’t feel obligated to invest in his product at all,” said Krista Brown, senior policy analyst at the nonprofit anti-monopoly project American Economic Liberties Project.
This alleged lack of competition leads to website downtime and higher prices and fees for customers, Brown said.
“They’re really not afraid of losing the fanbase, because the fanbase has nowhere else to turn,” Brown added.
Swift has joined in the chorus of pushback herself, posting an Instagram Story on Friday saying it’s hard for her to “trust an outside entity” with her fan relationships and “excruciating” to “just watch things.” errors occur without recourse”.
“I’m not going to apologize to anyone because we asked them, repeatedly, if they could handle this kind of request and we were assured they could,” Swift said, adding that ” piss off”. [her] off” that even the 2.4 million people who got tickets “felt like they had suffered multiple bear attacks to get them”.
A Ticketmaster spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
This is not the first time users have reported issues with Ticketmaster. Brown said that “most people have a Ticketmaster horror story,” either due to technical issues of tickets “disappearing” when in the checkout basket or prices jumping due to “dynamic pricing ” or “invisible charges” attached to the tickets at the end of the purchase process.
In 2019, the DOJ found that Ticketmaster violated the provisions of the consent decree drafted at the time of the approved merger. The department reached a new agreement with the company, extending the executive order through 2025 and adjusting some of the language of the agreement.
The DOJ is now looking into whether the company is complying with the new agreement as part of its investigation, the Times reported.
“It is indisputable that the Ticketmaster-LiveNation merger created a monopoly, and I applaud the [Jonathan] The Kanter-led Antitrust Division at the Justice Department for their investigation,” Sacha Haworth, executive director of the Omidyar-funded Technology Surveillance Project, said in a statement.
Lawmakers who have criticized the consolidation of power between a few companies have used the chaotic sale of Swift’s tour to raise concerns.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) tweeted a “daily reminder” Tuesday that “Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s [sic] the merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be brought under control.
“Break them up,” she added.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Wednesday shared a statement on Twitter which he did in 2009 when he was Connecticut’s attorney general to investigate Ticketmaster. On Friday, he tweeted that “it’s time for the DOJ to hold this bully accountable” and enforce the terms of the merger deal to protect consumers or “break this malignant monopoly.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, sent a letter Wednesday to Michael Rapino, the company’s president and CEO, urging him about her concerns about misconduct. anti-competitive.
Klobuchar has pushed for antitrust reform, primarily for a vote on a duo of bills aimed at limiting the power of tech giants. The proposals rolled out of the Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support, but they are not out of the woods yet, with no confirmed ground vote date.
More broadly, Klobuchar and other proponents of antitrust reform argue that the DOJ and FTC lack the resources they need to challenge the giant corporations that are accumulating dominance in their industries.
The wave of pushback from Swift fans, however, could help increase the pressure, Brown said.
“It’s been kind of a crash course in antitrust for all of the Taylor Swift fans, of which there are obviously many,” she said.
“Public pressure really matters, and that’s something that often gets overlooked.”
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