Ross: Ticketmaster’s monopoly challenged in congressional hearing

Jan 25, 2023, 7:52 AM | Updated: 9:36 am
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24: Penny Harrison and her son Parker Harrison rally against the live entertainment ticket industry outside the U.S. Capitol January 24, 2023 in Washington, DC. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing this morning to explore whether the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster has stifled competition and harmed the consumer marketplace. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Members of a Senate committee — one Republican and one Democrat — seemed to agree at Tuesday’s hearing that Ticketmaster has become a monopoly. And not a very friendly one.

The famous Taylor Swift debacle of last November, where ticket bots bid up a $450 ticket to a ridiculous $22,000 – turns out to be just one symptom of Ticketmaster’s dominance of the arena business since it merged with Live Nation in 2010.

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Even staunch defenders of capitalism were fed up, like Republican John Kennedy of Louisiana.

“You want to cut out bots, make it nontransferable or transferable only at face value. Couldn’t a major artist, couldn’t [an artist like] Bruce Springsteen say, ‘look, I’ve got market power, I’m going to set this price for the ticket. I’m going to set this price for the service fee, and it’s going to be nontransferable,'” Kennedy said.

“I think it’s an interesting idea, and some artists have done that,” a musician named Clyde Lawrence testified.

“Problem solved,” Kennedy agreed.

And as for ticket buyers who can’t make the concert and are stuck with tickets – they’d be allowed to sell one or two – but at face value or less.

“Not every kid can afford, whatever it is, $500 to go see Taylor Swift, and I’d like to see Miss Swift or Mr. Springsteen or some of the other major artists step up and say, ‘You know what? We’re going to support non-transferability. And we’re going to cap the fees that are added on here. And we’re going to make sure that the artist is paid a fair price,'” Kennedy said. “Everybody else can make a profit, but you can’t make an obscene profit, especially the scalpers. If we do that now, we’ve done something.”

But will a significant number of major artists actually do this?

Not likely, because there’s a fear that Ticketmaster would punish them. It has deals with so many venues that a rebel artist might find himself with no place to perform.

Taylor Swift was noticeably absent from the hearing. In fact, the only artist to testify was that voice you heard agreeing with Senator Kennedy – Clyde Lawrence, member of the soul-pop group Lawrence. He does have a million Spotify listeners – but isn’t quite in Bruce Springsteen territory.

Of course, the ultimate reason Ticketmaster can get away with this is America’s concert addiction. When the name is big enough, we have to get tickets.

We will endure online bidding wars, bots that steal tickets while you’re trying to buy them, and ticket prices that look like airfares.

I understand the allure. Despite the impression my co-workers have, I go to concerts from time to time.

Opera last weekend.

Ain’t Too Proud at the Paramount last night.

And I even paid $500 to see Paul McCartney from a great distance.

But after hearing how the money’s being divvied up…

The next time I pay $500 to see Paul McCartney, it better be in a jazz club with 50 other people max, a dinner included, and an autograph.

And a mint on my scented pillow.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Ticketmaster’s monopoly challenged in congressional hearing