Every Taylor Swift fan knows the significance of Tuesday, November 15th, 2023 and for the millions without a Capital One card, Friday, November 18th—the release dates for the famed Eras Tour’s presale and sale tickets. Millions of people skipped school or work, missed meetings, and even took an off-call day in Torts class to ensure that they had the best chance of scoring tickets to the highly anticipated Taylor Swift tour.
A common memory both pre-sale ticket buyers or sale buyers will remember is the Ticketmaster website’s crashes, long wait times, and the multiple error messages that popped up when trying to checkout on the Ticketmaster site whenever they watch videos of the concert on social media and see pictures of friends dressing up in their favorite “Taylor Era.” These ticketless fans will forever blame Ticketmaster for not delivering quality customer service, causing them to miss a once in an era experience. Ticketmaster claims that these glitches were caused by an unprecedented demand in tickets. However, fans thought that Ticketmaster should have anticipated this demand because of the uniqueness of the tour.
However, the Ticketmaster site’s glitches that prevented can be attributed to the merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation to form Live Nation Entertainment in 2010. This merger, approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ), sparked controversy among individuals in the music industry, as the two largest companies merged into one.
Leading up to the merger, many competitors in the live music industry opposed the merger. The DOJ even found that the merger would significantly “decrease competition in primary ticketing services” for the top concert venues. In addressing this concern, the DOJ, Ticketmaster, and Live Nation entered into a consent agreement aimed to decrease the anticompetitive effects, prohibiting the company “from misusing proprietary ticket information,” and forbidding the company from taking retaliatory measures against its competitors. Even with these measures, the DOJ was not successful in eliminating any monopolistic behavior. These measures prohibited potential entrants from entering the market and did not allow for much competition among previously existing competitors. Additionally, it took many years post-merger for concert venues to partner with other companies. Live Nation still remains under court-ordered monitoring after the DOJ received complaints of antitrust behavior.
In January of 2023, Ticketmaster and Live Nation landed in the “hot seat” in front of the Judiciary Committee. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the chair of the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, said that the panel will address how the Ticketmaster and Live Nation merger affected both fans and artists due to their exorbitant prices and horrible customer service, which was especially prominent with the Taylor Swift tour tickets, that has led the companies to be the focus of a Judiciary Committee hearing regarding competition in the live entertainment industry. Senator Amy Klobuchar stated that Live Nation’s conduct made it "the definition of monopoly" and restoring market competition will ensure that fans receive better prices and service.
However, Joe Berchtold, the Live Nation president and chief financial officer, told the committee that the ticketing market is extremely competitive and that the main contributor to unfair consumer experiences is ticket scalping fueled by automated bots. Berchtold’s solution is for Congress to strengthen rules against automated ticketing. Senators did not agree with Berchtold’s description of the issue. Kathleen Bradish, the head of legal advocacy at the American Antitrust Institute, stated that Live Nation has “market control over ticketing, venues, and event promotion,” and that the best way to solve the problem is to strongly enforce antitrust laws. Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, also said that the Biden wants to support dissolving the Live Nation merger with Ticketmaster to increase economic competition.
Many business executives in the live entertainment industry and senators alike believe that the best solution to increasing competition is to dissolve the merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster. By separating the two companies, artists and promoters can decide which venues to host their shows and use different ticketing platforms to increase the market share of Live Nation’s competitors that have suffered tremendously after the merger. Hopefully, the merger’s dissolution can prevent fans of all artists from losing the opportunity to attend tours.
Eleana Tsiamtsiouris is a second-year student at Wake Forest University School of Law. She attended Boston College for her undergraduate degree where she majored in Economics and minored in Finance and Global Public Health and the Common Good. Upon graduation, she intends to pursue a career in corporate law.