If you’ve tried to buy tickets to almost any mainstream concert or venue, you’ve probably had to deal with Ticketmaster. They’re notorious for their fees that make no sense, wild prices, and what feels like a monopoly on the whole concert ticket industry.
The amount of frustration and scandals people have aired over the years should have resulted in an investigation long ago, but thanks to the recent $22,000 Taylor Swift ticket disaster, Ticketmaster may finally get their comeuppance.
Thanks to the wild ticket prices and coverage by the media, Ticketmaster is currently being investigated by the United States Department of Justice to determine if they have broken any monopoly laws, antitrust laws, or committed consumer rights violations.
Monopolies don’t come about too often these days, but the average consumer suffers horribly under their reign when they do appear. In order to fully understand the whole fiasco that is Ticketmaster, we need to understand what a monopoly is, Ticketmaster’s history, and how Live Nation Entertainment ties into all of this.
What is a Monopoly?
In essence, a monopoly is when one company or person owns an alarmingly large share of the market and has essentially no competition. The board game Monopoly is actually pretty helpful at explaining what a monopoly is.
Remember when the game would get to a point where one person had all the money and owned most of the property? Remember how there was nothing you could do but roll the dice, land on their property, pay the rent and go bankrupt? They’re the monopoly, and you’re the consumer getting the short end of the stick.
Ticketmaster is considered to be a monopoly by many because there is simply no reasonable competition. They control a whopping 70% of the ticketing and live events market. There is simply no good alternative to Ticketmaster. Almost any venue or concert you want to see will require you to purchase a ticket through this company. That is why people consider Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment to be a monopoly.
The Beginnings of Ticketmaster
Ticketmaster had humble beginnings in the mid-1970s. It started out small before quickly gaining ground in the 1980s after it had begun making connections with the live entertainment industry. They would move on to acquire other companies, change their name, and perform other various business things throughout the years. It wasn’t until the 2000s that things started getting interesting.
In the early 2000s, Ticketmaster acquired TicketWeb Inc. and began focusing heavily on online and over-the-phone ticket sales. They’d eventually begin lobbying states to stop people from being able to resell tickets. When pointed out that forcing the sale and resale of tickets to be done on their platform would allow them to manipulate prices, then president Sean Moriarty said they’d “never do that.”
Moriarty should then be shocked to find that a CBC News and Toronto Star investigation from 2018 showed that Ticketmaster partnered with scalpers to boost profits. Ticketmaster would also not list every seat at the beginning of a sale to drive scarcity, jack prices up in the middle of a sale, and collect double fees on scalped tickets. A lot of people would agree that sounds like manipulation, Sean.
Merger with Live Nation
After being cleared by the U.S. Justice Department, Ticketmaster merged with Live Nation to form Live Nation Entertainment in 2010. There were several conditions Live Nation Entertainment had to agree to follow to complete the merger, such as the sale of a subsidiary and that they could not retaliate against venues that sought out other ticketing companies. This merger is where Live Nation Entertainment began to tighten its already impressive grip on the ticketing industry worldwide.
See, Live Nation was a venue operator and owned a lot of popular venues in the United States. Now that Live Nation and Ticketmaster had merged, they controlled the tickets sold at venues as well as the venues themselves. This meant if an artist wanted to have a concert at a Live Nation venue, they had to agree to sell their tickets on Ticketmaster, where they could set whatever price they wanted.
Bruce Springsteen called how horrible it would be for the consumer after the merger stating, “the one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing.”
Accusations that Live Nation Entertainment and Ticketmaster are a Monopoly
With such a tight group on tickets and venues, it should come as no surprise that Live Nation Entertainment and Ticketmaster have been accused of being a monopoly and have been involved in numerous lawsuits or scandals over the years. The most recent scandal you are probably aware of is the disaster that was Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.
On November 15, 2022, pre-sales began for Swift’s new tour but quickly turned into a disaster as the site crashed and was unable to handle the hundreds of thousands of people attempting to purchase tickets. When people were able to connect, they were faced with tickets costing anywhere from $500 to an insane $22,000.
The internet immediately blew up over the fiasco, and people began calling for Ticketmaster to be boycotted. Members of Congress began petitioning the Federal Trade Commission to enforce antitrust laws and to revisit the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster. The outspoken Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even directly called Ticketmaster a monopoly and asked for it to be broken up.
A lawsuit was even soon filed by fans who felt that Ticketmaster and Live Nation had committed fraud and price-fixing. Ticketmaster could face millions in penalties if they are found guilty. Unfortunately, millions are a drop in the bucket compared to the money they make every year operating their monopoly. In order for there to be real consequences and proper reparations for consumers, Ticketmaster and Live Nation need to be broken up.
Ticketmaster, like most corporations, has never seriously considered the interests of the consumer and has continually proven decade after decade that they only care about squeezing as much money from ticket sales as they possibly can. Their merger with Live Nation is perhaps the greatest example of a monopoly we have at the moment.
Thanks to Taylor Swift, we may one day soon see Ticketmaster broken up and a return to some normalcy when it comes to ticket prices and venues. The day when you can purchase a ticket and not have 20-50% tacked on in fees at checkout will surely be a glorious one for fans around the world.