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Breaking the Bank: Ticketmaster's Monopolistic Practices Are Finally Pricing Fans Out

As someone who admittedly spent too much money on Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour tickets, concerts and music is a large part of my identity, as they are for many. Most are familiar with Ticketmaster, but not so much its parent company, Live Nation. Live Nation Entertainment, a merger company between Ticketmaster and concert promoter Live Nation, is a major platform for all types of ticketed events and where Swift, like most other major artists, hosted her ticket sales. 


Live Nation Entertainment currently controls an estimated 70% of the U.S. ticket-selling market through exclusive contracts with many major venues, artists and sports teams, thus effectively locking out competitors since these contracts often last for several years. Having excessive industry power allows Live Nation to be as expensive, glitchy and unreliable as it wants to be. The company has no incentive to improve since the competition is so far behind because the barriers to entry into the ticketing industry are high due to the need for extensive technological infrastructure, relationships with venues and artists and consumer trust


This was clear during the ticket sale process for said Eras Tour, during which the Ticketmaster website crashed and suspended general ticket sales in an effort to keep up with the reported 3.5 billion site requests. Yet almost immediately, tickets for the shows were up on resale sites, going for up to 70 times the original sale prices. Using automated software to bulk-buy mass quantities of tickets at once, ticket scalpers and bots were able to get tickets while a majority of actual fans were not. 


If you managed to get to the checkout page of Ticketmaster, you weren't in the clear yet. Fans were faced with high base ticket prices, service fees, facility charges and order processing fees that were not originally disclosed. The combination of these additional fees and the inability of the website to keep up with demand caused a major backlash against not only Live Nation but also the U.S. government, as people criticized the government's lack of antitrust and anti-monopoly enforcement.  


Live Nation has continually denied that it operates in a monopolistic way and claims that it is the venues, teams and artists who are to blame for high ticket prices. However, the U.S. Justice Department doesn’t agree, filing an antitrust lawsuit, aiming to force the breakup of the company. The lawsuit joins a handful of other recent antitrust efforts initiated under President Biden. In July 2021, he signed an executive order to promote competition in other consumer markets. The Transparency in Charges for Key Events Ticketing Act was passed by the House in May and aims to require companies to be transparent to consumers about ticket prices and related fees. Similarly, in the Senate, the Fans First Act was introduced in December 2023 and is seeking to address price transparency, consumer protection and ticket resellers. Accompanying the act is an open letter of support signed by over 300 artists, including Billie Eilish, Green Day and Chappell Roan. 


Even though the Live Nation trial and lawsuit are likely to last years in the court system and the recent government legislation has not been fully put to the test, both are steps in the right direction when it comes to managing monopolies and listening to the concerns of the U.S. public.


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

2 Comments


Great article - it perfectly describes the power Live Nation holds and how that allows it to be as glitchy and difficult as it wants to. I also feel like because tickets are so difficult to get and that it is not necessarily the fault of venues and artists like companies claim it to be, the race to get tickets only intensifies and makes people spend amounts of money they wouldn't normally spend just because the process to get tickets is so tedious and difficult. This further enables companies like Live Nation to continue their monopolistic ways.

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I wonder if Live Nation also benefited from the fact that while other sale points in the music industry were declining due to streaming, like physical record sales, there isn't a ready replacement for live entertainment. Obviously, watching a concert film at home isn't the same thing as being in the stadium. As such, artists themselves are more dependent on ticket sales to promote their brand and grow their career, and fan demand for the semi-luxury good that concerts have become is encouraged. It really creates a perfect storm for supply and demand to become further skewed in what is already a monopoly.

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