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Ticket holder entrance sign

A sign that reads, "Ticket holder entrance" is seen behind a fence outside the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side in New York City on December 11, 2020. (Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

'Break Up Ticketmaster,' Chorus of Lawmakers Demands Amid Taylor Swift Fiasco

"Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "Break them up."

Julia Conley

Without explicitly mentioning pop star Taylor Swift and her upcoming tour, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke up for fans who spent hours on Monday trying to get concert tickets only to wait in a queue of thousands of people and in some cases be automatically logged out by ticketing giant Ticketmaster before they could make a purchase.

The significant technical glitches, as well as price-gouging on Ticketmaster's resale platform, are the result of the 2010 merger between the company and Live Nation, which was approved by the Obama administration's Justice Department, suggested Ocasio-Cortez and other critics.

"Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly," tweeted the New York Democrat. "Break them up."

As Chokepoint Capitalism author Cory Doctorow explained in a video released by progressive media organization More Perfect Union on Tuesday, elected officials from both sides of the aisle helped create a live music market in which Ticketmaster controls 80% of venue ticket sales.

"How can Ticketmaster get away with it? Because they are the bullies of the music industry playground."

Near-total control of the market has allowed the company to introduce an algorithmic "dynamic pricing" model, which pushes prices as high as $5,000 per ticket in the case of one recent Bruce Springsteen tour, as well as leaving customers without other options if they run into major technical difficulties.

"How can Ticketmaster get away with it? Because they are the bullies of the music industry playground," said Doctorow. "Ticketmaster and Live Nation... can basically do whatever they want because they have seized control over every aspect of the live music industry by creating a monopoly. This ticketing cartel has the power to destroy venues and artists who refuse to work with them. They even have their own resale platform and they encourage ticket resellers to gouge fans."

"All of these exploitative practices make Ticketmaster execs very, very rich," added Doctorow, pointing to the $70.6 billion compensation package given to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino in 2017.

Ticketmaster defended itself Tuesday, saying the technical issues were the result of "historically unprecedented demand" for tickets, but Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.)—one of several Democratic lawmakers who last year called on the Biden administration to revisit the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger—noted that the company charges numerous processing and convenience fees which, according to More Perfect Union, now equal 78% of ticket costs.

"You would think the endless list of service and convenience and other fees would help Ticketmaster run a smooth webpage, but that isn't the case," Pascrell told The Hill. "The only three constants in life anymore seem to be death, taxes, and fan frustration with Ticketmaster."

The ticketing fiasco came weeks after President Joe Biden announced his administration is cracking down on "junk fees" that banks charge customers "because they can." The Federal Trade Commission launched a rulemaking process to "broadly reduce junk fee practices across the economy, including for event ticketing, hotels, funeral homes, and any other industry that uses mandatory fees."

Now, said lawmakers including Pascrell, Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the Biden administration must "break up Ticketmaster."

"Ticketmaster's excessive wait times and fees are completely unacceptable, as seen with today's Taylor Swift tickets, and are a symptom of a larger problem," said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). "It's no secret that Live Nation-Ticketmaster is an unchecked monopoly."

"The merger of these companies should never have been allowed in the first place," he added.

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