Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.


Taylor Swift performs at a concert for adoring fans at the Greensboro Coliseum on October 21, 2015 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Steve Exum/LP5 Getty Images for TAS)

Swifties Are Joining the Anti-Monopoly Movement

Taylor Swift fans had their time wasted and pockets emptied by Ticketmaster. Now they're calling to break up the company's live events monopoly—and joining the movement to crack down on monopolies, period.

Bella DeVaan


The anti-monopoly movement is having a moment. Gone are the days of associating evil market dominance with Standard Oil or Carnegie Steel, Bill Gates' petulance during deposition, or how it feels to desperately mortgage Marvin Gardens because you landed at the hotel on Park Place.

The Swifties—as Swift's stans are affectionately nicknamed—experienced the destructive power of the live event and ticketing monopoly firsthand.

As now-Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chair Lina Khan asserted five years ago in her seminal work, "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox," our government's outdated enforcement standards "fail[ed] to register" monopolistic harm. Since then, millions more Americans have been awakened to the sinister power of monopolies in our economy—and the exciting political opportunities to rein them in. 

Last week, legions of new anti-monopolists were born. They have enormous potential to change the game: shrewd social media skills, undying loyalty, and encyclopedic knowledge. They're Taylor Swift's superfans—and they just might be the reason that the government breaks up Ticketmaster.

The Swifties—as Swift's stans are affectionately nicknamed—experienced the destructive power of the live event and ticketing monopoly firsthand. Hoping to procure pre-sale tickets to their favorite pop star's upcoming tour, millions of fans waited in endless e-queues, only to be hit with sky-high ticket prices and exorbitant fees—if they were able to snag a ticket at all. 

"Ticket prices may fluctuate, upon demand, at any time," read an ominous warning on the Ticketmaster website. And they did: Due to their "dynamic pricing" system, which vaults ticket costs to a maximum market rate, fans reported buying tickets for thousands upon thousands of dollars, not including hefty fees, and prices spiked even higher on the secondary resale market. On StubHub, for example, ticket listings reached upwards of $95,000

Finally, Ticketmaster threw in the towel and canceled subsequent presale windows. Their site crashed thousands of times. It was absolute mayhem—and fans had no other option but to endure it, the kind of undignified customer experience caused only by an unchecked monopoly.

Ultimately, the Swifties got results. 

Hours after Taylor Swift released a statement, apologizing to the fans for the bungled presale and chastising Ticketmaster for incapably handling demand, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it has launched an investigation of Live Nation Entertainment's abuse of market power. While their work wasn't prompted by Swift, reported David McCabe and Ben Sisario in the New York Times, Swifties' wave of discontent was overwhelming enough to warrant the Department's public disclosure. Immediately, the company bragging about a record-smashing 2022 ("benefitting" from "fee bearing tickets") saw its stock plummet.

@yuriroho on TikTok

How did we get here? When it comes to antitrust issues, the American government has essentially been asleep at the wheel, allowing Ticketmaster's monopoly to crush its competition for over a decade. 

As Chokepoint Capitalism author Cory Doctorow explained to More Perfect Union, Ticketmaster's dominant control of the live show ticketing market had a natural customer in Live Nation's concert promoting business, which managed an impressive portfolio of major artists and live music venues. 

In 2010, the two entities merged into Live Nation Entertainment to suppress their rivalry—a process waved through by the Obama administration's consolidation-friendly Department of Justice. The company was subject to a relatively weak consent decree, which asked the merged companies to not use their live venue dominance to expand their ticketing capacity. But it's been easy to intimidate their naysayers and flout guidelines ever since.

Put simply, the merger created a monster, subordinating all parties in the live event life cycle from ticket acquisition to performance.

"Ticketmaster bullies venues into not working with their competitors," concluded Doctorow. "They bully smaller artists by denying them management. They bully big artists by controlling their ticket prices and letting their fans down. And they bully their customers into paying exorbitant prices for tickets, not only by enabling resellers but by collecting massive fees on every ticket those resellers sell." 

Even Swift, an aspiring billionaire and private jet power-user, has no choice but to bend the knee to the ticketing monopoly, often an exclusive partner at her massive preferred venues.

Greg Maffei, chairman of the monopoly's parent group—and head of Liberty Media, a media conglomerate with Republican ties—blamed the service's lag time on Taylor's popularity. "Ticketmaster will twist any situation to protect its market power over live events," noted the American Economic Liberties Project. (It's time to mention that Maffei took home $47 million from Liberty Media in 2021, and is personally worth hundreds of millions like Swift herself.)

Soaring ticket prices are not entirely the artist's fault for their popularity. Even as Taylor Swift's music is of the money-printing, monocultural variety—incentivizing "dynamic pricing" to the highest degree—she's still a worker, exploited by and beholden to an overarching system. As Live Nation and Ticketmaster can force artists to work with them and make a killing on their sale and resale fees, less popular or well resourced artists are uniquely harmed by the business model without other streams of income.

"Corporations are extracting the maximum capital from artists' labor, and they're not sharing it anymore," said Doctorow.

Ticketmaster's unsustainable market dominance has long been understood. Well before the Taylor Swift fiasco, a coalition of research organizations and artists collectives launched the Break Up Ticketmaster campaign—asking the DOJ to "investigate and unwind" the live events monopoly. The campaign quickly gained ground, generating tens of thousands of signatures on an advocacy letter. 

Pro-breakup legislators also harnessed the news cycle, calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the abusive ticketing monopoly.

"Consumers deserve better than this anti-hero behavior," tweeted Senator Richard Blumenthal, punning off a song from Swift's latest album, Midnights.

And on MSNBC, Senate Antitrust Committee chair Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) promised a Senate hearing on Ticketmaster's market power and insufficient consent decree in the coming year. She expressed political interest in "put[ting] the Taylor Swift fans right on antitrust," as their ticketing experience was "a story of a monopoly gone wild." Her bills with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) aim to facilitate antitrust enforcement with new filing, funding, and state empowerment rules. 

State lawmakers, too, seized the opportunity to criticize consolidation. After all, Swifties are spread across the country and party lines. The Attorney General of Tennessee—home to the "angriest Swifties"—opened an investigation into Ticketmaster's misconduct. And in New York, state Senator Mike Gianaris called attention to his 21st Century Anti-Trust Act, which would "hold [Ticketmaster] accountable for manipulating the ticket market to bleed concert-goers."

For his part, President Biden recently directed his administration to "reduce or eliminate" junk fees like Ticketmasters' infamous extra charges, which sometimes total up to 78 percent of the cost of a ticket. And he's appointed a passel of pioneering antitrust enforcers—like New Brandeisian icon and FTC chair Lina Khan, DOJ Antitrust lead Jonathan Kanter, and former economic advisor Tim Wu—who are dedicated to bucking Robert Bork's inert "consumer welfare standard," overhauling the state's merger guidelines, and appropriately disciplining monopolistic harm in the contemporary economy. Biden also signed a robust competition-oriented executive order in his first months in the Oval Office. 

The President's paradigm shift comes not a moment too soon. Monopolies aren't just disfiguring our economy or our political processes. They are capable of stripping everything for parts—even our arts and culture, cornerstones of democratic society that should be unequivocally protected from the incursions of greedy corporations. 

Swifties understand this. And they experience the villainy of monopolies across the board—through the high price of a tight seat on a plane home from college, in the improbability of a solid career in journalism, in their skyrocketing monthly rent, or in the marginalization of their small e-commerce business.

So, present day monopolists, steel yourselves and remember: When you provoke a superfan, they'll come for you.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
profile pic

Bella DeVaan

Bella DeVaan is the Research and Editorial Assistant for You can follow her on Twitter @bdevaan.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Solidarity Fund Up and Running for Designer Behind Iconic Bernie Sanders Posters

Tyler Evans "has dedicated his life to the progressive movement," says the GoFundMe created for the hospitalized designer. "Now it's our time to have Tyler's back when he and his family need it most."

Jessica Corbett ·

Journalism Defenders Push for Passage of 'Game-Changing' PRESS Act

"The PRESS Act is the most important free press legislation in modern times because it would finally stop the government from spying on journalists and threatening them with arrest for doing their jobs," explained one advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·

New York Times Union Workers Planning Dec. 8 Walkout, Rally Over Pay

"Our collective action is working: Management backed off its attempt to kill our pension and agreed to expand fertility benefits," the union said of ongoing talks. "But management still barely budged on some of our most important priorities."

Jessica Corbett ·

Dems Back Blue Dog Spanberger for Swing District Post Over Progressive Cartwright

The corporate Democrat's path to victory was "pretty simple," said one progressive. "Matt Cartwright supports Medicare for All and Spanberger is a former CIA agent who spends all her time punching left."

Julia Conley ·

100+ Groups Urge Congress to Back Sanders' Yemen War Powers Resolution

"After seven years of direct and indirect involvement in the Yemen war, the United States must cease supplying weapons, spare parts, maintenance services, and logistical support to Saudi Arabia."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo