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Ticketmaster Saga: A Nightmare Dressed Like a Daydream
This article was written by students in the "Writing For Publication" class at Dublin Jerome High School taught by Mrs. Trisler. All views and opinions in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinions nor policies of Dublin Jerome High School.
Ticketmaster Saga: A Nightmare Dressed Like a Daydream
An insightful commentary on the Taylor Swift Ticketmaster fiasco and the deeper meaning of the ticketing industry dilemma.
By Olivia Went and Ella Crakes
Feb 23, 2023
Tuesday, November 15. Everyone was constantly refreshing their computer screens just to get their hands on a golden ticket. Taylor Swift was finally going on tour and the 2000s generation was more than excited. Taylor Swift's last tour was in 2018 and three albums have been released since then. The tickets would be sold on Ticketmaster.com with a few presales beforehand. November 15 was a date when fans who owned a Capital One card could have had a shot at grabbing a ticket before the general public due to a Capital One sale on the tickets. That is when the problems began. Logging onto the Ticketmaster site was not the problem– the hours spent waiting in the queue combined with the site crashing, only to be told there were zero tickets left, was the bane of millions, causing tears, headaches, and frustration.
Fans instantly took to social media to share the irritating and often disappointing struggle. The Swift community soon discovered that many individuals used multiple devices to spam purchase tickets only to resell them on other sites. Turning to different ticket-selling websites like StubHub, “Swifties” (Taylor Swift fans) had high hopes– only to be betrayed by outrageously high resale prices. Troy Smith, the author of Axios Cleveland, says, “the cheapest seats on resale sites range from around $350 to $700 as of this week, depending on the city. Prices for some seats in cities like Las Vegas, Nevada; Glendale, Arizona; Arlington, Texas; and East Rutherford, New Jersey have surpassed $30,000.” While some fans could afford these insane prices, 51% of 50 Dublin Jerome High School students could not attain seats at the long-anticipated concert. After a few months, fans realized that for such a big company that sells tickets daily, Ticketmaster’s site crashed far too often. Now, the site's failure to work is not the whole problem, but it caused a spotlight to fall on Ticketmaster; Swifties had a feeling and they just could not shake it off, and that feeling had an afterglow of a monopoly.
Most people know the historical monopolies– Carnegie Steel, Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, and the American Tobacco Company. However, just in case you did not just take AP U.S. History, here is a little refresher. In 1859, John D. Rockefeller and his business partners controlled the fast-growing petroleum industry. By 1880 one of Rockefeller’s companies, Standard Oil, owned 90% of its respective industry. Rockefeller wanted to eliminate competition entirely, so he created the Standard Oil Trust in 1888, which brought together a group of trustees to gain control of Standard Oil’s competition. Monopolies like Standard Oil were infamous for controlling their respective industries, making healthy competition and market growth inaccessible. Ticketmaster is the newest piece in this billion-dollar game; with the latest Taylor Swift ticket debacle, Ticketmaster is being thrust into the latest limelight of suspicion. By owning Live Nation and dozens of other companies internationally, Ticketmaster dominates the ticket marketplace. Ticketmaster is not a confirmed monopoly, but this company's impressive and extensive resources are hard to ignore.
So, is Ticketmaster a monopoly? Although the Taylor Swift ticket catastrophe has refocused public attention, accusations about the Ticketmaster monopoly have been brought forward before. The band, Pearl Jam, accused Ticketmaster of being a monopoly in 1994, saying that Ticketmaster’s practices were not conducive to a healthy, competitive marketplace (Michigan Journal of Economics). Despite the allegation, Ticketmaster’s powers continued to swell; they own many venues the tickets are sold for, permitting tickets to be sold at greater prices. The reach of Ticketmaster’s resources increased immensely in 2010 when Ticketmaster merged with Live Nation to become a mega-company, Live Nation Entertainment. Live Nation Entertainment currently has about 10.59 billion dollars worth of assets, making it a mighty force in the ticket and concert world. Therefore, the amount of assets and resources available to Ticketmaster enables the control of the ticket industry and allows it to charge higher ticket prices due to the lack of competition.
Now, for the real drama: the Senate debate about Ticketmaster and Taylor Swift.
Accused of being a monopoly, senators questioned a Live Nation executive, Joe Berchtold, about the problems surrounding the sale of Taylor Swift in November of 2022. If Ticketmaster is a monopoly, the company violates a set of conditions that were established by the Justice Committee in 2010, when Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged to prevent a monopoly from being formed. Additionally, Berchtold blamed much of the hassle with selling Taylor Swift tickets on online bots. This accusation angered some senators, such as Marsha Blackburn, considering that an algorithm hadn’t already been established to detect bots. When senators questioned Berchtold about Ticketmaster’s lack of healthy competition, Berchtold claimed that “ticketing has never been more competitive.” Yet, according to the New York Times, Ticketmaster controls 70% to 80% of the prime concert venues in the US. Because of the immense size and power of the company, Ticketmaster can short-change the actual musicians too– the company can increase fees for consumers but decrease the amount of profit seen by the artist (New York Times). How is this fair to artists or consumers? It’s not– Ticketmaster is far from consumers' “wildest dreams,” but until the public or the politicians stand up to this monopoly, Ticketmaster will continue to control the ticket marketplace.
Image of Taylor Swift (Jeff Kravitz | Filmmagic, Inc | Getty Images)