The Ticketmaster site crashed on Tuesday after about a bazillion of the gazillion Taylor Swift fans tried to buy tickets to her new Eras Tour.
Ticketmaster has been a thorn in the side of entertainers and fans alike for years, with service fees often adding 25 percent or even more to the original ticket price. For example, a recent ticket to the Jane’s Addiction/Smashing Pumpkins concert that cost $196 ended up being $231.
Fans trying to get tickets to an in-demand concert found some unlikely allies: politicians pushing an antitrust agenda. Self-described democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted a “reminder” that “Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in.”
Ticketmaster is nearing its 50-year mark, maintaining dominance through massive changes in the music revenue business. The ticket giant purchased Live Nation, the events promoter and venue operator, in 2010 and owns exclusive rights to first sales of a good number of concerts.
The deal was not a big company buying a competitor, but instead the predominant ticketing company for the live events industry (Ticketmaster) and a concert promotion company (Live Nation).
Ticketmaster’s influence over concerts and the rising costs of event tickets haven’t gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver called Ticketmaster “one of the most hated companies on earth.”
And it’s certainly not new to criticism from musicians either. Pearl Jam famously filed an antitrust complaint against Ticketmaster in 1994 — long before the company merged with Live Nation in 2010. The result? The band was quite literally left out in the rain trying to avoid using the ticket giant — including a show that was canceled in Utah due to weather and another one in Eddie Vedder’s hometown, San Diego, when a local sheriff said the security issues were too much. The Justice Department investigated whether Ticketmaster’s exclusive contracts violated antitrust laws based on Pearl Jam’s claims and ultimately decided they did not.
“The boss” has gone after Ticketmaster as well. After a technical issue with Ticketmaster in 2009, Bruce Springsteen criticized the merger: “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.” But recently, tickets for a Springsteen concert were going for upward of $5,000 on Ticketmaster.