MEADOR: Break Up Live Nation Ticketmaster To Protect Fans

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Mark Meador Contributor
Font Size:

A year ago this month, the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee took a major step to shed light on a competition problem that has vexed millions of consumers for years: Live Nation Ticketmaster’s stranglehold on live events.

You would think that a nonpartisan issue that has Americans of all stripes – Democrats, Republicans, and independents – demanding action would have resulted in great strides forward. But here we are, a year later, still demanding action.

Live events bring people together, but for years actual fans have often been an afterthought. Formed by a 2010 merger, Live Nation Ticketmaster created a dominant conglomerate with an unprecedented amount of control over the live ticketing market, resulting in monopoly power it has used to entrench its position in the marketplace.

The result has been a litany of shocking headlines and frustrated fans forced to vent on social media. They all have a consistent theme: Ticketmaster overpromises and underperforms, technology breaks, and no one is happy except its highly-compensated CEO.

Last January, just months after Ticketmaster’s disastrous launch of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour – which saw hundreds of thousands of fans endure hours-long waits, outdated technology, and incredible heartbreak – the Senate Judiciary Committee convened a hearing to reexamine the merger and ask whether Live Nation Ticketmaster has been engaging in the anticompetitive conduct many industry observers predicted.

Three years earlier, the Department of Justice had already found that Live Nation Ticketmaster “repeatedly violated” its merger agreement and extended their probationary period through Dec. 2025. But now, in the wake of such a public failure, its behavior also caught the eye of Congress.

The hearing provided a much-needed spotlight on the issue and offered the hope of renewed bipartisan action, including whether to break up the company. Shortly after, news outlets began reporting that the Department of Justice was investigating whether Ticketmaster’s conduct violates antitrust regulations. Specifically, reports suggested regulators may be exploring whether Ticketmaster is abusing its control over the market to restrict venues and artists’ ability to work with industry competitors and, ultimately, harm consumers.

To date, we have yet to see tangible steps to end Ticketmaster’s monopoly. Ticketmaster continues to dominate the live event industry to the detriment of fans and free-market competition. While several new bills have been introduced in Congress, none will truly reform the system until and unless Ticketmaster is broken up.

In fact, certain bills have the backing of Ticketmaster itself, trying to distract from the true problem by focusing on band-aiding smaller issues that are actually symptoms of the broken system that Ticketmaster thrives in. According to estimates provided to the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, the company now controls as much as 70 percent of the live event ticketing market, choking off fans’ access to competitive alternatives. Ticketmaster itself announced last year it would manage a record volume of 600 million tickets. In addition, its financial records and those of its public competitors show Ticketmaster is one of the major players in the U.S. secondary resale market.

In the meantime, fans continue to suffer under Ticketmaster’s broken system, including outdated technology and a steady stream of failures that have pushed fans to their breaking point. Despite the public scrutiny it faced as a result of the Taylor Swift debacle, Ticketmaster has yet to take meaningful steps to fix its problems. This was especially apparent during the recent presale for Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS Tour, as fans once again faced outdated technology and limited access to tickets, paying inflated prices on the resale market or simply abandoning their plans altogether.

We’re encouraged by last year’s efforts to end this dominance, but lasting change requires sustained and strategic pressure. That’s why I helped launch the bipartisan Fan Fairness Coalition — to allow everyday Americans from across the political spectrum to have a real impact on this debate. To bring attention to this broken market, we launched The Monopoly, a satirical band highlighting the absurdity of Ticketmaster’s greed and power.

And fans are listening.

Since our launch in November, the Fan Fairness Coalition has helped live event fans across America send more than 72,000 letters to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, demanding real action to fix this problem. It’s clear that one year after the Senate Judiciary hearing, fans are more fired up than ever about fixing this broken system.

As a long time antitrust attorney who has worked in the Senate Judiciary’s Antitrust Subcommittee and as an antitrust enforcer at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, I know firsthand the damage that monopolies cause. Free market competition is essential to protecting both fans and performers. Whether it’s lowering costs for consumers, giving more options for artists and venues, or providing better access and technology for everyone, none of it is possible without a vibrant marketplace. Ticketmaster’s bad behavior is foremost an antitrust issue, and one that has real, negative impacts on fans across the country.

Americans are sick and tired of dealing with a system stacked against them, and they’re increasingly making their voices heard. This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue – it’s a fairness issue that affects patrons of live events in every corner of the country.

We’ve had enough. It’s long past time for our government to finish what they’ve started, break up Live Nation Ticketmaster, and bring real competition back to the live event ecosystem.

Mark Meador is the president of the Fan Fairness Coalition and partner at Kressin Meador. He is an antitrust authority with federal government (FTC and DOJ), client, and legislator experience. He served previously as Deputy Chief Counsel for Antitrust and Competition Policy to Senator Mike Lee.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.