White House on Taylor Swift Ticketmaster debacle: Capitalism needs competition

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre answers questions during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington August 9, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein Reuters

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has hinted that US President Joe Biden has little sympathy for Ticketmaster’s parent company living nation, who is reportedly facing an antitrust probe over the fiasco that Taylor Swift fans have faced trying to snag seats on her upcoming Eras Tour.

Jean-Pierre declined to comment on “possible investigations” by the Justice Department, saying Biden has made clear what he thinks of companies holding monopolies.

“He made that crystal clear,” said Jean-Pierre on Friday. “And I quote: ‘Capitalism without competition is not capitalism, it is exploitation.'”

Biden later tweeted that his administration was doing everything in its power to lower so-called junk fees, including fees charged for attending a show over the holiday period.

Ticketmaster, part of Live Nation, is under scrutiny for the launch of Taylor Swift concert tickets.

Live Nation’s largest shareholder, Liberty Media, CEO Greg Maffei said the presale was only supposed to be open to about 1.5 verified swifities, but 14 million people, including bots, came to the site to get tickets. Following this week’s chaotic release, Ticketmaster announced it would not be selling tickets for the “Eras” tour to the general public on Friday as planned.

Demand for tickets to her tour has been fueled by the recent release of her album, Midnights, and the fact that Swift hasn’t toured since 2018. Her “Lover Fest” tour was canceled due to the pandemic. Swift criticized the rollout in an Instagram post.

“It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that many of them feel like they went through multiple bear attacks to get them,” Swift wrote.

The New York Times reported Friday that the Justice Department opened an antitrust investigation into Live Nation in the wake of the fiasco. The company has previously come under pressure from regulators over monopolistic practices. Live Nation Entertainment is a 2010 merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation. It was approved by the Justice Department at the time, but the company has repeatedly been accused of abusing market power by inflating ticket prices and adding arbitrary fees.

The Biden has actively advocated more competition across all industries. The US Department of Justice recently blocked the acquisition of Simon & Schuster by publisher Penguin Random House. Two weeks ago, the administration also announced plans to take action against “junk fees”.

Lawmakers have also asked the Justice Department to investigate the company.

“Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., wrote in a tweet Tuesday. “Their merger with LiveNation should never have been approved and they need to be governed. Break them open.”

Late. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights. Klobuchar sent a letter to Ticketmaster President and CEO Michael Rapino, asking him to respond to questions about the company’s alleged anti-competitive tactics.

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