White House on Taylor Swift Ticketmaster debacle: Capitalism without competition is exploitation

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

Evelien Hockstein | Reuters

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre indicated that US President Joe Biden has little sympathy for Ticketmaster’s parent company living nation, who is reportedly facing an antitrust investigation into the Taylor Swift fan fiasco they tried to secure seats for her upcoming Eras Tour.

Jean-Pierre declined to comment on “any possible investigation” by the Justice Department, saying Biden was clear about how he feels about companies that have monopolies.

“He has been crystal clear about this,” Jean-Pierre said on Friday. “And I quote: ‘capitalism without competition is not capitalism, it is exploitation.'”

Biden later tweeted that his administration was doing everything it could to reduce so-called junk fees, including those charged for seeing a show during the holiday season.

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Ticketmaster, part of Live Nation, is under scrutiny for its rollout of Taylor Swift concert tickets.

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

The demand for tickets to her tour was bolstered by the recent release of her album “Midnights” and the fact that Swift has not toured since 2018. Her “Lover Fest” tour was canceled due to the pandemic. Swift criticized the rollout in an Instagram post.

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“It’s really amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get their hands on them,” Swift wrote.

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

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The Biden has been actively pushing for more competition in various industries. DOJ recently blocked the purchase of Simon & Schuster by publisher Penguin Random House. Two weeks ago, the government also announced plans to crack down on junk fees.

Lawmakers have also called on the Justice Department to investigate the company.

“Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly,” Rep. wrote. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., in a Tweet Tuesday. “The merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they should be ruled. Break them up.”

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