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Taylor Swift got senators to agree on a rare bipartisan issue

January 25, 2023, 1:43 PM UTC
Lawmakers grilled ticketing execs on consolidation in their industry and the failed Ticketmaster rollout of Taylor Swift tickets in November.
Amy Sussman—Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Oscar nominations are in; Times Up will shut down; and lawmakers take on Ticketmaster. Have a great Wednesday.

Look what you made them do. Taylor Swift’s fans like to say that she “is the music industry.” Seventeen years into her career, the 33-year-old has put out 10 original albums and breaks streaming and chart records nearly every time she releases a track. She’s writing and directing a feature film and redefined what ownership means in the music industry by rerecording her own work.

So it should come as no surprise that Swift was the one who got Congress to come together on a rare bipartisan issue: the mess that is the ticketing industry. The Senate Judiciary Committee convened yesterday for a hearing devoted to the live entertainment ticketing industry, which lawmakers say is a monopoly that has failed consumers. They were motivated to take action by the November fiasco that was Ticketmaster’s rollout of tickets for Swift’s upcoming Eras tour. Fans waited for hours for the chance to buy tickets, with hefty fees attached; still, thousands were confronted with site errors and left without any tickets in hand.

Swift, though she didn’t appear in Washington yesterday, was unhappy with the company’s rollout. “It’s truly 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 them,” she said in November. Joe Berchtold, president and CFO for Ticketmaster parent Live Nation, told senators that he blamed bot attacks and “industrial scalpers” for the platform’s failures.

Lawmakers grilled ticketing execs on consolidation in their industry and the failed Ticketmaster rollout of Taylor Swift tickets in November.
Amy Sussman—Getty Images

Lawmakers grilled Berchtold and SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger on what has gone wrong in their industry. They questioned the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which created a giant in the industry. They pointed out that it’s not just ticketing: Live Nation acts as a promoter and owns venues, creating a monopolistic environment throughout live entertainment.

Some senators couldn’t resist having a little fun with Swift’s lyrics. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Live Nation to look in the mirror and acknowledge, “I’m the problem, it’s me.” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called the idea of limits on ticket resale “a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” And Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said that Congress knows “all too well” the impact of too much consolidation in one industry.

The hearing seemed to some to be a precursor to potential Department of Justice antitrust action against Live Nation. If the ticketing giant is broken up, Swift will have played a major part. But it’s not just the pop star who gets credit; her legions of fans deserve kudos, too.

“We’ve seen consolidation in 75% of the industries in this country, and people are catching on,” Klobuchar said before the hearing. “Taylor Swift fans sure caught on.”

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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