On Tuesday, executives in the ticket sales industry testified in the United States Senate about possibly monopolistic practices. These issues came to prominence last year when ticket sales for Taylor Swift's concert tour were mishandled, infuriating fans everywhere. The senators were not shy about referencing Swift or even quoting her lyrics during this hearing.
Tickets to Swift's tour dates were sold through Ticketmaster in a bizarre system that was ostensibly meant to prevent scalping. The results were confusing, frustrating and unsuccessful, and they drew down the wrath of one of the most powerful groups in the world: Swifties. Not only did fans' outrage help draw attention to this issue and force lawmakers to act – it seems that more than a few members of the country's highest legislators may be Swifties themselves.
Drink every time someone at this Ticketmaster congressional hearing makes a Taylor Swift reference*— CONSEQUENCE (@consequence) January 24, 2023
*i'm drunk pic.twitter.com/HmL6fmof7C
As the video above shows, senators wove Swift's lyrics into their questions and testimony. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal even thanked Ticketmaster for bringing the senate together regardless of political party on this issue. Joe Berchtold, CFO of Ticketmaster's parent company Live Nation, looked distinctly uncomfortable with some of these references during the hearing.
Funny as these viral clips are, it's hard to tell what exactly the hearing accomplished. Live Nation responded to most questions by blaming the issues on bots, including bots designed to acquire tickets for scalpers. However, the hearing went well beyond Swift's tour and examined Live Nation's practices as a whole. Artist Clyde Lawrence testified in detail about how Live Nation maximizes its own profits at the expense of the performers and the customers.
One possible solution the senate discussed was a restriction on reselling tickets in general, and Live Nation was in favor of this idea. However, this would be unfortunate for fans whose plans change in the lead-up to a concert. A rival company, SeatGeek, said it would also only increase Live Nation's dominance in the industry, which is already a concern.
One witness was antitrust expert Kathleen Bradish, who spoke out against the idea of resale restrictions. Bradish said that a monopoly or monopolistic practice in any industry ultimately hurts the consumer and slows innovation and advancement. It would also mean that the monopolistic company could set its own prices with no competitors to drive them down.
The Senate did not reach a conclusion on this issue on Tuesday, and it's not clear if any action will be taken at the federal level. Live Nation is also facing lawsuits from many Taylor Swift fans who were frustrated by this process.