Congress Should Do More for Fans of Live Events
COMMENTARY

June 5, 2024by Brian Hess, Executive Director, Sports Fans Coalition
Congress Should Do More for Fans of Live Events
Fans wait to go through security before Taylor Swift performs at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on July 28, 2023. (Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File)

The Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Live Nation/Ticketmaster tells the story of the company’s monopolistic behavior and calls for the company to be broken up. 

The complaint highlights incidents regarding Ticketmaster’s use of exclusive contracts, pressure on artists to use its services, threats of financial retaliation on rivals, and its use of technology to deny entry to fans who buy a ticket through one of the company’s competitors. It is well past time for the DOJ to break up the companies. However, Congress should not wait for the courts, and should pass legislation that could benefit fans now and address many of the harms alleged in the complaint. 

The good news is that Congress is already making progress. In fact, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chairwoman of the Senate Antitrust subcommittee, has already introduced a bill to address the biggest harm in the complaint — the Unlock Ticketing Markets Act. Introduced more than a year ago, the bill aims to inject competition to live event ticketing markets by empowering the Federal Trade Commission to prevent the exact kinds of exclusive contracts the DOJ has identified as anticompetitive. Congress should fast track this legislation in response to the DOJ’s complaint. 

However, Congress can and must do more. This includes passing legislation that addresses other problems fans face, empowering fans to push back against deception at every step of the ticket-buying process. Again, the good news is that Congress has a bill that would do just that, the TICKET Act, HR 3950. This bipartisan bill soared through the House, unanimously passing the House Energy and Commerce Committee and just recently receiving a staggering floor vote of 388-24. 

By combining Klobuchar’s Unlock Ticketing Markets Act with the commonsense, consensus-driven consumer protections found in HR 3950, Congress can create one of the most fan-friendly ticketing marketplaces in the world. However, Congress must be mindful not to bow to industry pressure to create policies that grant Ticketmaster and its allies any more power than they already have. This includes provisions that would entrench what the DOJ calls “data supremacy.” 

The policies that Congress should be wary of can take many forms, including allowing primary ticketers to restrict a fan’s right to transfer his or her ticket. However, more commonly we see these proposals under what’s called “data transfer provisions.” These provisions require secondary ticketing companies to transfer customer data to the primary ticketer under the guise of “safety and security.” However, as the DOJ complaint explains, Ticketmaster actually uses this data for advertising purposes. 

Unfortunately, we are seeing these provisions in federal and state legislation. For example, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Klobuchar’s Fans First Act has such a provision. That bill may have been conceived by independent venues and artists, but it quickly became a favorite of Live Nation/Ticketmaster as it would further empower the monopoly. While the federal proposal has some guardrails that seek to prohibit the use of data for advertising purposes, as the DOJ’s lawsuit proves, the monopolist company flagrantly ignores the law. While the Fans First Act was well intended, it was polluted. Instead of this bill, Congress should pass the House TICKET Act and Unlock Ticketing Markets Act. 

The DOJ’s complaint also addresses the harms caused by Ticketmaster’s SafeTix product and the ways it further entrenches Ticketmaster’s data supremacy. SafeTix uses a revolving barcode to restrict a fan’s ability to transfer a ticket. This forces nearly every fan to download the Ticketmaster app in order to receive a ticket from family or friends. To quote Live Nation’s CEO, Live Nation “know[s] the person that bought the ticket, but [also] those three people that you are taking to the show.” This reduces competition from rivals but also disincentivizes innovators from entering the marketplace. 

Congress has finally seen under Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s hood. The DOJ’s complaint shines a light on the darkest corners of the live event ecosystem and shows how the tentacles of this single company now penetrate deep into the venue and music artist and tour promotion sectors of the industry. To pass nothing this Congress that rectifies the harms Ticketmaster has perpetrated against fans would be an abdication of duty. Congress needs to start by passing HR 3950 as is, and then move the Unlock Ticketing Markets Act as quickly as possible. 


Brian Hess is the executive director of Sports Fans Coalition. He has worked at the state and federal levels to pass consumer protection legislation for live event ticketing; enacted name, image and likeness rights for college athletes; opposed media consolidations; and enshrined equal pay for women Olympians. He is also vice president of I Street Advocates, a lobbying firm. He can be found on X.

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Opinions

E15 Fuel Can Be an Important Tool to Tackle Climate Change

On Earth Day this April, many Americans reflected on what we can do to protect our planet. We are already... Read More

On Earth Day this April, many Americans reflected on what we can do to protect our planet. We are already seeing the effects of climate change, and we know this is not a problem for future generations to solve — it’s up to us. One fact remains clear:... Read More

Latest Cyberattack Is Yet Another Wake-Up Call to Protect the Practice of Independent Medicine

With the rapid increase in drug and labor costs, more administrative burdens from insurance companies, and growing demand for health... Read More

With the rapid increase in drug and labor costs, more administrative burdens from insurance companies, and growing demand for health care, it’s more challenging — yet even more important — for doctors to continue serving their communities. Nevertheless, independent practices in towns across the country have... Read More

June 11, 2024
by Trump Agonistes
Trump Agonistes

One of the intriguing stories in the Bible about the power of vengeance is that of the death of Samson,... Read More

One of the intriguing stories in the Bible about the power of vengeance is that of the death of Samson, which is described in Judges 16.  The strong-man judge of Israel and scourge of the uncircumcised Philistines had finally been betrayed by Delilah and captured by... Read More

The Supreme Court: Term Limits and Mandatory Retirement

Recent Supreme Court decisions have served as reminders of the politicization of the high court. This does not imply that... Read More

Recent Supreme Court decisions have served as reminders of the politicization of the high court. This does not imply that there hasn’t always been a political element to Supreme Court nominations, confirmations and subsequent decisions. However, in recent years, replete with acrimonious Senate hearings, the politicization... Read More

Large Cannabis Companies Spending Millions to Shut Down Hemp 

The year thus far has been enlightening for lawmakers and hemp industry stakeholders. Just as the hemp industry started to... Read More

The year thus far has been enlightening for lawmakers and hemp industry stakeholders. Just as the hemp industry started to recover after a rocky start, a fellow product category took aim — the cannabis industry. And coming out of the House Farm Bill markup, the agenda... Read More

Congress Should Do More for Fans of Live Events

The Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Live Nation/Ticketmaster tells the story of the company’s monopolistic behavior and calls for the... Read More

The Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Live Nation/Ticketmaster tells the story of the company’s monopolistic behavior and calls for the company to be broken up.  The complaint highlights incidents regarding Ticketmaster’s use of exclusive contracts, pressure on artists to use its services, threats of financial retaliation... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top