California lawmakers act after Taylor Swift ticket fiasco. Ticketmaster tries to shake it off

photo illustration of a concert ticket as the pillar of a stone column
(Illustration by Jim Cooke / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)
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Claire Fenn grew up listening to Taylor Swift’s music, so when the artist announced her latest tour, she jumped at the chance to buy tickets.

Like many heartbroken Swift fans, though, Fenn didn’t score tickets. After being placed on the waitlist for Ticketmaster’s presale in November, the 21-year-old embarked on what feels like an “impossible” feat of finding concert tickets she can afford.

She’s browsed sites like TickPick and SeatGeek that resell tickets but saw prices rise to $26,000. She’s asked for help on Twitter, tweeting that she’s looking for tickets to Swift’s August shows in Los Angeles. The college student estimates she’s spent 50 hours on this hunt. Disappointment is a feeling she now knows all too well.

“I’ve been wanting to see her live for a really long time and I worry that I’ll never get the chance because the demand is so high,” said Fenn, who lives in Arizona. “I feel like if I don’t try then my show may never come.”


The botched sale for Swift’s Eras tour fueled criticism from federal and state politicians about Ticketmaster’s dominance in the live music industry.

California lawmakers are taking on the entertainment juggernaut, introducing bills this year aimed at helping consumers like Fenn. Whether their proposals will succeed, however, is in question. Stiff pushback from Ticketmaster has already prompted lawmakers to water down legislation aimed at loosening what critics see as its monopoly grip on ticket sales. Ticketmaster is lobbying for its own solution, a bill aimed at cracking down on scalpers. The bills face critical votes Tuesday, and may wind up getting put on hold until next year to allow more time to negotiate.

Further complicating the debate over how to make ticket prices affordable is that it became intertwined with a long-standing entertainment industry brawl. The feud pits primary ticket providers like Ticketmaster, which also has a way for fans to resell their tickets, against secondary ticket resellers like StubHub. Both companies fear lawmakers could give their competitor an advantage and are lobbying to maintain their dominance.

“Monopolies don’t care about consumers. Monopolies care about enhancing their monopolistic control over a marketplace,” said Robert Herrell, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California, who is concerned about Ticketmaster’s power. “And in the ticketing industry, we have a monopoly.”

The group worked with Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) to introduce a transparent ticket-pricing bill that would have also barred primary ticket providers like Ticketmaster from restricting the resale of tickets. Consumer advocates say allowing people to transfer their tickets on other sites could be a check against Ticketmaster’s dominance, whose parent company Live Nation Entertainment controls 70% of the market for ticketing and live events.

Live Nation Entertainment opposed the bill, stating it would benefit resellers and brokers rather than artists. Instead, the company said in a statement published in the bill analysis that California should consider controlling costs by “protecting the right of artists to manage resale and banning the anticonsumer and deceptive practice of speculative ticketing.”


Ticketmaster denies it’s a monopoly.

“The reason this trope about Ticketmaster monopoly comes up all the time is to distract attention away from the issue of how are the scalpers getting tickets for these resale markets. They come at the expense of fans,” Dan Wall, executive vice president for corporate and regulatory affairs at Live Nation Entertainment, said in an interview.

Realizing her bill might not pass with opposition from Ticketmaster and others, Friedman removed the reselling provision.

“Unfortunately, Ticketmaster and others have a huge lobbying arm … so the bill did get pared down,” she said.

Now Assembly Bill 8 narrowly focuses on the fees added to ticket sales that are hidden until buyers are about to check out. It would require ticket sellers to include the fees upfront in the full price of a ticket. Though Ticketmaster, SeatGeek and other companies agreed in June to show fees upfront, Friedman says there’s still a need for her bill. The Consumer Federation of California, which was a co-sponsor of the bill, is no longer supporting the legislation unless it’s changed.

Taylor Swift fans protested and the FTC looked into regulations. Now, Ticketmaster will show fees upfront, the Biden administration announced Thursday.

June 15, 2023

“This is something that needs to be in regulation. It’s at the very least sleazy. At the worst, you could call it a rip-off. I’ve heard that from consumers,” Friedman said. “I’m glad that industry’s seeing the regulatory future and coming to the table themselves voluntarily, but I’m not under any illusion that they would have necessarily done that if states weren’t acting to regulate them.”

The Assembly passed the bill in May and it’s scheduled for a hearing in the Senate on Tuesday.


Friedman also co-authored a bill with Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Saugus) that would prohibit a primary ticket seller like Ticketmaster from including an exclusivity clause in contracts with California entertainment venues.

SB 829 unanimously cleared the Senate, but Wilk said he expects the bill to die in the Assembly amid lobbying behind closed doors. Ticketmaster hasn’t spoken publicly about the bill, but venue managers told lawmakers they oppose the legislation, stating that partnering with ticket sellers exclusively helps them better ensure tickets are valid.

“It’s gonna be all-out war now that it’s over in the Assembly,” Wilk said.

Ticketmaster is backing bills across multiple states that target resellers and scalpers.

Live Nation Entertainment, AXS, the Los Angeles Rams, the National Football League, the Music Artists Coalition and others support Senate Bill 785, legislation that would require ticket sellers or resellers to “own, possess, or have the contractual right” to list, market or sell the ticket. Resellers and ticket marketplaces would also be required to disclose the face price of the original ticket. The bill also requires upfront pricing, so Live Nation Entertainment and AXS say AB 8 isn’t needed. In the first three months of this year, Live Nation Entertainment spent $45,000 lobbying on AB 8 and SB 785, according to data from the secretary of state’s office.

Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) introduced SB 785. She wasn’t available for an interview but said in an earlier statement that the bill aims to “regulate the scalping that currently plagues the ticketing entertainment industry.” The bill unanimously cleared the Senate and is now in the Assembly. SB 785 and SB 829 are expected to be put on hold until next year.

Even if the California governor eventually signs the bills into law, it’s not clear that they will make it easier for people to buy affordable tickets to live events.

A singer onstage in a stadium
Taylor Swift performs at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., in May.
(Scott Eisen / Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Economist Carolyn Sloane said that price transparency alone isn’t going “to satiate the relief that the public is demanding from the annoyance of what’s going on in the live ticketing space.” The heart of the matter, she said, is dealing with the lack of competition in the live music industry.

While an assistant professor of economics at UC Riverside, Sloane taught a course on “Rockonomics,” a term used by the late economist Alan Krueger to explain economics through the lens of the music industry. From questions about how to fairly pay artists to antitrust, lawmakers can also use the music industry to talk about topics that might seem boring on the surface but affect people’s daily lives. It’s also a way for politicians to get their name out there, especially among younger voters who are fans of artists like Swift.

“Music has an outsized influence on policy in terms of how it can move social and political norms,” Sloane said. “It’s an important industry to look at for those reasons.”

When fans’ demand for tickets outpaces the supply, the price goes up. But other factors affect supply, including the use of bots to automatically search and buy up tickets, she said. Venues, artists and promoters can also hold back tickets from the public. In a blog post, Ticketmaster said the demand for Swift’s tickets broke records on Nov. 15. Overwhelmed by bots and people, the company said it received 3.5 billion system requests that day, four times its previous peak.

As for Fenn, the Swift fan, she still hopes to make it to one of the August shows in Los Angeles.


“I’ve never had to fight for a ticket this way,” she said.

As the clock winds down, Fenn might be in for a cruel summer.