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Ticketmaster and Greed

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One of the fascinating stories of the last week is the disaster of Ticketmaster and the Taylor Swift tour. It’s a huge failure of our regulatory system, which is not surprising.

Before the federal government let Live Nation merge with Ticketmaster in 2010, it obtained some very solemn promises that the company would not use its newly acquired dominance in the business of selling tickets to take advantage of customers.

Ask a Taylor Swift fan how well that has worked out.Ticketmaster’s website was overwhelmed last week by people seeking tickets for Ms. Swift’s upcoming concert tour. It was inevitable that most people who wanted tickets wouldn’t be able to buy them. There aren’t enough to go around. But crashes, bugs and error messages left many people feeling they never really had a chance.

Monopolies raise prices, but that’s not the only reason Americans should be worried about the rise of corporate concentration. Companies with market power also tend to get lazy. They stop trying to deliver the best possible product. Jonathan Skrmetti, the Republican attorney general of Tennessee, told The Washington Post that Ticketmaster’s customer service problems raised the question of whether “because they have such a dominant market position, they felt like they didn’t have to worry about that.”

That’s an important question, and it raises another one: Why do antitrust regulators keep getting tricked by companies that don’t keep their promises?

I think we know the answer to that rhetorical question–they aren’t really tricked so much as they believe in the system of contemporary capitalism. The linked piece suggests it is overconfidence of regulators, but I think it’s more than that.

I will also point out that Tyler Mahan Coe notes that Ticketmaster fees are also a way for artists to sneak more money out of fans.

I kind of doubt this will lead to any significant changes in ticket policies, but it should.

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