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Anti-hero becoming the competition hero? – Taylor Swift sparks competition investigation

  • Ireland
  • Competition, EU and Trade

24-11-2022

Taylor Swift’s upcoming “Eras” tour has sparked a major competition investigation.

The demand for tickets to Swift’s first concert in five years led to Ticketmaster cancelling the public sales of the tickets. Ticketmaster blamed the cancellation on “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand”. Tickets appearing on websites for thousands of dollars over their original price were reported following the sale.

The US Senate antitrust panel has since announced that it will hold a hearing on the lack of competition in the ticketing industry, with some politicians expressing concern that Ticketmaster’s power in the ticketing market has resulted in a lack of innovation and a failure to improve services for customers.

What does a huge demand for tickets have to do with competition law?

Well, if a company holds what is referred to as ‘a dominant position’ then that company is subject to certain obligations. In particular, and most importantly, it must not ‘abuse’ that dominant position. While it is not illegal for a company to be in a dominant position, it is illegal for a company holding a dominant position to ‘abuse’ that dominant position. What constitutes an ‘abuse’ isn’t exhaustive, but can include imposing unfair prices, limiting markets or imposing unfair trading conditions.

For example, in 2020 the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) expressed concerns that Ticketmaster Ireland may have abused a dominant position in Ireland by entering into certain long-term exclusive ticketing agreements with live event organisers and venues in Ireland. These exclusive ticketing arrangements meant that a performer had to use Ticketmaster if they wanted to perform at a particular venue, preventing other ticketing companies from being able to sell tickets or compete in the market. Ticketmaster Ireland denied breaching competition law but nonetheless gave certain commitments to the CCPC, including the removal of exclusivity clauses from its agreements.

So what’s next for the ticketing industry?

Back in the US, there have been calls by politicians to investigate and/or break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation (which merged in 2010), and to investigate the state of competition in the ticketing industry. With some noting that the ‘Eras’ tour ticketing issues are a perfect example of how the Ticketmaster / Live Nation merger has harmed consumers.

So, will Ticketmaster “Shake it Off”? Will Ticketmaster and Live Nation be told that they “are never ever ever getting back together”? Or, will the US Senate and Ticketmaster just have “Bad Blood”?

The outcome of the US Antitrust investigation and the US Senate antitrust panel hearing will undoubtedly be observed with much interest by performers and competition regulators internationally when considering what will be next for the ticketing industry.

For more information, please contact,

Kasturi Moodaliyar, Competition Lawyer - KasturiMoodaliyar@eversheds-sutherland.ie