With Friday’s news of the “Fans First” Act being introduced to the senate, support for the bill was quick to materialize – exclusively among the already powerful companies within the live events and ticketing industry, including Live Nation Entertainment, its chairman Michael Rapino, and its ticketing subsidiary, Ticketmaster.
#FansFirstAct making progress against predatory ticket resale practices. Big thanks to @JohnCornyn @SenAmyKlobuchar @MarshaBlackburn @SenatorLujan @PeterWelch @SenatorWicker https://t.co/58pUj90iI2 pic.twitter.com/3ty7xynSuJ
— Michael Rapino (@Michael_Rapino) December 8, 2023
We support the Fans First Act and have long advocated for all-in pricing, a ban of fake tickets, and other protections that make ticketing better for both fans and artists.
Thanks to everyone who continues to push for these improvements. https://t.co/4N1Gf4OEm1
— Ticketmaster (@Ticketmaster) December 8, 2023
The legislation earned the support of these companies, as well as smaller insider organizations aligned with the so-called “Fix the Tix” coalition because the proposed changes to the ticketing legal system largely fall directly in line with the industry’s Live Nation-driven legislative agenda.
One of the bills primary co-sponsors – Sen. Amy Klobuchar – has long been a vocal critic of Live Nation Entertainment and its subsidiary, frequently citing them as an example of a monopolistic entity in need of major remedy for anti-trust violations. While she stands by her support of the Fans First legislation, she did acknowledge its one-sided nature in response to questions from TicketNews on Friday evening.
“Taking on the issues in ticketing markets is larger than just one bill,” says Klobuchar, a democrat from Minnesota. “As I said at the hearing on Ticketmaster, we have had three focuses during the past year: first, provide evidence for the Department of Justice investigation of Live Nation/Ticketmaster— the route which I believe holds the most promise for taking on its monopoly power; second, pass legislation establishing consumer-based rules for ticketing which is the purpose of our newly introduced bill and third, educate the public about the problems inherent in the ticketing markets.”
“I have also introduced the Unlock Ticketing Markets Act, which would help restore competition to live event ticketing markets,” she continued. “In addition, I am working to strengthen our antitrust laws across the board, including by passing the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act, which gives antitrust enforcers the resources they need to take on monopolies like Live Nation. The Department of Justice must continue its antitrust investigation into Live Nation/Ticketmaster and take any necessary enforcement action, including breaking up the company. Meanwhile, we should pass our bills.”
The unlock ticketing markets act was introduced earlier this year, but has seen no action since it was referred to the Judiciary Committee – the same committee which held a hearing in January where Live Nation executives were forced to answer serious questions regarding their sprawling market power and issues inherent to their alleged anticompetitive behavior – back in April.
Other ticketing legislation has taken aim at addressing the major consumer anger over ticketing – which came to a head after the messy sales process for Taylor Swift’s blockbuster Eras Tour last fall. Rep. Bill Pascrell and multiple co-sponsors introduced an updated BOSS and SWIFT Act which would bring comprehensive reforms to both primary ticket sales and the resale ecosystem, but that also has seen no action since its introduction, though It was recently introduced to the senate by Sens Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-MA), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA).
More movement has been shown on the TICKET Act, which would address both “all-in” ticket pricing and add new regulations surrounding “speculative” ticketing and website usage of artist and venue names to avoid consumer confusion. That bill saw its house version passed out of committee this week, largely supported by both primary and resale companies.
Resale marketplace and consumer organizations have been quick to condemn the one-sided nature of the “FANS” bill in the immediate wake of its introduction.
“Rather than leveling the playing field, as the provisions introduced in the TICKET Act would largely accomplish, this legislation would permit primary sellers to increase their control over the ticket marketplace,” says Jason Berger of the Coalition of Ticket Fairness, an advocacy group pushing for protection of consumer ticket resale rights and better oversight of primary market behavior. “We all saw firsthand the impact on consumers when tickets went on sale for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour a year ago, and this legislation would do little to combat the issues on the primary seller side that so many consumers are angered by.”
“It’s incomprehensible that while the legislation touts itself as “Fans First,” it includes significant rules that would require the sharing of consumer data with event operators and ticket sellers, thereby enabling ticketing companies to continue their broad regulatory control over the industry,” he continued. “It’s no surprise that legislation empowering these primary ticket sellers to weaponize their terms and conditions has yet to see support from fan advocacy organizations.”
Support for the TICKET Act over the deceptively named “Fans First” legislation was echoed by the Ticket Buyers Bill of Rights, which similarly advocates for consumer rights to tickets they’ve purchased. “This week has had historic momentum for ticketing reform in Congress,” their statement Friday reads. “We welcome the introduction of the Fans First Act. It contains many important consumer protections and we thank Senators Klobuchar, Cornyn, Lujan, Blackburn, and Welch for their leadership. We look forward to working with the sponsors to make sure fans remain at the center of the legislative process.”
It is likely that Live Nation will put the full weight of its massive lobbying apparatus – which includes Sen. Klobuchar’s former Chief of Staff, it should be noted – behind its chosen legislation. It will simultaneously continue to push back hard against any regulation that would actually materially impact its own business operations.. The question is whether or not the arguments of the entertainment giant’s competition and the consumer rights to have ownership over tickets they’ve purchased will be able to overcome that enormous obstacle in coming months.