The story of Ticketmaster looks a lot like a tragedy now.
A Minnesota House committee advanced a bill on Monday to increase transparency around ticket prices after Ticketmaster bungled ticket selling for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, leaving millions of Swift fans — known as Swifties — without tickets after waiting in a virtual queue for hours.
The bill, aptly named HF1989 after Swift’s celebrated album 1989, would require upfront pricing for all fees and charges, while also preventing “double-dipping,” or when fees are charged every time a ticket is sold and then resold by the same company.
The bill also regulates ticket resellers by preventing them from mimicking the primary ticket seller’s website and banning resellers from selling tickets before they’re sold by the primary ticket sellers. Consumers will be allowed to sue if ticket sellers do not abide by the law.
Ticketmaster said it was overwhelmed by resale bots: Resale prices for Eras Tour tickets soared past $28,000 before tickets were even available to the general public.
In a victory for the entertainment giant, however, the bill will not take on Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing” system, which fans slammed during the Eras Tour fiasco because it allows ticket prices to increase dramatically based on demand. The chief author of the bill, Rep. Kelly Moller, DFL-Shoreview, told the Reformer she decided not to include regulations for dynamic pricing because many industries — including rideshare and airlines — use dynamic pricing.
Moller looked into the Ticketmaster debacle after she tried to get Eras tickets for her niece and wasn’t able to. (Moller is also a self-proclaimed Swiftie.)
“Some may say this is just a ‘Champagne Problem[s],’ but I think a bipartisan effort could bring together the left and the right in a ‘Love Story’ that benefits Minnesota’s consumers,” said Moller, whose closing speech included at least eight Swift song references.
Moller wasn’t the only lawmaker who attempted as many Swift references as possible, although others arguably had less success.
“In my ‘Wildest Dreams,’ I can’t imagine being able to shake off the fees that cause all this ‘Bad Blood,’ and I really wish we would see ‘Blank Space(s)’ where these fees are on our bill, but we’re not ‘Out of the Woods’ yet,” said Rep. Erin Koegel, DFL-St. Paul.
Minnesota’s lawmakers were up against stiff — or should we say Swift? — competition: During a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January, four senators from both parties referenced Swift songs while grilling Ticketmaster, competing for the spot of No. 1 Swiftie.
“You can’t have too much consolidation, something that unfortunately for this country, as an ode to Taylor Swift, I will say, we know ‘All Too Well,’” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said at the Senate hearing.
Following Ticketmaster’s controversial merger with concert promoter Live Nation, the company controls over 70% of the market for ticketing and live events. Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat, called the company a monopoly during the January hearing.
This isn’t the first time Ticketmaster has prompted outrage: Bruce Springsteen, Colorado group The String Cheese Incident and other bands have warred with Ticketmaster over the years. Pearl Jam had such a bad experience with the company that they attempted to tour outside it, but after Ticketmaster effectively launched a boycott, the band gave up. Congress called hearings, but Ticketmaster ended up winning: The U.S. Justice Department closed its case and legislation dubbed the Pearl Jam bill died.
Ticketmaster may finally have met its match in enraged Swifties. Klobuchar even told WCCO that after years of speaking out against Ticketmaster, Swifties may actually help push legislation to pass.
In the words of Rep. Carlie Kotzya Witthuhn, DFL-Eden Prairie, referencing yet another Swift song: “Look what they made us do.”
Editor’s note: The Minnesota Reformer is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to keeping Minnesotans informed and unearthing stories other outlets can’t or won’t tell.
Minnesota Reformer intern Grace Deng wrote this piece. This story originally appeared in the Minnesota Reformer on Feb. 27.
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