Opinion: Why the Ticketmaster Data Breach Is Such Bad News All Round

A Ticketmaster data breach shines a light again on the monopoly of Live Nation.
A Ticketmaster data breach shines a light again on the monopoly of Live Nation. Photo by David "Odiwams" Wright
It's a pairing to one in the music business outside of shareholders and executives at music behemoth Live Nation thinks is a good idea. In January of 2023, Congress held hearings after too many kids of congressional leaders (probably) weren't able to get the Taylor Swift tickets Live Nation and its subsidiary Ticketmaster promised because of technical glitches.

Fast forward to last week when Ticketmaster announced it suffered a massive data breach on May 27 that may have included credit card numbers. You know, the cards you probably have stored on there so you can buy tickets more easily because it's essentially the only place to buy them in the first place? The company said that they did not expect the breach to have any material impact on the company or its finances. Well, thank God for that.

The reality is that Live Nation controls the vast majority of concerts on planet Earth. They are responsible for 70 percent of all ticket sales. They represent dozens of artist tours and have ownership stakes in hundreds of venues including House of Blues. They have consolidated live music the way Clear Channel (now IHeartMedia) snatched up radio stations and billboard advertising. Live Nation is yet another in a long line of huge multinational corporate entities that have swallowed the entertainment industry whole.

When it comes to concerts, Live Nation owns them. Period. This May, the U.S. Department of Justice and 30 state and district attorneys general filed suit in New York against Live Nation, arguing that its operations squash competition. Live Nation has denied the DOJ's allegations in a lengthy statement published online which says among other things that the DOJ lawsuit will do nothing to reduce ticket prices or service fees and that they have proof "Live Nation and Ticketmaster do not wield monopoly power."

At the risk of getting somewhat granular, this all began with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The federal government began allowing communication companies to merge, leading the way for anyone with the money to own close to all the radio stations in a single market, something that had been essentially prevented by law prior to 1996. That gave way to other mergers in entertainment and led us to where we are now.

It's bad enough that concerts have gotten insanely expensive increasing in average cost as much as 200 times what it was just 30 years ago. But, beyond the costs, the control over artists, venues and ticket sales reduces options for music lovers. Just as consolidation of major record labels led to copycat artists and increasingly repetitive and unoriginal popular music creation, Live Nation narrows the scope of who you are able to see live. They are the ultimate gatekeepers of concerts and they don't want to deliver anything that doesn't make their shareholders lots and lots of money.

Note that it was 18 months ago when Congress held hearings blasting Live Nation and Ticketmaster, yet nothing has changed. As is the norm in the federal government, inertia and money have won over action and common sense. And artists are hamstrung by their need to make a living given how short the lifespans of their careers tend to be nowadays.

The only thing stopping them from charging outrageous fees and limiting concertgoers' choices are the concertgoers themselves. We pay the fees. We go to the shows. Congress isn't fixing this. We have to, but that means demanding lower fees, more diverse artists and being willing to show force with our pocketbooks. So far, no one seems interested in that. Maybe getting their credit cards stolen will give them pause.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke