The Senate has introduced two bills to address ticketing transparency and competition in the live events industry. While the bills followed on the heels of Live Nation-Ticketmaster’s mishandling of the Taylor Swift Eras Tour, the problems go back much further. Diana Moss argues that the most recent bill, the Fans First Act, while well-intentioned, risks undermining competition by hamstringing the resale market, which will only strengthen Ticketmaster’s monopoly.

It has been just over a year since the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the dismal state of competition in the ticketing industry in the United States. The hearing was spurred by the epic meltdown of Live Nation-Ticketmaster’s ticketing platform during the sale for the Taylor Swift Eras Tour. The parallel meltdown of Swifties who couldn’t get tickets galvanized public attention, pulling Live Nation again into the spotlight as a leading U.S. monopolist. The live events behemoth has formidably high and stable market positions in ticketing, concert promotion, and venues, including Ticketmaster’s 70% share of the high-profile ticketing market.

Singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence spoke at the Senate hearing to visible evidence of a broken market—Live Nation-Ticketmaster is often the only choice for artists to sell tickets to their concerts. To appreciate the full harm from the live events monopoly, let’s remember that the Taylor Swift debacle wasn’t the first. Trouble over Ticketmaster’s domination was brewing long before.

That includes Pearl Jam’s attempt to take on Ticketmaster on high ticket fees in 1995, long before the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster in 2010 put the monopoly problem on steroids. There was also String Cheese Incident in 2012, when the band bought and resold their own tickets to avoid Ticketmaster’s fees. In 2022, Bruce Springsteen apologized to fans for high ticket prices related to Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing strategy.

There were other important takeaways from the Senate hearing, which spurred several legislative proposals to address competition and ticketing transparency. There was rare bipartisan agreement, in this case, acknowledging that Live Nation is, indeed, a monopolist. But there was also confusion about the resale ticket markets and troubling talk of limiting ticket transferability and capping resale ticket prices. This would effectively shut down the resale market. Not only do resale markets increase efficiency by matching up more fans with more artists and expanding demand for live events, they are also the only source of competition in ticketing.

While public outrage over the Live Nation monopoly has intensified, the playbook for fighting it is still being written. Take legislative proposals, where the goal should be to avoid policies that have unintended, adverse effects on competition. The Unlock Ticketing Markets Act (S. 1326), introduced in early 2023, prohibits exclusive contracts between a primary ticketer and a venue that are used by Ticketmaster to choke off competition. It’s a smart bill that will help open up markets to competing ticketing platforms for primary sales and resales.

Another bill introduced in late 2023, the Fans First Act (S. 3457), aims to promote ticketing transparency and transferability. Fans First implicitly takes on Ticketmaster’s anticompetitive practices that work to stifle competition in resale, including ticket holdbacks, slow ticketing, restricted paperless ticketing, and delayed ticket delivery. These practices drive fans back to the Ticketmaster platform and its monopoly ticket fees.

In an effort to improve ticketing transparency and promote competition, however, Fans First ends up handing more market power to Ticketmaster. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Ticketmaster endorsed the bill the day it came out. A careful read of Fans First reveals five major flaws that act to undermine competition from resellers.

First, Fans First defines a ticket as a “license to enter an event venue or occupy a particular seat or area in an event venue.” In light of Ticketmaster’s abusive ticketing practices, a ticket should not be defined as a license, it should be a ticketholder’s “right.” A license is a permission, which can be changed or revoked. The bill doesn’t spell out limitations on the ability of a ticketer or event organizer to change the terms of a ticket license in ways that would frustrate buyers of resale tickets. This effectively hands Ticketmaster another way to steer ticket buyers back to its own platform and stifle competition.

Second, Fans First requires secondary ticketing exchanges to provide a buyer with the option to provide their personal information to the artist and venue. While there are some data use limitations, information transfers are based on the flimsy pretext of venue safety and event cancellations. What the data transfer provision does is give Ticketmaster, as the original ticket seller, valuable information that the company will digitally harvest to steer fans back to its own platform for future purchases. Realistically, we can expect minimal enforcement of any data violations that are masquerading as legitimate reasons under the Fans First provision. Any legislative provision where smaller competitors hand over their customers’ sensitive information to Ticketmaster should be dead on arrival.

Third, Fans First restricts a reseller’s ability to identify the event associated with a ticket. Say you are searching online for U2 tickets. Under Fans First, a reseller can’t include the term “U2” in a URL. This provision works largely to Ticketmaster’s advantage because it limits how ticket buyers can discover resale tickets in online searches. It is one thing to limit URLs to avoid the false perception that a ticket is sold by the venue or event organizer. But is entirely another if a ticket buyer will never discover a reseller’s webpage because of restrictions on how resellers construct URLs. The bill’s provision would put control of a ticket buyer’s search process in the hands of Ticketmaster, steering them away from resellers and toward their own platform.

Fourth, Fans First includes a provision for a Government Accountability Office study of ticketing market practices. A major feature of GAO studies is issue “neutrality.” But Fans First includes questions for the study with baked-in assumptions that resellers engage in market manipulation and unfair, unethical, or illegal tactics to acquire and sell tickets. No similar assumptions about Ticketmaster’s practices are apparent in the bill’s GAO study mandate, which stacks it against resellers and toward Ticketmaster.

Finally, Fans First requires “all-in” ticket pricing. The total ticket price—including the ticket price, taxes, and ancillary ticket fees—must be disclosed in advertising and when first displayed to the buyer online. Hidden ticket fees prevent comparison shopping, where buyers click through screen after screen, only to face an inflated total price at the end. But Fans First doesn’t answer basic questions about how all-in pricing works with dynamic ticket prices. For example, will ticket sellers refrain from pro-competitive advertising if dynamic prices differ from advertised prices? This uncertainty risks tilting the market toward Ticketmaster, and against resellers. Avoiding this unintended consequence of all-in pricing will require more thought on the part of the legislative drafters.

With appreciation to members of Congress who are focused on the Live Nation monopoly, Fans First isn’t ready for prime time. It works to shield a monopolist from competition, under the guise of protecting the public. Fans, artists, and smaller businesses in the live events industry should ask for a bill that is built solidly on promoting competition in ticketing. That means calling out Ticketmaster’s market power and abusive ticketing practices, instead of one that targets the resale of previously purchased tickets.

Author’s Disclosure: Diana Moss works for the Progressive Policy Institute. PPI is supported by foundations, individuals, and corporations. No funding source influenced the arguments expressed in this article or stands to benefit from them.

Articles represent the opinions of their writers, not necessarily those of the University of Chicago, the Booth School of Business, or its faculty.