Dingus of the Week: Ticketmaster
The hellscape of capitalism and basement drinks fridges
This is the Weekly Dingus. The newsletter that makes fun of something or someone in the news that’s really pickled my eggs, really griddled my pancakes, really porked my loins. It’s also where I share some links and a drink recipe. Never miss a dingus by becoming a subscriber. The dingus will always be free.
Like so many other people in America, I tried to buy Taylor Swift tickets this week. But I too was shut out. I didn’t even get close. Probably because I didn’t have hours to devote to the process. I did get a presale link, but I got stuck in a queue, and the site ultimately went down on me. I don’t have a Capital One card. And I had to work. And after the site crashed on me, I gave up.
I made a promise to myself in 2020 that I’d try to go to more live shows. That promise has been hard to keep. I have gone to precisely two large concerts this year simply because the process of buying tickets is so monumentally frustrating and disempowering.
Live Nation and Ticketmaster are the same company after a massive merger in 2010, and they control “70 percent of the primary ticketing and live event venues market.”
The result has been an increase in fees, which can amount to nearly 75 percent of the ticket price, and ticket prices that fluctuate with demand. It’s supply-and-demand economics but with one large company managing all the supply and artificially increasing demand. It’s as if the invisible hand was also choking you to death.
In an interview about the ticket debacle, Greg Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media, which is a mass media conglomerate that owns Live Nation and Ticketmaster, blamed Taylor Swift and her rabid fans. Sure, Greg, the problem is a successful female artist, definitely not her being strong-armed by your monopoly into using your crap and predatory service, which manipulates ticket prices and tacks on large fees. Like, where is she going to perform since Live Nation owns all the venues?
Ticketmaster fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this; never go in against Taylor when her reputation is on the line!
Maffei also tried to blame the number of people on the site. But Ticketmaster controlled the presale links. Which means they should have anticipated the number of people on the site. They also didn’t require a code until after people entered the virtual queue for tickets, so it’s once again a problem the company created and is trying to blame the artist for. But Maffei’s response shows just how little the company cares about actually selling tickets. Live Nation, which owns the venues, and Ticketmaster, which sells the tickets, don’t have to care about this failure because they profit from it. By working poorly, they increase ticket demand, which then increases prices. They make millions of dollars, not because they work well, but because they don’t work at all.
In writing about her own experience trying to buy Taylor Swift tickets, Kelsey McKinney wrote:
The problem with buying tickets is the same problem that plagues everything in America right now: The people in charge do not want to make the future better or easier or more enjoyable. They want to make more money, and they are. Ticketmaster need not provide a service or a plan or a product. They can phone it in because they are the only ones left. Their failures do not affect them. The failures only affect us, just the way they planned it.
In sum, the failure is a reminder that the free market doesn’t care about you. When the motive is profit and there is no oversight, there is no incentive to be useful or good to the consumer, especially if you make more money by being awful.
After the presale debacle that left a lot of fans disgruntled, the Tennessee attorney general announced it would be investigating the ticketing company for possible anti-trust violations.
But good luck to Maffei. Swift has made a reputation for fighting the predatory practices of large companies. She battled Spotify and Apple Music over music streaming, and she went toe-to-toe with music mogul Scooter Braun and re-recorded her music so she could have ownership over it. Braun now regrets everything. I bet he does.
Braun and now Ticketmaster fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this; never go in against Taylor when her reputation is on the line!
But also, not to be too reductive, but expecting Swift to fix another problem she didn’t create, while rich men get richer, just makes me wonder how people would react if she were actually a man.
And Now for Something Good:
Every week until January, I’m going to be highlighting the non-profits doing good work in your communities. This week, in a spirited Discord discussion about what it means to be a Flyover community, community member Jarathan wrote that the ethos of being a flyover state isn’t about the location exactly, but about “the ways in which people feel overlooked, excluded, dismissed, and generally flown over.”
So, I’d like to highlight these very local, very personal places that are doing really good work in hopes that the MYAM community can support them. Of course, non-profits are an imperfect substitute for having a functioning social safety net. But we can do the best we can in the system we have while also pushing for change. So, this week the non-profit I am highlighting is the Mountaineer Food Bank, which is feeding West Virginians in need. The food bank came to my attention because Grace Hill, a community member, pointed out how more than our cast-off canned goods, our local food banks just need our money. The conversation sparked people talking about their own experiences with food insecurity and how essential food banks are in their communities. I’m committing to giving to each of the non-profits highlighted as a way to thank you for supporting me and in turn, doing something to support your communities.
Also, if you’d like your favorite local non-profit featured, let me know in the comments or in Discord.
What I Am Reading:
About why Democrats win cities and lose states.
And the creepy reason Elon Musk has so many babies. It’s basically a Quiverfull movement for tech bros. I hate it.
The Joan Didion estate sale. (Guys, she’s fine but there are other women writers.)
A side note about Twitter. Many of you found me and this newsletter through the social media site. But so many found this through other ways. The newsletter is now at about 30,000 subscribers and the Flyover Discord is at over 600 people and we combined with The White Pages to further our conversations and grow the community. It's a welcoming space that values nuance and conversation and jokes about gas stations. And if you want to join...you know, subscribe.
Also, a flashback to Hunter S. Thompson’s obituary for Nixon.
In this newsletter, I wrote about humor, Stalinism, and social media. Also, I reveal that I spent $8 of American money to roast my senator. I have no regrets.
What I Am Drinking:
Last weekend, I spent the entire weekend turning my basement floor from gross red, peely, murdery, basement floor, to smooth and gray. We went from Patrick Bateman to Joanna Gains. (Although, I personally think Joanna Gains is terrifying. What are you doing with all those giant wooden clocks and shiplap, Joanna? UNCLEAR!)
And in the process, I decided to remove some cupboard doors and get a basement drink fridge. The basement drink fridge is elite levels of Midwestern. And I’ve been dying to join the ranks. After pricing out my options, on Wednesday, I went to the scratch-and-dent appliance store and they just happened to have a small fridge that fit the bill that was very cheap. And now, I am the owner of a basement drinks fridge. I’ve ascended to levels of Midwesterner I never knew existed. My Os are rounder. My cheesy is cheesier. My Opes are Opier.
So, what am I drinking this week? Well, since I’m now a Midwestern dad, I am drinking the Spice Must Flow beer from my favorite local brewery, Lion Bridge. (Although I’m pissed they stopped serving their fried avocado tacos.)