It might be a stretch to say Sen. Mike Lee is a Swiftie, but he at least knows a couple of Taylor Swift’s songs.
At a Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday to investigate the concert ticket seller Ticketmaster, the Utah Republican was one of several lawmakers who followed the lead of the chair, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, in quoting lyrics from Swift’s songs.
Those quotes have rocketed on platforms like TikTok and Twitter, as senators referred to some of the artist’s most iconic chart-toppers.
There’s one from “Blank Space,” when Lee talked about limiting ticket reselling to keep prices down, “I think it’s a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”
“Karma’s a relaxing thought, aren’t you envious that for you, it’s not?” Lee said in one clip, drawing from track “Karma” on Swift’s latest album release “Midnights.”
In another clip, captured by Forbes from the C-SPAN feed, Lee refers to the classic “You Belong With Me.” “She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers,” Lee said of Klobuchar. “Nice of Taylor Swift to have written a song about this very situation.” (Klobuchar is chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights; Lee is the ranking Republican on the subcommittee.)
Lee put the joking aside to stress the purpose of the hearing: To look into claims that Ticketmaster holds a monopoly on the live entertainment market — and whether the company’s dominance in the ticketing industry led to its spectacular breakdown when Swift’s “Eras Tour” tickets went on sale in November.
In 2010, Ticketmaster absorbed Live Nation, a company that owns and runs the majority of live music venues in the United States — including Utah’s USANA Amphitheatre and The Depot. The merger, many critics of the industry say, has made it impossible for artists and fans alike to use other services to book tours or sell tickets to shows. Swift’s tour, combined with her far-reaching fanbase, prompted an examination of Ticketmaster’s market domination.
Both Republicans and Democrats grilled Ticketmaster officials in Tuesday’s hearing. They also debated possible action, including making tickets non-transferable to cut down on scalping and requiring more transparency in ticket fees. Some suggested it may also be necessary to split Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
“The fact of the matter is, Live Nation/Ticketmaster is the 800-pound gorilla here,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat. “This whole concert ticket system is a mess, a monopolistic mess.”
Live Nation’s President and Chief Financial Officer Joe Berchtold apologized to fans and to Swift on Tuesday, and said the company knows it must do better. Berchtold said Ticketmaster has spent $1 billion over the last decade trying to improve its security and stop bots.
“We need to do better and will do better,” he said.
Competitors, like Seat Geek CEO Jack Groetzinger, said even if Live Nation doesn’t own a venue, it prevents competition by signing multi-year contracts with arenas and concert halls to provide ticketing services. If those venues don’t agree to use Ticketmaster, Live Nation may withhold acts. That makes it tough for competitors to disrupt the market.
“The only way to restore competition is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” Groetzinger said.
Lee said Tuesday that the Justice Department is again investigating Live Nation after the Swift ticket fiasco. At this point, he said, Congress should be asking if the department was right to allow the merger to go ahead in the first place.
“It’s very important that we maintain fair, free, open and even fierce competition,” Lee said. “It increases quality and it reduces price. We want those things to happen.”
Editor’s note • The Associated Press contributed to this article.