Opinion: Journalist Becomes Advocate While Calling for DOJ Bust Up of Music Industry Monopolies


October 27, 2023


Media, Opinion




(OKLAHOMA CITY) — In the weeks leading up to Taylor Swift’s anticipated “The Eras Tour” ticket sales in November 2022, a prescient warning echoed from the online platform of the social welfare organization, More Perfect Union. They republished a fiery tweet stream by public intellectual Cory Doctorow, who labeled Ticketmaster the “bullies of the music industry playground.” He depicted them as a “monopoly” that “gouges” consumers, and with no mincing of words, demanded its dissolution. These forewarnings found resonance when Swifties subsequently faced exorbitant prices and Ticketmaster’s technological glitches during the high-demand presale.

Doctorow’s assertive thread, while rooted in palpable concerns, highlights the increasingly prominent realm of “advocacy journalism.” A stark deviation from traditional journalism, which reveres neutrality and objectivity, advocacy journalism unabashedly champions specific causes. More Perfect Union’s choice to amplify Doctorow’s tweets stands in stark contrast to the reserved reporting style mainstream outlets typically adopt. This raises a pivotal question: at what juncture does impassioned advocacy potentially compromise journalistic ethics?

The video “How Ticketmaster Is Destroying Live Music” disseminates factual, researched information with the purpose of sparking action to restructure a major portion of the entertainment industry, marking it as advocacy journalism for music lovers everywhere. While More Perfect Union explicitly states its intentions by distributing Doctorow’s views from the beginning, telling viewers what “needs” to happen when describing what he and they consider favorable outcomes and starting a call to action pushes the boundaries of journalistic ethics.

The 10-minute video effectively outlines the Ticketmaster/Live Nation monopoly on the industry, explaining what it calls the “predatory new business practice” of dynamic pricing and ticket resales; giving a brief history of antitrust laws; and recognizing the proliferation of monopolies into almost every sector of the American economy. It examined the larger issue, pinning its problems on executive greed, stating its “exploitative practices make Ticketmaster execs very, very rich.” And that’s true. Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino made $70.6 million in 2017, as reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2018.

Doctorow practiced good journalistic technique while explaining a couple of potentially complicated antitrust methods for breaking up monopolies – structural remedies and behavioral remedies. He used plain language with understandable metaphors. He labeled the weak remedies outlined in a consent decree agreed to in 2010 during the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger as nothing more than “a pinky swear.”

However, some other language throughout the piece calls journalistic ethics into question. Doctorow repeatedly refers to Ticketmaster/Live Nation as a “playground bully,” explicitly stating, “We need to unwind this monopoly and break them up,” and “We have to act now.”

The video also tells the White House and Department of Justice to “take up and review this case,” moving past explaining business practices and law and deep into political action. Doctorow far crosses the lines of journalists expressing personal support for democratic and civic values. The video tells viewers what “needs” to happen in regards to major companies and economics as opposed to allowing viewers to come to their own conclusions regarding action.

More Perfect Union also used the video to sponsor an actionnetwork.org petition, creating an explicit call to action for supporters. More than 50,000 people signed it. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing exploring the Taylor Swift presale in January 2023. Many fans still paid thousands of dollars after waiting for hours, and The Eras Tour became one of the highest grossing tours of all time. Ticketmaster got their money, too.

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