Jay King (Courtesy photo)

As president of the California Black Chamber, I have the privilege of advocating for small businesses throughout the state. However, music is my passion and has been my life’s work. For more than four decades, I have worked in the music industry as an artist, as a promoter, and a manager.  I have witnessed firsthand the evolution of our industry – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And right now, the impacts of the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger are the ugly.

In 2010, two companies – Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment – merged to create a monopoly controlling every part of the live events marketplace. They control everything – from artist management, promotion, venues and ticketing.

And when one company controls it all, people feel beholden to them, and become afraid of them. Imagine one company controlling your dreams and your livelihood: If you are an artist you wonder, will I get shows or will the shows be promoted if I don’t use Live Nation/Ticketmaster? Or if you are a venue, will a promoter send acts my way if I don’t use Ticketmaster?

Monopoly means one – one entity that benefits from a system they control. And that’s exactly what’s happened with Ticketmaster’s monopoly power, which has led to exorbitant fees, skyrocketing ticket prices, and limited access to events for fans. Endless virtual lines, crashing websites, and limited access during working hours leave many of us out in the cold when trying to purchase tickets for the special event of our choice.

The numbers speak for themselves: Ticketmaster and Live Nation control an estimated 80% of primary ticket sales in the US. They contract with 78% of top-grossing arenas in the United States, and manage a staggering 380+ artists. Since the merger, ticket prices have increased by 140% in inflation-adjusted terms.

It’s time we confront the broken system that has allowed a monopoly like Ticketmaster and Live Nation to corrupt the entire live event marketplace that leaves everyone without a choice – whether you’re an artist, a venue, or a fan.

Fortunately, legislation recently introduced at the State Capitol by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks of Oakland takes bold steps to fix this broken system by creating competition and providing choices.

The proposed law, Assembly Bill 2808, increases competition in the marketplace by breaking up exclusivity contracts, so ticketing companies have to compete for your business. By giving fans a choice of where to purchase tickets, ticket sellers will be incentivized to provide better service, transparency, and lower fees. Transparency and competition are key to ensuring the marketplace works in favor of fans.

Anyone who purchases a ticket should also have the right to gift, donate, or sell their tickets as they see fit. We cannot allow monopolies to dictate what fans can do with their tickets. Giving fans control over their tickets will enhance flexibility and fairness in the system.

Finally, the bill fights bots and fraud that undermine the integrity of ticket sales. Establishing a single source for ticket verification will help combat fraud and speculative ticket sales and create a more secure and connected marketplace.

We can’t keep doing the same thing on ticketing and expecting different results. The status quo may be working for Live Nation/Ticketmaster, but it doesn’t help small promoters, or up and coming artists. And ultimately, it’s fans who must either pay record prices, or miss out on seeing their favorite team or artist.  It’s time for California to lead by example.

As a musician and industry veteran and as the leader of the organization representing California’s Black-owned businesses, I stand behind AB 2808 because it increases competition. Together, we can create a fairer and more accessible live event marketplace for everyone.

Jay King is the president and CEO of the California Black Chamber of Commerce.