Shubert Executive Director Anthony McDonald, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Richmond Lee and Haley Grayson boost an antitrust bill outside of the Shubert Theatre on Monday. Nora Grace-Flood / New Haven Independent

Richmond Le stood outside the Shubert Theater in support of his favorite superstar and her worldwide fans who have both been affected by the bungled concert sales of an under-fire concert-broker — and spoke out in favor of legislation that would break ticket services’ stranglehold over music venues, artists and audiences.

Le, who founded the University of Connecticut’s 300-member Taylor Swift fan club, joined fellow self-proclaimed ​“Swifties” — including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal — on Monday in welcoming The Unlock Ticketing Markets Acta bill introduced by the Senate Judiciary committee in April that aims to prohibit excessively long-term exclusive venue ticketing contracts.

“This Eras tour ought to be a time of joy,” Blumenthal said of the launch of singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s latest concert series this spring. While he won’t be attending any of her shows, he said, ​“I’m a fan … I love Taylor Swift.”

“I felt for the fans that were shut out and shut down” by the ​“monopolistic mess” that took place in November, Blumenthal said, when mass malfunctions emerged after Ticketmaster, the company estimated to dominate up to 80% market share of the ticketing industry, first started selling seats during a presale push for the upcoming tour. 

Fans rushing to get tickets were instead stranded online for hours, facing inexplicable secondary fees and bugs that ended with many losing the chance to see the artist live.

The fiasco has since revitalized efforts by politicians like Blumenthal to enact antitrust legislation to avoid anti-competitive practices by companies like Ticketmaster — and to make sure fans aren’t let down once again when Taylor takes her next album on tour.

The Unlock Ticketing Markets Act is the latest way Blumenthal is hoping to protect his fellow Swifties. Many large concert venues, he said, enter into exclusive contracts with Ticketmaster that last as long as 10 years, meaning that artists reliant on big arenas to accommodate their massive fan-bases have ​“no choice but to go to places dominated by Ticketmaster” and are subsequently held hostage to Ticketmaster’s poor business practices.

Read through the bill here. And click here to read Ticketmaster’s extensive November 2022 response to the Eras Tour ticketing breakdown.

“Fans it harms, artists it harms,” he said. ​“It means exorbitant ticket prices that are only skyrocketing, opaque and hidden fees, and few improvements and innovations” on the part of companies like Ticketmaster.

If passed, the bill would limit contracts between ticket service providers and venues to a maximum of four years. The Department of Justice is also said to have launched an antitrust investigation into the owner of Ticketmaster.

“We appreciate all the work Blumenthal is doing,” Shubert Executive Director Anthony McDonald said Monday. As a local nonprofit, he said, the Shubert ​“tries to keep prices low for our patrons … and when a patron is picking their seat, they see a full ticket price before they actually get to that cart.”

McDonald said the Shubert works with arts enterprise software Tessitura rather than Ticketmaster to manage their ticket sales. Ticketmaster’s problematic behavior, he argued, not only hurts the arts but the public’s perception and relationship to live performance.

Blumenthal, in turn, praised the Shubert: ​“This is a nationally renowned place of entertainment and artistic achievement. It’s a place that does right by its fans.”

“Ticketmaster ought to take a look in the mirror and say, ​‘I’m the problem, it’s me,’” Blumenthal declared, quoting some of Swift’s lyrics.

“It’s great to know you’re a fan and you get the references,” Richmond Le told the Senator. Le had just seen Swift perform in his hometown of Philadelphia Saturday night. ​“It was phenomenal, but I’m sure many fans were not granted this opportunity.”

Blumenthal is ​“here to protect us, to protect Taylor,” he said.

This story was first published May 15, 2023 by New Haven Independent.