Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Although you don’t often see barrels anymore unless you live in Tuscany, the notion of shooting fish in a barrel is actually quite bizarre.

There is a 53-gallon white oak container full of bourbon water and for some reason it is full of fish. Someone takes out a Mossberg 930 Waterfowl and begins blasting away. Not only is there going to be a lot of fish viscera inside the barrel, but the barrel is going to be full of holes, so clearly that’s not something you’d want to do.

But the phrase is not cautionary. Rather, it is one that refers to how easy something is to do.

Oddly, however, it isn’t like that description of perch or koi or other gill-bearing animals idly going back and forth in a container.

It seems that it is based on when in a pre-refrigeration age fish were packed in barrels with ice. These fish weren’t swimming anywhere. Were someone to shoot in the barrel, odds were really good that something would be hit.

The phrase comes to mind regarding Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour ticketing and Ticketmaster.

“It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them,” Taylor Swift wrote in a statement. (Perhaps in keeping with the metaphor that should be “several piranha attacks.” However, as anyone who has seen Mega Piranha with Tiffany knows, there’s little in the way of a second chance of a piranha attack. It is worth noting that the singer of a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now”  went on to star in Mega Python vs. Gatoroid where she teamed up with the Original Pop Princess Debbie Gibson. [So far as I know she doesn’t have that moniker trademarked. Since she is now 52 years old and has just released Winterlicious, Gibson could call herself “Queen of Christmas” and Mariah Carey could do nothing about it.])

Anyway, on Tuesday November 15 Ticketmaster opened ticket sales for Swift “verified fans” (and were I to go down another rabbit hole, this would be the opportunity to talk about the blue checkmarks on Twitter), but it was the case that there were more than 3.5 million “people” who had registered as Swifties. Boom. That didn’t work out so well for Ticketmaster, but they did move an excess of two million ducats. On Wednesday there were sales to Capital One credit card holders (“What’s in your wallet?”), which apparently went OK.

Then on Thursday Ticketmaster wrote on a blog post: “Historically, working with ‘Verified Fan’ invite codes has worked as we’ve been able to manage the volume coming into the site to shop for tickets. However, this time the staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes drove unprecedented traffic on our site.” Oddly, the company removed that. There was supposed to be sales to those who simply wanted tickets without having to verify themselves (carbon life forms and binary entities alike), but that didn’t happen.

So on Friday Swift put out that bear trap statement.

While the wrath of the Swifties will be something to be reckoned with, Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation Entertainment, which is the company formed after the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation in 2010, received a letter from Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Wednesday the 17th.

In her letter Klobuchar, who has been calling out Live Nation, and calling on the Department of Justice in that regard, for years, wrote:

“When Ticketmaster merged with Live Nation in 2010, it was subject to an antitrust consent decree that prohibited it from abusing its market position. Nonetheless, there have been numerous complaints about your company’s compliance with that decree. I am concerned about a pattern of non-compliance with your legal obligations.”

Implications about “abusing its market position” and “non-compliance with your legal obligations” is something that a CEO doesn’t want to see in a missive from a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And on that committee Klobuchar is Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. She sent along a list of five questions to Rapino that she wants answered by November 23 (the day before Thanksgiving, so it may be the case that Rapino is going to have to have plenty of Tums on hand), one of which is telling vis-a-vis the whole notion of competitiveness:

In the last twelve months, how much have you invested in upgrading your systems to address demand surges, and specifically, what improvements did those investments generate?

If Live Nation figured that it really doesn’t have much in the way of competitors, it probably also figured that it doesn’t need to do a whole lot to up its game because the consumers don’t have much in the way of choice.

In its Q3 2022 earnings, Live Nation reported its revenue was up 63% to $6.2 billion and its operating income was up 95% to $506 million.

Given how Klobuchar is hard on the notion of competition, it sure seems like Rapino better hope that his IT department had some significant growth and has a number of servers that would make Satya Nadella jealous.

Otherwise, it brings us back to the ice-filled barrel, and there is a lot of ice and a lot of fish in Minnesota, so Klobuchar is very familiar with both.

Illustration by Terry Colon for (r.i.p.).

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