The Culture Journalist
The Culture Journalist
Antitrust 101 for culture workers

Antitrust 101 for culture workers

Why we should be paying attention to policy as much as private companies, with Future of Music Coalition's Kevin Erickson

The Culture Journalist is a podcast about culture in the age of platforms. Episodes drop every other week, but if you want the full experience — including bonus episodes, culture recommendations, and our eternal parasocial friendship — we recommend signing up for a paid subscription. All earnings go back into making the show.

What do Ticketmaster price gouging, widespread journalism layoffs, and Big Streaming’s devaluation of recorded music have in common? They’re both downstream consequences, at least in part, of lax antitrust enforcement. If that sounds obtuse, consider this: antitrust law — the legislation that aims to prevent monopolies from forming and keep business competition healthy — directly impacts how power is being consolidated across American society as a whole. That includes how big a given company is allowed to become, and the types of business tactics it is allowed to use.

In a world where artists’ livelihoods have become increasingly intertwined with the actions of a handful of giant tech and entertainment companies, antitrust is a useful lens for understanding why so many things feel broken and inequitable. And 2024, for all its flaws, is actually an exciting time to be talking about this. Lina Khan, the 35-year-old legal scholar currently serving as chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, is on a mission to change the way we think about, and implement, antitrust law. And since she took office in 2021, she’s been updating our understanding of antitrust for the business landscape of the present, expanding beyond a decades-old focus on consumer-facing price to consider how anticompetitive practices also harm workers, communities, diversity, and the environment. Accordingly, she’s already brought big cases against some of the tech giants we regularly talk about on this show, including Amazon and Meta. 

A lot of this stuff impacts creative workers, so we’ve invited on Kevin Erickson, Director of the Future of Music Coalition, to put together a little primer for us. Founded in 2000, the Future of Music Coalition is a Washington DC-based nonprofit bringing together musicians, artist advocates, technologists, and legal experts dedicated to, as they put it, “supporting a musical ecosystem where artists flourish and are compensated fairly and transparently for their work.” 

We discuss why many of the problems we ascribe to the actions of private companies are actually policy problems, and why those issues aren’t a larger part of the conversation. We also dig into some of the current big policy fights that stand to materially impact the lives of creatives like journalists to musicians — including the Journalism Conservation and Preservation Act and what’s happening with Ticketmaster and other brokers right now.

Join us as we uncover the economic and technological forces percolating beneath the surface of contemporary culture.

Follow Kevin and The Future of Music Coalition on X

Kevin’s recs for staying on top of what’s happening with antitrust


Future of Music Coalition

Open Markets Institute 

American Economic Liberties Project

Institute for Local Self Reliance


Monopolies Suck by Sally Hubbard

The Curse of Bigness by Tim Wu

The People’s Platform by Astra Taylor

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