Following Ticketmaster’s botched handling of Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour,” Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) held a January 24th hearing on whether the ticket giant and its parent company, Live Nation, have contributed to a lack of competition in the ticketing industry.
The Judiciary Committee titled the hearing “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment.” Testifying on behalf of Ticketmaster was Joe Berchtold, the President and CFO of Live Nation Entertainment. The Judiciary Committee also heard from several Live Nation competitors, including Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek, and Jerry Mickelson, the CEO and President of Chicago-based JAM Productions, as well as representatives of think tanks, nonprofits, and Clyde Lawrence of the band Lawrence.
Ticketmaster was heavily criticized for canceling general on-sale of Swift’s massive tour in November following unprecedented demand during the pre-sale. Those attempting to buy tickets were met with slow service, frustrating error messages, and lengthy delays.
In her opening remarks, Klobuchar said we know “All too well” the effect that monopolies have on markets, citing the five-to-seven-year exclusive deals venues sometimes sign with Live Nation, which she said work to cut out competition: “This is the definition of monopoly.” She also noted a study on Ticketmaster service fees, which came to the conclusion that “for some tickets [service fees are] as high as 75% of face value.”
Meanwhile, Senator Lee engaged in some friendly cross-party sniping with another Swift quote, saying that with Klobuchar hogging the gavel, “She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers.” He also wondered if the 2010 merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation should have been allowed, and whether the company took sufficient remedies to make sure it would not become a monopoly.
During his testimony, Bechtold claimed that Live Nation does not set service fees, ticket prices, or the number of tickets available. When it came to Swift’s tour, he blamed bots for Ticketmaster’s struggles. “There was unprecedented demand for Taylor Swift tickets,” he read from prepared notes. “We were then hit with three times the amount of bot traffic than we had ever experienced, and for the first time in 400 Verified Fan onsales they came after our Verified Fan access code servers. While the bots failed to penetrate our systems or acquire any tickets, the attack requires us to slow down and even pause our sales. This is what led to a terrible consumer experience that we deeply regret. As we said after the onsale, and I reiterate today, we apologize to the many disappointed fans as well as to Ms. Swift.”