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Senators asked Ticketmaster about competition following Taylor Swift ticket debacle

WASHINGTON — Taylor Swift took center stage during Tuesday’s Senate hearing, which examined the lack of competition in the ticketing industry and grilled the Ticketmaster executive following poor the company’s management of the music superstar’s concert tickets.

Swift fans were furious after Ticketmaster canceled its November general ticket sale for the music star’s highly anticipated new tour. Several days of turmoil during the verified fan presale resulted in hundreds of thousands of snubbed fans who never received tickets.

Joe Berchtold, the president and chief financial officer of Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, defended his company, testifying that “industry-scale ticket scalping” and an unprecedented number of bots were responsible for the large-scale problems. scale.

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Following: Taylor Swift Ticketmaster debacle escalates federal and fan concerns over tour tickets

“Looking back, there are several things we could have done better,” Berchtold said. “And let me be clear, Ticketmaster accepts its responsibility as the first line of defense against bots in our industry.”

Swift was not at the hearing.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, criticized the company in a letter to the president and CEO of the company, Michael Rapino.

Klobuchar was particularly critical of Rapino, who assured lawmakers at a 2009 hearing that he was “confident” the merger would result in a “single, easy-to-access platform” to deliver tickets.

“It seems your trust was misplaced,” Kloubchar wrote.

What happened?

  • The hearing began with opening statements from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Dick Durbin, Ranking Members Senator Lindsey Graham, Klobuchar and Lee, all expressing concern over Ticketmaster’s control of the Ticketing.

  • The senators questioned Berchtold about Tickermaster’s mishandling of Swift’s concert tickets, the company’s general ticketing practices and market scrutiny.

  • Jerry Mickelson, CEO and president of JAM Productions, disputed Berchtold’s claim that bots were to blame in the Swift ticketing crash. Mickelson told the committee that “you can’t blame the bots for what happened to Taylor Swift. There’s more to this story than you hear.

  • Several senators, including Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn, also took issue with Ticketmaster’s defense of the bots. “It’s unbelievable,” Blackburn told Berchtold. “You should be able to get good advice from people and figure that out.”

  • SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger says there’s not only a lack of “robust competition” in live entertainment, which is hurting consumers, but also venues fear losing Live Nation events. if venues choose not to use Ticketmaster for ticketing. Groetzinger closed his opening statement by saying the only way to restore the industry is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

  • Groetzinger also explained Live Nation’s threat of retaliation, citing a New York Times article about Brooklyn’s Barclays Center’s decision to part ways with SeatGeek for an alternative deal with Ticketmaster during a round of market power questions. of Live Nation to punish sites for the use of competitors. .

  • Klobuchar concluded that “there is clearly no transparency” in ticket pricing. This followed a series of questions about who sets the final ticket prices and fees after singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence told the committee he did not know who was responsible for the additional fees.

What is the problem?

Criticism of Ticketmaster’s ticket sales practices and lack of competition is not new. But it hit a crescendo last year after Swift’s upcoming Eras tour was mishandled. The snafu led to significant delays and errors in queues to purchase tickets.

Other music star fans and musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters and Garth Brooks, have long criticized Ticketmaster’s practices. Among the biggest gripes: dynamic pricing, which adjusts prices based on consumer demand, preventing some fans from buying tickets.

The company’s monopoly in the entertainment industry has come under scrutiny since its merger with Live Nation Entertainment in 2010, which eliminated Live Nation as a competitor.

Prior to the merger, Live Nation controlled 16.5% of the ticketing market, which reduced Ticketmaster’s previous 82.9% share of the ticketing market and left them with 66.4%, according to the amended complaint from the Department of Justice regarding the merger.

What did Taylor Swift say?

Swift released a scathing statement following Ticketmaster’s cancellation of future ticket sales, pointing out that she specifically asked the company if it could handle ticket demand for her shows.

“I’m not going to apologize to anyone because we’ve asked them many times if they can handle this type of request and we’ve been assured they can,” Swift said. “It’s really amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they’ve suffered multiple bear attacks to get them.”

What to expect?

Klobuchar and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, the ranking member of the, announced last week that the hearing will take place before the full Judiciary Committee.

The hearing, titled “It’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment,” will examine the potential harm caused to performers and consumers by the consolidated entertainment and ticketing industries through anti-competitive behavior.

The hearing is likely to dig deeper into Ticketmaster’s ticket sales and pricing practices, with specific reference to the company’s recent series of ticket sales issues, as well as its effect on other ticketing companies. and consumers.

But it’s also an opportunity for lawmakers to publicly reprimand the company.

“It’s partly a public disgrace,” Rebecca Allensworth, a law professor specializing in antitrust and professional licensing at Vanderbilt University, told USA TODAY. “Part of that is raking in the CEO of a company that has done wrong on behalf of its consumers.”

The committee must hear various witnesses:

  • Joe Berchtold, President and CFO of Live Nation Entertainment

  • Seat Geek CEO Jack Groetzinger

  • Jerry Mickelson, CEO and President of JAM Productions

  • Sal Nuzzo, senior vice president of the James Madison Institute

  • Kathleen Bradish, Vice President of Legal Defense for the American Antitrust Institute

  • Clyde Lawrence, singer-songwriter of the band Lawrence.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ticketmaster exec testifies in Senate over Taylor Swift ticket hoard

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