After Ticketmaster failed to fulfill orders for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour, leaving millions of fans without tickets, lawmakers questioned a top executive from the company’s parent. Tuesday, two months after the Taylor Swift ticketing crisis rekindled public criticism of the business, Ticketmaster parent company Live Nation Entertainment president and CFO Joe Berchtold testified before a Senate committee.
“As we said after the onsale, and I reiterate today: We apologize to the fans,” Berchtold said. “We apologize to Ms. Swift. We need to do better and we will do better.”
When asked about the “unprecedented demand for Taylor Swift tickets.” he responded, “hit with three times the amount of bot traffic than we had ever experienced” As a result of the bot activity, we had to temporarily halt all sales. We sincerely apologize to our customers for the unpleasant experience this caused.
Beginning on March 17, Swift’s new five-month Eras Tour will have 52 gigs in various stadiums around the United States. Tickets for the tour went on sale through Ticketmaster in the middle of November. Fans who were unable to purchase tickets were frustrated by the website’s inability to keep up with demand.
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Consumers reported that Ticketmaster was slow to load, and that even with a confirmed fan pre-sale code, they were unable to purchase tickets.
Due to “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”
Ticketmaster cancelled public sales for Swift’s concert after being unable to fix the issues. As the anger of Swift’s following of devoted fans continued to mount, she addressed the situation personally.
“It goes without saying that I’m extremely protective of my fans,”
Swift wrote on Instagram in November. “It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse.”
This prompted the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate to hold a hearing titled
“That’s The Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment”
to investigate the current state of the ticketing industry.
Minnesota Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar used her opening remarks to highlight the role competition plays in maintaining a free market economy. She cited Taylor Swift’s songs to criticise market consolidation, adding that the United States is “all too familiar” with the phenomenon.
The Ticketmaster Senate hearing will be live-streamed tomorrow at 10am ET.
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) January 23, 2023
She argued that competition was essential to a healthy capitalist economy.
“You can’t have too much consolidation — something that, unfortunately for this country, as an ode to Taylor Swift, I will say, we know ‘all too well.’”
According to Berchtold, establishments have a great deal of autonomy in how they operate things. According to his testimony, Ticketmaster is not responsible for determining the price of tickets or the availability of seats, and “in most cases, venues set service and ticketing fees,”
Jack Groetzinger, CEO of ticketing site SeatGeek, Jerry Mickelson, CEO of Jam Productions, one of the top producers of live entertainment; and singer/songwriter Clyde Lawrence were all named as witnesses by the committee.
According to Groetzinger’s testimony, “the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle.”
as long as Live Nation is the primary concert producer and ticket seller for major venues in the United States.
Live Nation CFO to Senate: "We apologize to the fans, we apologize to Ms. swift, we need to do better and we will do better"https://t.co/Ske9sVob3y
— davidshepardson (@davidshepardson) January 24, 2023
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The Swift ticketing debacle has resurrected decades-old criticism of Ticketmaster’s supremacy as a topic of conversation at many dinner tables. A merger between Live Nation, a concert promoter, and Ticketmaster, a ticketing provider, was announced in 2009. Fears that the acquisition will lead to a monopoly were voiced by groups including the US Department of Justice at the time.
Despite a court petition in 2010 raising objections to the transaction, the Justice Department permitted the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger to go through. The Justice Department claimed in its lawsuit that Ticketmaster has more than an 80% market share among large concert venues.
Based on recent statements made by Berchtold on NPR, Ticketmaster rejects this market share estimate and claims it has no more than slightly more than 30% of the concert market. The ranking Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee both commented on Ticketmaster’s economic dominance on Tuesday.
Committee chair Senator Dick Durbin argued that live event ticketing has been “dominated by a single entity” since the merger:
“These issues are symptomatic, I think, of a larger problem,”
According to Durbin, the conditional consent agreement that allowed Live Nation to close the purchase has failed to protect competition. Sen. Richard Blumenthal has remarked that “unwinding the merger ought to be on the table,” if the current Justice Department finds that the consent decree has been breached.
Even the panel’s senior Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, acknowledged that
“consolidation of power in the hands of the few can generate issues for the many.”
According to his testimony, “I hope we can make a better experience of the consumer being able to buy tickets to things you want to see without such a debacle”
as the Taylor Swift ticketing process “Out of this hearing,”