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Taylor Swift Concert Fiasco Leads to U.S. Senate Grill Ticketmaster

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US senators on Tuesday criticized Live Nation Entertainment’s lack of transparency and inability to block ticket purchases by robots, during a hearing called after a major fiasco involving the sale of tickets for the upcoming concert tour of Taylor Swift.

Ticketmaster, a subsidiary of Live Nation Entertainment Inc (LYV.N), which has been unpopular with fans for years, has drawn the attention of US lawmakers to the way it handled ticket sales last fall for the tour. Swift’s “Eras”, her first in five years. Experts claim that Ticketmaster has over 70% market share of leading ticketing services for major US concert venues.

“We apologize to the fans, we apologize to Ms. Swift, we need to do better and we will do better,” Joe Berchtold, president and chief financial officer of Live Nation, said Tuesday during the Judiciary Committee hearing of the US Senate.

“Looking back, there are several things we could have done better, including staggering sales over a longer period of time and doing a better job of setting fan expectations for getting tickets,” Berchtold said. .

Republican Senator Mike Lee said in an opening statement that the Ticketmaster debacle underscored the importance of determining whether “new legislation or perhaps just better enforcement of existing laws might be necessary to protect the American people.”

LACK OF COMPETITION

The senators criticized Berchtold for Live Nation’s pricing structure and its inability to deal with bots that buy tickets in bulk and resell them at inflated prices.

“There’s no transparency when nobody knows who’s setting the fees,” said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, responding to Berchtold’s claim that Live Nation’s fees fluctuate based on “ratings.”

Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn called Live Nation’s bot problem “unbelievable,” pointing out that much smaller companies are able to limit bad actors in their systems.

“You should be able to get good advice from people and understand,” she said.

“I’m not against big guys per se, but I’m against idiots,” Republican Sen. John Kennedy said, referring to Live Nation’s dominance in the ticket market. “The way your company handled ticket sales for Ms Swift was a debacle, and whoever in your company was in charge of that should be fired.

“If you care about the consumer, cut the price! Cut out the bots! Cut out the middlemen and if you really care about the consumer, give them a break!”

Jack Groetzinger, co-founder of ticketing platform SeatGeek, said the ticket buying process is “outdated and ripe for innovation” and called for the breakup of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which merged in 2010.

“As long as Live Nation remains both the dominant concert promoter and box office for major venues in the United States, the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle,” he told lawmakers.

Ticketmaster argued that bots used by scalpers were behind the Taylor Swift debacle, and Berchtold asked for more help in tackling bots that buy tickets to resell them.

Other witnesses include Jerry Mickelson, president of JAM Productions, who was among Ticketmaster’s critics.

In November, Ticketmaster canceled a planned general public ticket sale for Swift’s tour after more than 3.5 billion requests from fans, bots and scalpers overwhelmed its website.

Senator Klobuchar, who heads the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, said the problems that arose in November were not new and potentially stemmed from consolidation in the ticketing industry.

In November, Ticketmaster denied any anti-competitive practices and noted that it remained under a consent decree with the Department of Justice following its 2010 merger with Live Nation, adding that there was no ” evidence of systemic violations of the consent decree”.

A previous dispute between Ticketmaster and the Department of Justice resulted in a settlement in December 2019 extending the consent agreement until 2025.

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