Taylor Swift: Live Nation exec to clash with lawmakers over concert ticket fiasco

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NY
CNN

Lawmakers are ready to question the top executives of the event ticketing industry on Tuesday after Ticketmaster’s inability to process orders for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour left millions of fans unable to buy tickets or without your ticket even after purchase.

Joe Berchtold, the president and chief financial officer of Ticketmaster’s parent company Live Nation Entertainment, will testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday, two months after Swift’s ticketing fiasco reignited public scrutiny of the industry. Jack Groetzinger, chief executive of ticketing platform SeatGeek, is also scheduled to testify at the hearing.

Tickets for Swift’s new five-month Eras Tour, which kicks off March 17 and will span 52 arena concerts across the United States, went on sale on Ticketmaster in mid-November. The high demand growled on the ticketing site, angering fans who were unable to get tickets. Customers complained that Ticketmaster wouldn’t load and said the platform wouldn’t allow them to access tickets even if they had a verified fan pre-sale code.

Unable to resolve the issues, Ticketmaster subsequently canceled the sale of Swift concert tickets to the general public, citing “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”

As fury grew among the legions of hardcore Swifties, Swift herself heavy on about the fiasco. “It goes without saying that I am extremely protective of my fans,” Swift wrote on Instagram in November. “It’s really hard for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and it’s excruciating for me to watch mistakes happen without any recourse.”

As a result, the US Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, titled “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment” to examine the lack of competition in the industry. ticket sales.

“The problems within the US ticketing industry became painfully obvious when the Ticketmaster website failed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to purchase tickets for Taylor Swift’s new tour, but these problems are not new.” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is on the committee. in a statement about the hearing. “We will examine how consolidation in the ticketing and live entertainment industries hurts both customers and performers. Without competition to incentivize better services and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences”.

In his prepared opening remarks, Berchtold blamed “industrial scalpers” for the recent online ticketing blunder and called for legislation to rein in those bad actors. Ticketmaster, he said, was “hit with three times the amount of bot traffic we’ve ever experienced” amid “unprecedented demand for Taylor Swift tickets.” The bot’s activity “required us to slow down and even stop our sales. This is what led to a terrible consumer experience that we deeply regret.”

“As we said after the release, and I reiterate today, we apologize to the many disappointed fans, as well as to Ms. Swift,” he said in opening remarks. Berchtold also noted some things the service could have done differently “in hindsight,” including “staggering sales over a longer period of time and doing a better job of setting fan expectations for tickets.”

In addition to the executives, the committee said witnesses at the hearing will include Jerry Mickelson, CEO of Jam Productions, one of the largest producers of live entertainment, and singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence.

Lawrence, who has scored films including the Disney+ Christmas comedy film “Noelle,” wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times in December titled “Taylor Swift’s Live Nation debacle is just the beginning,” in which he criticized Live Nation for allegedly being a monopoly and detrimental to artists.

“Whether it meets the legal definition of a monopoly or not, Live Nation’s control over the live music ecosystem is staggering.” he wrote.

Criticism of Ticketmaster’s domain goes back decadesbut the Swift ticketing incident has once again turned that topic into a dinner-table discussion in many homes.

Concert promoter Live Nation and ticketing company Ticketmaster, two of the largest companies in the concert business, announced their merger in 2009. The deal at the time raised concerns, including from the US Department of Justice.that would create a near monopoly in the industry.

The Department of Justice permitted the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger to proceed despite a 2010 court filing in the case that raised objections to the merger. In the filing, the Justice Department said that Ticketmaster’s share among major concert venues exceeded 80%.

Ticketmaster disputes that market share estimate, saying it has at most a little more than 30% of the concert market, according to comments on NPR recently by Berchtold.

While furious fans were left scrambling their way through Swift’s ticket confusion, their collective anger caught the attention of lawmakers.

Members of Congress used the debacle to criticize Ticketmaster’s control of the live music industry., saying that because Ticketmaster dominates so much, it has no reason to make things better for the millions of customers who have no other choice.

“Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” said Klobuchar, who chairs the antitrust subcommittee, wrote in an open letter to the CEO of Ticketmaster in November. “That can result in the kinds of dramatic service failures we saw this week, where consumers pay the price.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal echoed Klobuchar’s concerns. He tweeted at the time that the tour “is a perfect example of how the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger hurts consumers by creating a near monopoly.”

In December, lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, demanding a briefing on what went wrong and what steps the company is taking to fix the problems.

“The recent ticket pre-sale process for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour, which saw millions of fans experience delays, lockouts, and competition from aggressive scammers, scalpers, and bots, raises concerns about potential unfair and deceptive practices facing concertgoers. consumers and event attendees. ”, the committee wrote in its letter.

The committee noted that it had previously raised concerns about the industry’s business practices and said it wanted to meet with Rapino to discuss how the company processes tickets for major concerts and tours. He also wants answers about how Ticketmaster plans to improve in the future.

Brian A. Marks, a tenured professor in the department of economics and business analysis at the University of New Haven Pompea School of Business, said he would have liked to see Swift do a appearance at the hearing.

“This audience seems to be focused on Swift and what happened to ticket sales. We also have to remember that Taylor Swift and her team negotiated a contract with Ticketmaster for the sale of her concert ticket,” Marks said.

“Will Congress want to revise that contract? For me, what happened with Swift concert tickets was not necessarily the result of Ticketmaster being the dominant player in the industry,” she said. Artists, and especially bigger artists like Swift, “are free to go anywhere else,” she said. “This point can be dropped at tomorrow’s hearing.”

– CNN’s Frank Pallotta, Chris Isidore and David Goldman contributed to this story



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