Taylor Swift concert fiasco prompts US Senate to question Ticketmaster

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WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) – U.S. senators criticized Live Nation Entertainment’s lack of transparency and inability to block ticket purchases by bots on Tuesday, at a hearing convened following a major fiasco involving ticket sales. tickets to the next Taylor Swift concert tour.

Live Nation Entertainment Inc. (LYV.N) The Ticketmaster subsidiary, which has been unpopular with fans for years, has come under fresh criticism from US lawmakers over how it handled ticket sales last fall for Swift’s “Eras” tour, her first in five years. Insiders say Ticketmaster commands more than 70% of the market share of major 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, Live Nation’s president and chief financial officer, said at the US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

“In hindsight, 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 tickets,” Berchtold said.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee said in an opening statement that the Ticketmaster debacle highlighted the importance of considering 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 fee 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 sets the rates,” said Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, responding to Berchtold’s claim that Live Nation’s rates fluctuate based on “classifications.”

Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn called Live Nation’s bot problem “unbelievable,” noting that much smaller companies can limit bad actors on their systems.

“You should be able to get good advice from people and figure it out,” he said.

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

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

Jack Groetzinger, co-founder of ticketing platform SeatGeek, testified that the ticketing 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 the dominant concert promoter and ticket seller to major venues in the US, the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle,” he told lawmakers.

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

Other witnesses include Jerry Mickelson, president of JAM Productions, who has been 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, has said that the problems that arose in November were not new and possibly stemmed from consolidation in the ticketing industry.

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

A previous Ticketmaster dispute with the Justice Department culminated in a December 2019 settlement that extended the consent agreement through 2025.

Reporting by Diane Bartz, Moira Warburton, and David Shepardson; Edited by Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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