January 27, 2023

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Taylor Swift’s concert fiasco leads to US Senate impeachment of Ticketmaster

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. senators criticized Live Nation Entertainment’s lack of transparency and inability to prevent bots from buying tickets on Tuesday, at a hearing after a major failure to sell tickets for Taylor Swift’s upcoming concert tour.

Live Nation Entertainment Inc (LYV.N) Its subsidiary Ticketmaster, which has been unpopular with fans for years, drew heavy criticism from US lawmakers over its handling of ticket sales last fall for Swift’s “Eras” tour, her first in five years. Experts say Ticketmaster commands more than 70% of the market share of basic ticketing services for major concert venues in the United States.

“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, told the US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

“In hindsight, there are many things we could have done better — including increasing sales over a longer period of time and doing a better job of identifying fan expectations for tickets,” Berchtold said.

Republican Senator Mike Lee said in an opening statement that the Ticketmaster debacle highlighted the importance of considering whether new legislation is needed or perhaps just better enforcement of existing laws to protect the American people.

lack of competition

Senators criticized Berchtold over Live Nation’s fee structure and 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 fees,” said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, responding to Berchtold’s claim that Live Nation fees fluctuate based on “ratings.”

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Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn has called Live Nation’s botnet problem “preposterous,” noting that much smaller companies are able to reduce bad actors in their systems.

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

Republican Senator John F. Kennedy said, “I’m not against big per se, but I am against stupidity,” referring to Live Nation’s dominance in the ticket sales market. “The way your company handled ticket sales for Ms. Swift was a disaster, and anyone in your company who was responsible should be fired.

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

Jack Grotzinger, co-founder of ticketing platform SeatGeek, testified that the ticket-buying process was “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 line at major venues in the United States, the industry will continue to be competitive and intractable,” he told lawmakers.

Ticketmaster argued that bots used by scalpers were behind the Taylor Swift debacle, and Berchtold asked for more help fighting bots that buy tickets for resale.

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

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

Senator Klobuchar, who chairs the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, said the issues that surfaced in November were not new and likely stemmed from consolidation into the ticket industry.

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

Ticketmaster’s previous dispute with the Department of Justice culminated in a December 2019 settlement extending the consent agreement through 2025.

Additional reporting by Diane Bartz, Moira Warburton and David Shepherdson. Editing by Jonathan Otis

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