Live Nation executives will face lawmakers over the Taylor Swift concert ticket fiasco

Live Nation executives will face lawmakers over the Taylor Swift concert ticket fiasco


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CNN

Lawmakers are poised to scare off top executives the event ticketing industry on Tuesday after Ticketmaster was unable to process orders for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour, leaving millions of fans unable to purchase tickets or left without their ticket even after purchasing them.

Joe Berchtold, the president and CFO of Ticketmaster parent company Live Nation Entertainment, is set to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday, two months after Swift’s ticketing fiasco reignited public scrutiny for the industry. Jack Groetzinger, CEO of the ticketing platform SeatGeek, is also expected to testify at the hearing.

Tickets for Swift’s new five-month Eras Tour – which begins March 17 and will feature 52 concerts in multiple stadiums across the United States – went on sale on Ticketmaster in mid-November. The ticketing site was in high demand, infuriating fans who were unable to snag tickets. Customers complained that Ticketmaster would not load, saying the platform would not allow them to access tickets even if they had a verified fan presale code.

Unable to resolve the issues, Ticketmaster subsequently canceled Swift’s concert ticket sales to the general public, citing “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet this demand.”

As anger grew among legions of hardcore Swifties, Swift weighed in on the fiasco herself. “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 entrust those relationships and allegiances to an outside entity and it’s excruciating for me to just watch failures happen without recourse.”

As a result, the US Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled Tuesday’s hearing entitled “This Is the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment” to examine the lack of competition in the ticketing industry.

“The troubles in the American ticketing industry were poignantly exposed when hundreds of thousands of fans trying to purchase tickets for Taylor Swift’s new tour failed the Ticketmaster website, but these troubles are not new,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is in the Committee sits in a statement to the hearing. “We will examine how consolidation in the live entertainment and ticketing industries is hurting customers and artists alike. Without competition to incentivize better service and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences.”

Along with the executives, the committee said witnesses at the hearing will be Jerry Mickelson, CEO of Jam Productions, one of the largest producers of live entertainment, and singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence.

Lawrence, who has composed music for feature films including Disney+’s vacation comedy 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 allegedly criticized Live Nation is a monopoly and harms the artists.

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

Criticism of Ticketmaster’s dominance goes back decadesbut the Swift ticketing incident has brought this topic back to table discussion in many households.

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 in the US Department of Justice, that this would result in an almost monopoly in the industry.

The Justice Department allowed the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster to proceed despite a 2010 court filing in the case objecting to the merger. In the filing, the Justice Department said Ticketmaster’s share of major concert venues exceeded 80%.

Ticketmaster disputes that market share estimate, saying it holds at most just over 30% of the concert market, according to comments recently commented by Berchtold on NPR.

While angry fans had to fight their way through the Swift 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, With Ticketmaster dominating so heavily, there is no reason to improve things for the millions of customers who have no other choice.

“Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticketing market isolates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” Klobuchar, chair of the antitrust subcommittee, wrote in an open letter to the CEO of ticketmaster. “That can lead to dramatic service disruptions that we’ve seen this week, where consumers are the ones paying the price.”

Senator 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 is hurting 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, requesting a briefing on what went wrong and what steps the company is taking to fix the issues.

“The recent ticket sales process for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras tour – which has seen millions of fans endure delays, lockouts and competition from aggressive scammers, scalpers and bots – raises concerns about the potentially unfair and misleading practices being used by consumers and event-goers are faced. ‘ the committee wrote in its letter.

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

Brian A. Marks, a senior associate professor in the department of economics and business analysis at the University of New Haven’s Pompea College of Business, said he would have liked to have made one for Swift Appear at the hearing.

“This hearing appears to be focused on Swift and what happened with the ticket sales. We also have to remember that Taylor Swift and her team have negotiated a deal with Ticketmaster to sell her concert ticket,” Marks said.

“Will Congress want to look at this treaty? To me, what happened with Swift concert tickets wasn’t necessarily the result of Ticketmaster being the dominant player in the industry,” he said. Artists, and especially larger artists like Swift, “are free to go elsewhere,” he said. “This point could be overlooked at tomorrow’s hearing.”

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

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