WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. senators criticized Live Nation Entertainment’s lack of transparency and failure to stop bots from buying tickets on Tuesday in a hearing after a major ticket failure for Taylor Swift’s upcoming concert tour.
Live Nation Entertainment Inc ( LIV.N ) Its subsidiary Ticketmaster, which has been unpopular with fans for years, drew sharp criticism from U.S. lawmakers over the way it sold tickets last fall for Swift’s “Eras” tour, her first in five years. Experts say Ticketmaster has more than 70% market share in basic ticketing services for major concert venues in the United States.
“We apologize to the fans, we apologize to Ms. Swift, we have to do better and we will do better,” Joe Berchtold, president and chief financial officer of Live Nation, said at a U.S. 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 better setting fan expectations for tickets,” Berchtold said.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee said in an opening statement that the Ticketmaster debacle underscored 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 Sen. Amy Klobuchar, responding to Berchtold’s claim that Live Nation fees vary based on “ratings.”
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn called Live Nation’s botnet problem “nonsensical,” noting that many smaller companies are able to reduce bad actors in their systems.
“You should be able to get good advice from people and take it,” she said.
[1/2] Taylor Swift arrives at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., August 28, 2022. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Republican Senator John F. Kennedy said, “I’m not against big per se, but I’m against stupid,” referring to Live Nation’s dominance of the ticketing market. “The way your company handled ticket sales for Ms. Swift was disastrous, and anyone at your company who was responsible should be fired.”
“If you care about the consumer, lower the price!” Stop the bots! Cut out the middle men, and if you really care about the consumer, give the consumer a break!”
Jack Grozinger, 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 ticketing line in major venues in the United States, the industry will continue to be competitive and unyielding,” he told lawmakers.
Ticketmaster claimed that bots used by scalpers were behind the Taylor Swift debacle, and Berchtold asked for more help in the fight against bots buying tickets for resale.
Other witnesses included JAM Productions president Jerry Mickelson, who has been among Ticketmaster’s critics.
In November, Ticketmaster canceled a planned general public ticket sale for Swift’s tour after her website was flooded with more than 3.5 billion requests from fans, bots and speculators.
Senator Klobuchar, who chairs the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust committee, said the issues that arose in November were not new and likely stemmed from consolidation in the ticketing industry.
In November, Ticketmaster denied any anticompetitive practices and indicated 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 settlement in December 2019 that extends the consent agreement through 2025.
Additional reporting by Diane Bartz, Moira Warburton and David Shepherdson. Editing by Jonathan Otis
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