HomeTechSenators and Swifties take on Ticketmaster in Washington

Senators and Swifties take on Ticketmaster in Washington

Months after Ticketmaster botched sales for Taylor Swift’s most recent tour, a top executive from its parent company, Live Nation, faced scrutiny over its market dominance on Capitol Hill from senators and Swifties alike.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold throughout the hearing on Tuesday, arguing that the company’s control over the concert and events industry has harmed consumers. In her opening statement, antitrust committee chair Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) called Live Nation’s business model the “definition of monopoly.” 

“As millions of Taylor Swift fans found out last fall, there are few consequences for failing to deliver the service,” Klobuchar said Tuesday. “But whether it’s Bruce Springsteen, or BTS, or Bad Bunny, or in the past Pearl Jam or the Pixies, fans, artists, and venues are facing real issues with Live Nation.”

“As millions of Taylor Swift fans found out last fall, there are few consequences for failing to deliver the service”

Live Nation and Ticketmaster have long been the focus of congressional criticism, regularly receiving threats of investigation and regulation from lawmakers when their services fail to meet fan expectations. But that scrutiny hit a fever pitch last November when Live Nation was forced to cancel ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s upcoming The Eras Tour. 

At the time, the company said the cancellation was “due to extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.” However, Berchtold said Tuesday that sales were halted because of an unforeseen bot attack. 

“This is what led to a terrible consumer experience, which we deeply regret,” Berchtold said during Tuesday’s hearing.

Live Nation’s bot explanation didn’t stop senators from attacking its market dominance, especially its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster. In a January 2022 antitrust lawsuit, aggrieved customers argued that the company holds more than 70 percent market share amongst major ticketing services. With that dominance, senators argued that Live Nation can drive up ticketing costs and fees for consumers and venues through anti-competitive contracts. 

Fan disgust over Live Nation’s practices was on full display Tuesday as Swifties, a nickname for Swift fans, protested the company outside the Capitol, according to NPR.

It’s unclear whether the Senate plans to roll out new legislation to address Live Nation’s growth, but the Justice Department has reportedly opened its own investigation into the company. The investigation is reportedly focused on whether Live Nation has abused its market power over the music industry, according to The New York Times last November. If the Justice Department deems that it has, officials could go as far as suing to unwind the company’s merger with Ticketmaster. 

Whether it’s for fans, promoters, or venue operators, we need to make sure we have competition to bring prices down and bring innovation in and stop the fiascos,” Klobuchar said Tuesday.  

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