Taylor Swift: Live Nation exec will face lawmakers about concert tickets fiasco

New York

Lawmakers blasted an executive from parent company Ticketmaster after the service’s inability to process orders for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour left millions of fans unable to purchase tickets or without their tickets even after they were purchased.

Joe Berchtold, president and CFO of Ticketmaster parent company Live Nation Entertainment, testified before a Senate committee on Tuesday, two months after Swift’s ticketing scandal sparked a public investigation of the industry.

“As we said after the sale, and I reiterate today: We apologize to the fans,” Berchtold said. “We apologize to Ms. Swift. We need to do better and we will do better.”

The ticket manager, he said, “was hit with three times the amount of bot traffic than we’ve ever seen” amid “unprecedented demand for Taylor Swift tickets.” The bot activity “required us to slow down and even stop our sales. This is what caused the bad user experience that we deeply regret.”

Tickets for Swift’s new five-month Eras Tour – which kicks off March 17 and will feature 52 concerts in multiple venues across the US – went on sale on Ticketmaster in mid-November. The huge claims sparked a ticketing website, angering fans who were unable to book tickets. Customers complained about Ticketmaster not uploading, saying the system did not allow them to access tickets, even if they had a presale code for authorized fans.

Unable to resolve the issues, Ticketmaster later canceled sales of Swift’s concert tickets to the general public, citing “excessive demand on booking systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”

As tempers rose among legions of die-hard Swifties, Swift herself became embroiled in the fiasco. “It goes without saying that I’m very protective of my fans,” Swift wrote on Instagram in November. “It’s very difficult for me to trust an outside organization with these relationships and trust, and it’s sad for me to just watch mistakes happen without a solution.”

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As a result, the US Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing called “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment” to investigate the lack of competition in the ticket industry.

During her opening remarks, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, emphasized the importance of competition to sustain the capitalist system in her opening remarks. While criticizing the level of integration in the market, he used the words of Taylor Swift, saying it is a practice that the country knows “very well.”

“To have a strong capitalist system, you must have competition,” he said. “You can’t have too much integration — something that, unfortunately for this country, like Taylor Swift’s way, I’ll say, we know ‘too well.’

Berchtold suggested that venues should enjoy greater freedom to operate their operations. He testified that Ticketmaster does not set ticket prices, does not determine the number of tickets sold and that “in most cases, venues set service fees and tickets,” not Ticketmaster.

In addition to the executives, the committee said witnesses in the session include Jack Groetzinger, CEO of the SeatGeek ticketing platform; Jerry Mickelson, CEO of Jam Productions, one of the largest producers of live entertainment; and singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence.

Groetzinger testified that as long as Live Nation remains the largest concert promoter and ticket taker in the United States, “the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle.”

Criticism of Ticketmaster administration it started decades backbut Swift’s ticketing event has once again turned the issue into a dinner table discussion in many households.

Concert promoter Live Nation and ticketing company Ticketmaster, two of the biggest companies in the concert business, announced their merger in 2009. The deal at the time raised concerns, including from the US Department of Justice, that it would create a monopoly of almost in the industry.

Live Nation President and Chief Financial Officer Joe Berchtold testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Tuesday, January 24, 2023.

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

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Ticketmaster disputes that market share estimate and says it holds more than 30% of the concert market, according to comments on NPR recently by Berchtold.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary’s top Democrat and Republican weighed in on Ticketmaster’s economic dominance.

“These issues are symptomatic, I think, of a larger problem,” said committee chairman Senator Dick Durbin, saying that event ticketing has been “dominated by a single entity” that was created as a result of the merger.

Durbin said he believes the statutory consent agreement allowing Live Nation to complete the deal on terms has not been successful in preserving competition. If the current Justice Department concludes that the consent decree has been violated, “rescinding the merger should be on the table,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Senator Lindsey Graham, the top Republican panel leader, acknowledged that “the concentration of power in the hands of the few can create problems for the many.”

“From this hearing,” he said, “I hope we can make a better user experience to be able to buy tickets for the things you want to see without such a hassle” as the Taylor Swift ticket process.

While angry fans are left scrambling to pass Swift’s ticket confused, their collective anger attracted the attention of the legislators.

Members of Congress used the debate to criticize Ticketmaster’s control of the live music industry, saying that because Ticketmaster is so dominant, it has no reason to make things better for millions of customers who have no other choice.

“Ticketmaster’s strength in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” Klobuchar, who chairs the antitrust subcommittee, wrote in an open letter to Ticketmaster’s CEO. in November. “That could lead to the kind of massive service failure we saw this week, where consumers pay the price.”

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Blumenthal echoed Klobuchar’s concerns. He tweeted at the time that the tour “is a prime example of how the Live Nation/Ticketmaster alliance is harming consumers by creating a near monopoly.”

In December, MPs from the Parliamentary Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter The CEO of Live Nation, Michael Rapino, wanting to get a brief information about what went wrong and the steps the company is taking to correct those problems.

“The recent pre-sale of tickets for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras tour — where millions of fans endured delays, lockouts, and competition from aggressive scammers, shooters and bots — is raising concerns about possible unethical practices. fair and deceptive that confronts consumers and event attendees,” the committee wrote in its letter.

The committee noted that it had previously raised concerns about the industry’s business practices and 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, senior lecturer in the department of economics and business analysis at the University of New Haven’s Pompea College of Business, said he would like Swift to appear at the hearing.

“This hearing seems to focus on Swift and what happened with ticket sales. We also have to remember that Taylor Swift and her team negotiated a contract with Ticketmaster to sell her concert tickets,” said Marks.

“Does Congress want to look at that contract? To me, what happened with Swift’s concert tickets was not the result of Ticketmaster becoming a major player in the industry,” he said. Artists, and especially big artists like Swift, “are free to go elsewhere,” he said. This action may not be heard tomorrow.”

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


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