By Madison Williams, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of unsplash.com
The Senate held a hearing on Tuesday, January 24th, to discuss growing concerns within the entertainment ticketing industry, involving Ticketmaster and their parent company Live Nation Entertainment. This hearing comes after millions of Taylor Swift fans were unable to purchase tickets for her upcoming tour.
The recent issues in ticketing call into question the way the government handled the Live Nation Entertainment and Ticketmaster merger in 2010. To avoid a monopoly, the government allowed the merger if the companies agreed to a consent decree. The decree outlined that the companies cannot retaliate against venues for using a different ticketing service. In 2019, the department of justice modified the agreement stating, “Despite the prohibitions in the Final Judgment, Live Nation repeatedly engaged in conduct that violated the Final Judgment.” Live Nation then agreed to provisions such as not threatening to withhold concerts from a venue, appointing an antitrust compliance officer, and paying a $1 million penalty per violation.
Live Nation currently controls 200 of 4000 venues in the United States, which equates to about five percent of venues and includes the largest and most profitable venues. Meanwhile Ticketmaster has exclusive ticketing contracts with a majority of sports venues in the US. The Eras tour includes 52 shows at 18 venues, all but 5 shows were in venues owned by Live Nation.
Senator Amy Klobuchar said in her opening statements, “To have a strong capitalist system, you have to have competition.” She went on to quote Ms. Swift herself stating, “You can’t have too much consolidation—something that, unfortunately for this country, as an ode to Taylor Swift, I will say, we know ‘all too well.’”
Tickets for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour went on sale in November 2022. Because of the concert’s high demand, Ticketmaster used its verified fan system to avoid bots. Despite this attempt, the website crashed during verified fan presale, leaving many fans empty-handed. The general sale for tickets was then canceled.
Live Nation’s President and CFO, Joe Berchtold said in his testimony that the website was “hit with three times the amount of bot traffic than [the website] had ever experienced.” He went on to add that the bot activity “required us to slow down and even pause our sales. This is what led to a terrible consumer experience that we deeply regret.” When asked by Senator Klobuchar why fees were so high on Ticketmaster, Berchtold responded that fees “are set by the venues.” This response raised an alarming red flag, as most venues involved in the tour are owned by Live Nation.
Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek, alleged that many venue owners “fear losing Live Nation concerts if they don’t use Ticketmaster” and advocated that the company be divided. Groetzinger went on to state, “This power over the entire live entertainment industry allows Live Nation to maintain its monopolistic influence over the primary ticketing market.” Moreover, Clyde Lawrence, an artist on the witness panel, alleged that the company acts as a promoter, a venue, and a ticketing company. Groetzinger says because of this, artists have no leverage over Live Nation.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Klobuchar explained that the purpose of the hearing was to raise public awareness and gather information for the Department of Justice, which is currently doing an anti-trust investigation into Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment. Klobuchar concluded by stating “The solutions are there for the taking.”