Taylor Swift: Live Nation exec to face lawmakers over concert ticket fiasco

New York

Legislators will question the The event ticketing industry was rocked on Tuesday after Ticketmaster was unable to process orders for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour, leaving millions of fans either unable to buy tickets or left without them.

Joe Berchtold, president and chief financial officer of Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Entertainment, will testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday, two months after the Swift ticket debacle reignited public scrutiny of the industry. Jack Groetzinger, CEO of ticketing platform SeatGeek, is also scheduled to testify at the hearing.

Tickets went on sale on Ticketmaster in mid-November for Swift’s new five-month Eras tour, which begins March 17 and will feature 52 concerts on multiple stages across the United States. The outpouring of demand flooded ticket sites, angering fans who couldn’t grab tickets. Customers complained that Ticketmaster wasn’t loading, saying the platform didn’t allow them to access tickets even though they had pre-sale codes from verified fans.

Unable to resolve these issues, Ticketmaster subsequently canceled sales of Swift’s concert tickets to the general public, citing “extremely high demands on the ticketing system and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”

As the outrage among legions of hardcore Swifties mounts, Swift herself is involved in the fiasco. “Needless to say, I am very protective of my fans,” Swift wrote on Instagram in November. “It’s really hard for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and allegiances, and it pains me to watch mistakes happen with no recourse.”

As a result, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Tuesday entitled “That’s the Tickets: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment” to examine the lack of competition in the ticketing industry.

“When Ticketmaster’s website disappointed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to buy tickets for Taylor Swift’s new tour, the problems in the U.S. ticketing industry became all too apparent, but they are not new,” the senator said. Committee member Amy Klobuchar said in a statement about the hearing. “We will examine how the consolidation of the live entertainment and ticketing industries is harming customers and artists. Without competition to incentivize better service and fair prices, we will all suffer the consequences.”

In his prepared opening remarks, Berchtold blamed the recent online ticketing mess on “industrial scalpers” and called for legislation to rein in these bad actors. Amid the “unprecedented demand for Taylor Swift tickets,” Ticketmaster “received three times the bot traffic we’ve ever experienced,” he said. Bot activity “required us to slow down or even suspend sales. This is what led to a poor consumer experience, and we deeply regret that.”

“As we said after the pre-sale, and I reiterate today, we apologize to the many disappointed fans as well as Ms. Swift,” he said in his opening statement. Berchtold also noted that the service could have done things differently “in hindsight,” including “staggering sales over a longer period of time and better setting fan expectations for getting tickets.”

In addition to executives, witnesses at the hearing included Jerry Mickelson, chief executive of Jam Productions, one of the largest producers of live entertainment, and singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence, the committee said.

Lawrence, who has composed music for films including the Disney+ holiday comedy Noelle, wrote for The New York Times In December, titled “Taylor Swift’s Live Nation debacle is just the beginning,” in which he criticized Live Nation for allegedly It is a kind of monopoly and damage to artists.

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

Criticism of Ticketmaster’s dominance dating back decadesbut the Swift ticket incident once again turned the issue into a topic at many family dinner tables.

Concert promoter Live Nation and ticketing company Ticketmaster, two of the largest companies in the concert industry, announced their merger in 2009. At the time the deal raised concerns, including from the U.S. Justice Department, that it would create a near monopoly in the concert space. industry.

The Justice Department allowed the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger to proceed despite a 2010 court filing disputing the merger. Ticketmaster has more than an 80 percent share of major concert venues, the Justice Department said in filings.

According to Berchtold’s recent comments to NPR, Ticketmaster disputes the market share estimate and says it has, at best, just over 30% of the concert market.

As angry fans scramble to flip through Swift’s tickets Chaotic, their collective outrage caught the attention of lawmakers.

MPs use the disaster to criticize Ticketmaster’s control of the live music industry, With Ticketmaster so dominant, he said, there’s no reason for it to provide better service to the millions of customers who have no choice.

“Ticketmaster’s power in key ticketing markets insulates it from competitive pressures that would normally drive the company to innovate and improve service,” Klobuchar, chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, wrote in a November open letter to Ticketmaster’s CEO. “It could lead to the kind of dramatic service failures we saw this week, and 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 can hurt consumers through a near-monopoly.”

In December, lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter To Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, asking for a briefing on what went wrong and what the company is doing to fix it.

“The recent pre-sale ticketing process for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras tour — with millions of fans enduring delays, work stoppages, and competition with aggressive scammers, scalpers, and bots — has raised concerns about the potential for consumers and event attendees alike. concerns of unfair and deceptive conduct,” the committee wrote in the letter.

The committee noted that it had previously raised concerns about the industry’s business practices and said it wanted to meet with Rapinoe to discuss how the company handles tickets for concerts and major tours. It also wants answers about how Ticketmaster’s future plans could improve.

Brian A. Marks, a senior lecturer in the department of economics and business analytics at the Pompey School of Business at the University of New Haven, said he hopes Swift will Attend a hearing.

“This hearing appears to be focused on Swift and ticket sales. We must also remember that Taylor Swift and her team negotiated with Ticketmaster to sell her concert tickets,” Marks said.

“Will Congress want to look at this contract? To me, the situation with Swift concert tickets isn’t necessarily a result of Ticketmaster being the dominant player in the industry,” he said. Artists, especially big ones like Swift, “are free to go elsewhere,” he said. “Tomorrow’s hearing may miss that.”

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

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