WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (Reuters) – US senators on Tuesday criticized Live Nation Entertainment’s lack of transparency and its inability to block bot ticket purchases.
Ticketmaster, a subsidiary of Live Nation Entertainment Inc (LYV.N), which has been unpopular with fans for years, has received new criticism from US lawmakers over how it handled ticket sales last fall for Swift’s “Eras” tour, her first in five years. Experts say Ticketmaster has a market share of more than 70% in primary ticketing services for major US concert venues.
“We apologize to the fans, we apologize to Ms. Swift, we have to do better and we will do better,” Live Nation president and finance director Joe Berchtold said Tuesday at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“In hindsight, there are several things we could have done better, including spreading sales over a longer period of time and better setting fan expectations for ticket purchases,” said Berchtold.
Republican Senator Mike Lee said in an opening statement that the Ticketmaster debacle highlighted the importance of considering whether “new legislation or maybe just better enforcement of existing laws is needed to protect the American people.”
LACK OF COMPETITION
Senators criticized Berchtold for Live Nation’s fee structure and inability to deal with bots buying tickets en masse and reselling them at inflated prices.
“There’s no transparency when no one knows who sets the fees,” said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, responding to Berchtold’s claim that Live Nation fees fluctuate based on “ratings.”
Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn called Live Nation’s bot problem “incredible,” pointing out that many smaller companies can thwart bad actors in their systems.
“You should be able to get good advice from people and figure it out,” she said.
“I’m not against big, per se, but I am against stupid,” said Republican Senator John Kennedy, referring to Live Nation’s dominance of the ticketing market. “The way your company handled ticket sales for Ms. Swift was a debacle, and whoever in your company was in charge of that should be fired.
“If you care about the consumer, lower the price! Cut out the bots! Cut out the middlemen, and if you really care about the consumer, give the consumer a break!”
Jack Groetzinger, co-founder of ticketing platform SeatGeek, testified that the process of buying tickets is “outdated and ripe for innovation” and called for the breakup of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which merged in 2010.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 both the dominant concert promoter and major venue ticket seller in the US, the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle,” he told lawmakers.
Ticketmaster has argued that the bots used by scalpers were behind the Taylor Swift debacle, and Berchtold asked for more help fighting the bots that buy tickets for resale.
Other witnesses include Jerry Mickelson, president of JAM Productions, who has been one of Ticketmaster’s critics.
In November, Ticketmaster canceled a scheduled ticket sale to the general public for Swift’s tour after more than 3.5 billion requests from fans, bots and scalpers overwhelmed the website.
Senator Klobuchar, who heads the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, has said the issues that surfaced in November were not new and may have stemmed from consolidation in the ticketing industry.
In November, Ticketmaster denied any anti-competitive practices, noting that it remained under a consent decree with the Justice Department following its 2010 merger with Live Nation, adding that there was no “evidence of systemic consent decree violations.”
An earlier Ticketmaster dispute with the Department of Justice culminated in a settlement in December 2019 extending the consent agreement until 2025.
Reporting by Diane Bartz, Moira Warburton and David Shepardson; edited by Jonathan Oatis
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