Ticketmaster Apologizes, Senators Sound Skeptical

Head of parent company Live Nation testifies at Senate hearing
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2023 1:56 PM CST
Senators Grill Ticketmaster, Flex Taylor Swift Knowledge
From left, Live Nation's Joe Berchtold, SeatGeek's Jack Groetzinger, Jam Productions' Jerry Mickelson, the James Madison Institute's Sal Nuzzo, the American Antitrust Institute's Kathleen Bradish, and singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence are sworn in to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The parent company of Ticketmaster was grilled Tuesday by senators over its stranglehold of the industry and the debacle over the sale of Taylor Swift tickets. The big question now is whether anything will change. Some highlights:

  • The bots: Joe Berchtold, head of parent company Live Nation, apologized for the Swift fiasco and said the company's computer system had been overwhelmed by bots, reports the New York Times. "This is what led to a terrible consumer experience, which we deeply regret," he said. To which Sen. Marsha Blackburn responded: "Why is it that you have not developed an algorithm to sort out what is a bot and what is a consumer?"

  • Bold solution: "The only way to restore competition in this industry is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation," testified Jack Groetzinger, head of the much smaller Ticketmaster rival, SeatGeek. Ahead of the hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar didn't go that far but sounded a similar theme to Rolling Stone: "In the live music industry, there’s the unique fact that you’ve got a company that has 70% of tickets for major concert venues," she said. "However you look at it, that’s a monopoly. And when you have monopolies, you get problems."
  • Now what? Unclear. In her closing remarks, Klobuchar addressed the attendees. "I think you know we've been respectful throughout this hearing, and I think part of that is our desire to actually move on this issue," she said, per NBC News. "As I’ve noted, even getting the public’s attention on this—we thank the fans who maybe are still outside and we hope are watching on C-SPAN. I thank them for keeping this alive."
  • Warnings: The Times notes that Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which merged in 2010, operate under what's known as a consent decree that stipulates how they're supposed to behave in the marketplace. Sen. Dick Durbin said during the hearing that the consent decree "does not appear to have been effective." After the hearing, Sen. Josh Hawley told reporters: "My message to the FTC and the Justice Department is this: Sue them for heaven’s sakes, you know, I mean, quit slapping them on the wrist. Sue them if you think that they’re committing infractions."
  • The references: Lots of references to Swift lyrics were flying around, and Politico helps run them down. "A few million Taylor Swift fans would respond: ‘This is why we can’t have nice things,'" said Sal Nuzzo of the James Madison Institute. Sen. Richard Blumenthal suggested Live Nation execs looks themselves in the mirror and say, "I'm the problem, it's me." Sen. Mike Lee couldn't contain himself, referring to the idea of limiting ticket resales as a "nightmare dressed like a daydream;" saying of committee chief Klobuchar, "She's chair captain and I'm on the bleachers;" and later, "Karma's a relaxing thought, aren't you envious that for you it's not?” Klobuchar herself: "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.'" At NBC, Doha Madani decodes.
(More Ticketmaster stories.)

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