The chairman of Ticketmaster’s parent company apologized to Taylor Swift fans and the artist herself on Tuesday as he was questioned by US senators about the ticket giant’s spectacular breakdown during a pre-sale of tickets for the star’s concerts. of pop last year.
The company and its parent, Live Nation Entertainment, appeared on Capitol Hill at a hearing on competition and consumer protection in the live entertainment industry, sparked by the November fiasco related to ticket sales for the upcoming concert tour of Swift.
Ticketmaster said its website was overwhelmed by both fans and bot attacks. Many people lost tickets after waiting for hours in line.
Ticketmaster required fans to register for pre-sale and says more than 3.5 million people did. Ticketmaster ultimately canceled its planned general public ticket sales because it did not have enough inventory.
“We apologize to the fans, we apologize to Ms. Swift, we need to do better and we will do better,” Joe Berchtold, Live Nation’s president and chief financial officer, said at the US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.
“In hindsight, there are several things we could have done better, including staggering sales over a longer period of time and doing a better job of setting fan expectations for tickets.”
Republican Sen. Mike Lee said in an opening statement that the Ticketmaster debacle highlighted the importance of considering whether “new legislation or perhaps just better enforcement of existing laws might be necessary to protect the American people.”
Don’t deal with bots
During the hearing, the senators criticized Berchtold for Live Nation’s fee structure and his inability to deal with bots, which buy tickets in bulk and resell them at inflated prices.
“There’s no transparency when nobody knows who sets the fees,” said Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, responding to Berchtold’s claim that Live Nation’s fees fluctuate based on “classifications.”
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn called Live Nation’s bot problem “unbelievable,” noting that much smaller companies can limit bad actors on their systems.
“You should be able to get good advice from people and figure it out,” he said.
Ticketmaster has argued that bots used by scalpers were behind the Swift debacle, and Berchtold called for more help in fighting bots that buy tickets to resell them.
Fusion under the microscope
Jack Groetzinger, co-founder of ticketing platform SeatGeek, testified that the ticketing process is “outdated and ripe for innovation” and called for the breakup of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which merged in 2010.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 the dominant concert promoter and ticket seller to major venues in the US, the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle,” he told lawmakers.
Ticketmaster is the world’s largest ticket seller, processing 500 million tickets each year in more than 30 countries. About 70 percent of tickets to major concert venues in the US are sold through Ticketmaster, according to data from a federal lawsuit filed by consumers last year.
Klobuchar, who heads the judiciary committee’s antitrust panel, has said the problems that emerged in November were not new and possibly stemmed from consolidation in the ticketing industry.
In November, Ticketmaster denied any anticompetitive practices and said it remained under a consent decree with the Justice Department following its merger with Live Nation, adding that there was “no evidence of systemic consent decree violations.”
A previous Ticketmaster dispute with the Justice Department culminated in a December 2019 settlement that extended the consent agreement through 2025.
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