US Senate questions Ticketmaster over Taylor Swift pre-sale fiasco | CBC News

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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.

Swift attends the premiere of the short film All Too Well in New York City on November 12, 2021. The pop star said that Ticketmaster had repeatedly assured her team that her website could handle the traffic that advance sales of His tour. (Evan Agostini/Invision/The Associated Press)

“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.”

Several people in suits stand behind a table with their right hands raised in the air.
Berchtold, left, Jack Groetzinger, co-founder of ticketing platform SeatGeek, and other entertainment industry leaders and experts are sworn in before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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.

People stand outside with banners calling for the break up of Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
Swift’s fans call on lawmakers to split Live Nation and Ticketmaster during a rally outside the US Capitol on Tuesday. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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.

LISTEN | The problem with Ticketmaster:

front burner29:14Ticketmaster’s Taylor Swift Problem

Last week, Ticketmaster’s advance sales for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour quickly turned into chaos, with the site failing, many people waiting eight hours or more in lines online, and tickets costing more than $40,000 on sites. Secondary sales like Stubhub. This is far from the first incident that sparked widespread outrage against Ticketmaster. The sky-high prices for Blink-182 and Bruce Springsteen concerts have been among the sore points. But the Swift fiasco is shedding new light on the company’s virtual monopoly over wide swaths of the live music industry, prompting many, including several US lawmakers, to call for the company to be investigated and broken up. Today, Jason Koebler, editor-in-chief of Motherboard, VICE’s tech site, joins Front Burner to break it all down.

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