Senate antitrust panel sets hearing on concert tickets after Taylor Swift Tour debacle

Late. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) follows up on last week’s open letter to Live Nation over “dramatic service failures” during Taylor Swift pre-sale with a hearing on competition across the ticketing industry. The senator and her counterpart across the aisle in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, Late. Mike Lee (R-Utah), jointly announced the hearing, with date and witness list forthcoming.

“Last week, the competition problem in the ticket markets was made painfully obvious when Ticketmaster’s website failed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to buy concert tickets,” Klobuchar said, without naming Swift. “The high fees, site disruption and cancellations customers experienced show how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company faces no pressure to continuously innovate and improve.”

Klobuchar said the hearing will examine the effects of consolidation across ticketing — namely, that a lack of competition suppresses the need to improve services and maintain reasonable fares.

Lee added that consumers “deserve the benefit of competition in every market, from grocery chains to concert venues. I look forward to exercising our subcommittee’s oversight authority to ensure that anticompetitive mergers and exclusive conduct do not cripple an entertainment industry already struggling to recover after pandemic shutdowns.”

Aside from a possible grilling from US senators, Live Nation and Ticketmaster are said to be under investigation by the Justice Department over whether the company maintains an illegal monopoly on the live event ecosystem. According to the probe New York Timespredates this current debacle involving Swift’s tour pre-sales.

Ticketmaster has apologized for the debacle that started in November. 15, when millions of Swift fans overwhelmed a pre-sale for her Eras Tour – causing venue breakdowns and hours-long waits, leaving many fans empty-handed and – possibly recently engaged in politics. Ticketmaster proceeded to cancel the general sale.

“I apologize to all our fans. We are working hard on this,” Liberty Media CEO and Live Nation chairman Greg Maffei said in an appearance on CNBC last Thursday. “Building peak capacity is something we try to do, but this exceeded all expectations.”

Swift’s tour is actually being promoted by Live Nation competitor AEG, which has said Billboard it “had no choice” in terms of ticket sales and distribution due to Ticketmaster’s “exclusive deals with the vast majority of venues on the Eras tour.”

Ticketmaster and Live Nation have long been dogged by allegations that they exercise unfair dominance over the live concert market, particularly since they merged in 2010 to create their current structure. The combined entity has operated throughout its existence under a so-called consent decree imposed by the DOJ when it approved the merger. Under the decree, Live Nation is prohibited from retaliating against venues that refuse to use Ticketmaster. Those restrictions were set to expire in 2020, but were extended for five years in 2019 after the DOJ accused Live Nation of repeatedly violating the decree.

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