Taylor Swift: Live Nation exec will face lawmakers about concert tickets fiasco

New York

Lawmakers lobbied against the head of Ticketmaster’s parent company after the service’s failure to process orders for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour left millions of fans unable to buy tickets or without their ticket even after purchasing.

Joe Berchtold, president and CFO of Ticketmaster’s parent company Live Nation Entertainment, testified before the Senate on Tuesday, two months after the Swift ticketing fiasco sparked public scrutiny of the industry.

“As we said after the sale, and I repeat today: We apologize to the fans,” Berchtold said. “We apologize to Ms. Swift. We have to do better and we will do better. ”

Ticketmaster, he said, “was hit with three times the amount of bot traffic than we’ve ever seen” amid “unprecedented demand for Taylor Swift tickets.” The bot incident “required us to slow down and temporarily stop our sales. This is what caused the bad customer experience that we deeply regret.”

Tickets for Swift’s five-month Eras Tour — which kicks off March 17 and will feature 55 concerts in multiple venues across the United States — went on sale on Ticketmaster in mid-November. The massive demand hit the ticket site, angering fans who were unable to get tickets. Customers complained about Ticketmaster not downloading, saying that the platform would not allow them to get tickets, even if they had the first sales code for verified fans.

Unable to solve the problems, Ticketmaster then canceled Swift’s concert ticket sales to the public, citing “excessive demand on the ticket system and insufficient remaining tickets to meet demand.”

As anger grew among the legions of hardcore Swifties, Swift herself weighed in on the fiasco. “It goes without saying that I’m very protective of my fans,” Swift wrote on Instagram in November. “It’s really hard for me to trust an outsider with integrity, and it hurts me to just watch mistakes happen without a response.”

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As a result, the Senate Judiciary Committee proposed a case entitled “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment” to examine the lack of competition in the ticketing industry.

During his opening remarks, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, emphasized the importance of competition to promote the capitalist system in her opening remarks. Criticizing the level of integration in the market, he used the words of Taylor Swift, saying that it is a culture that the world knows “everything.”

“To have a strong capitalist system, you have to have competition,” he said. “You can’t have too much involvement – something that, unfortunately in this world, like Taylor Swift’s way, I will say, we know ‘too much.’

Berchtold suggested that areas enjoy free movement of their services. He testified that Ticketmaster does not set ticket prices, does not track the number of tickets sold and that “in most cases, venues set the service and ticket fees,” not Ticketmaster.

In addition to the executives, the committee said witnesses at the meeting include Jack Groetzinger, CEO of ticketing company SeatGeek; Jerry Mickelson, CEO of Jam Productions, one of the largest producers of live entertainment; and singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence.

Groetzinger testified that as long as Live Nation remains a concert promoter and a major venue buyer in the US, “the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle.”

Criticism of Ticketmaster management it started decades agobut Swift’s ticket incident again turned the story into a dinner table conversation for many households.

Concert promoter Live Nation and ticket company Ticketmaster, two of the biggest companies in the concert business, announced their merger in 2009. The agreement at the time raised concerns, including from the US Department of Justice, that it would create a near-monopoly in. industry.

The Justice Department allowed the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger to go ahead despite a 2010 court filing that raised objections to the merger. In the filing, the Justice Department said Ticketmaster’s share among major concert venues exceeded 80%.

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Ticketmaster disputes that market estimate and says it accounts for just over 30 percent of the concert market, according to a recent NPR report by Berchtold.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s leading Democrats and Republicans discussed the issue of Ticketmaster’s financial management.

“These issues are indicative, I think, of a serious problem,” said committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, arguing that the ticket for life’s events “ruled by one thing” was created from integration.

Durbin said he believes the legal consent agreement that allows Live Nation to terminate the agreement under certain conditions has not been successful in protecting the competition.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, head of the Republican party, admitted that “consolidation of power in the hands of the few can create problems for the many.”

“From this feeling,” he said, “I hope we can make a better experience for the customer to be able to buy tickets for the things you want to see without such a hassle” as Taylor Swift ticket process.

While angry fans were left scrambling to walk through Swift’s ticket confused, their collective anger caught the attention of the legislators.

Members of Congress used the debacle to criticize Ticketmaster’s control of the live music industry, saying that because Ticketmaster has so much control, it has no reason to make things better for millions of customers who have no other choice.

“Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market removes it from the competitive pressures that often push companies to innovate and improve their services,” Klobuchar, the antitrust subcommittee chairman, wrote in an open letter to Ticketmaster’s CEO in November. “This could result in the kinds of service failures we’ve seen this week, where customers pay the price.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal echoed Klobuchar’s concerns. He tweeted at the time that the tour was “a perfect example of how the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger hurts consumers by creating a near-monopoly.”

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In December, representatives of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a a letter to Live Nation CEO, Michael Rapino, demanding that they be briefed on what went wrong and what steps the company is taking to resolve the issues.

“The recent ticket sales process for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras tour – in which millions of fans have endured delays, delays, and competition from fraudsters, scammers and bots – raises concerns about potential fraud and fraudulent practices facing consumers and event-goers,” the committee wrote in its letter.

The committee noted that it had previously expressed its complaints about the way businesses are run in the industry and said it wanted to meet with Rapino to find out how concert tickets and big trips were run. It also wants feedback on how Ticketmaster plans to improve in the future.

Brian A. Marks, senior lecturer in the Department of Economics and Business Analytics at the University of New Haven’s Pompea College of Business, said he would have liked Swift to do the job. to be seen on hearing.

“This feeling seems to be directed at Swift and what happened with ticket sales. We also have to remember that Taylor Swift and her team had a conversation with Ticketmaster to sell her concert tickets,” said Marks.

“Will Congress want to look at that deal? To me, what happened with Swift’s concert tickets didn’t necessarily lead to Ticketmaster becoming a major player in the industry,” he said. Writers, and especially artists as big as Swift, “are free to go elsewhere,” he said. “This idea can to miss the trial tomorrow.”

-CNN’s Brian Fung, Frank Pallotta, Chris Isidore and David Goldman contributed to this story


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