By DEE-ANN DURBIN (AP Business Writer)
Senators grilled Ticketmaster Tuesday, questioning whether or not the corporate’s dominance within the ticketing business led to its spectacular breakdown final 12 months throughout a sale of Taylor Swift live performance tickets.
Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee additionally debated doable motion, together with making tickets non-transferable to chop down on scalping and requiring extra transparency in ticket charges. Some recommended it could even be essential to separate Ticketmaster and Beverly Hills, California-based live performance promoter Live Nation, which merged in 2010.
“The fact of the matter is, Live Nation/Ticketmaster is the 800-pound gorilla here,” stated U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat. “This whole concert ticket system is a mess, a monopolistic mess.”
Ticketmaster is the world’s largest ticket vendor, processing 500 million tickets annually in additional than 30 nations. Around 70% of tickets for main live performance venues within the U.S. are offered by way of Ticketmaster, based on knowledge in a federal lawsuit filed by shoppers final 12 months.
In mid-November, Ticketmaster’s website crashed throughout a presale occasion for Swift’s upcoming stadium tour. The firm stated its website was overwhelmed by each followers and assaults from bots, which have been posing as shoppers so as to scoop up tickets and promote them on secondary websites. Thousands of individuals misplaced tickets after ready for hours in an internet queue.
Live Nation’s President and Chief Financial Officer Joe Berchtold apologized to followers and to Swift on Tuesday, and stated the corporate is aware of it should do higher. Berchtold stated Ticketmaster has spent $1 billion over the past decade attempting to enhance its safety and cease bots.
“We need to do better and will do better,” he stated.
But lawmakers have been skeptical. Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee stated loads of others, together with banks and energy firms, are additionally frequent targets of bots however don’t endure service meltdowns.
“They have figured it out but you guys haven’t? This is unbelievable,” she stated. “We’ve got a lot of people who are very unhappy with the way this has been approached.”
Senators additionally took purpose at Ticketmaster’s charges. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, recalled piling right into a buddy’s automotive in highschool to go to concert events by Led Zeppelin, The Cars and Aerosmith. These days, she stated, ticket costs have gotten so excessive that exhibits are too costly for a lot of followers. Klobuchar stated ticket charges now common 27% of the ticket price and may climb as excessive as 75%.
Berchtold insisted that Ticketmaster doesn’t set costs or service charges for tickets or resolve what number of tickets will go on sale. Service charges are set by venues, he stated. Live Nation solely owns round 5% of U.S. venues, he stated.
But rivals, like Seat Geek CEO Jack Groetzinger, stated even when Live Nation doesn’t personal a venue, it prevents competitors by signing multi-year contracts with arenas and live performance halls to supply ticketing companies. If these venues don’t agree to make use of Ticketmaster, Live Nation could withhold acts. That makes it powerful for rivals to disrupt the market.
“The only way to restore competition is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” Groetzinger stated.
Clyde Lawrence, a singer-songwriter with the New York-based pop group Lawrence, stated it additionally hurts artists when Live Nation owns or has contracts with venues, as a result of bands have little skill to barter a deal or select a distinct ticket vendor.
Lawrence shared a hypothetical instance: Ticketmaster fees $30 per ticket, however then provides charges that bump the worth to $42. Just $12 per ticket goes to the band after accounting for charges they have to pay to Live Nation, together with — in not less than one case — $250 for a stack of 10 towels within the dressing room.
Lawrence needs caps on charges, extra transparency in what venue charges are used for in addition to fairer distribution of earnings. Live Nation takes a minimize of the band’s merchandise gross sales at a live performance, for instance, however doesn’t share a minimize of meals and beverage gross sales.
Berchtold stated the ticketing business would love lawmakers to deal with the issue of ticket scalping — which he stated has grown into a large $5 billion business — and prohibit fraudulent practices, comparable to resellers providing tickets that haven’t formally gone on sale but. He additionally agreed that the business must be extra clear about charges.
Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, recommended laws that might make tickets non-transferable, thus stopping resales. He additionally recommended that main artists comparable to Swift or Bruce Springsteen ought to demand charge caps.
“Not every kid can afford $500 to go see Taylor Swift,” Kennedy stated.
Berchtold stated Ticketmaster would help making tickets non-transferable, despite the fact that the corporate does enterprise within the ticket resale market. But others, together with Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, stated making tickets non-transferable would intervene with folks’s proper to resell them.
The Justice Department allowed Live Nation and Ticketmaster to merge in 2010 so long as Live Nation agreed to not retaliate in opposition to live performance venues for utilizing different ticket firms for 10 years.
In 2019, the division investigated and located that Live Nation had “repeatedly” violated that settlement. It prolonged the prohibition on retaliating in opposition to live performance venues to 2025.
Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, stated Tuesday that the Justice Department is once more investigating Live Nation after the Swift ticket fiasco. At this level, he stated, Congress must be asking if the division was proper to permit the merger to go forward within the first place.
“It’s very important that we maintain fair, free, open and even fierce competition,” Lee stated. “It increases quality and it reduces price. We want those things to happen.”