Senators Torch Ticketmaster For Taylor Swift Debacle

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

James Lynch Investigative Reporter
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A bipartisan group of Senators pressed Ticketmaster about its issues selling Taylor Swift concert tickets and its alleged monopoly power.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday about competition and consumer protection in live entertainment. It came after Ticketmaster’s difficulties with selling Taylor Swift concert tickets and accusations of monopoly power.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged in 2010 to form Live Nation Entertainment, which controls over 70% of the primary ticketing and live venues event market, according to Bloomberg.

“This is all the definition of monopoly because LiveNation is so powerful that it doesn’t even need to exert pressure, it doesn’t need to threaten, because people just fall in line,” Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in her introductory remarks.

“Restoring competition to our markets is about making sure that fans get fair prices and better service,” Klobuchar continued. She noted that fans of Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam and other prominent artists have been impacted by Ticketmaster’s market power.

“I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely stunning achievement. You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause,” Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said, referring to the bipartisan scrutiny of Live Nation. (RELATED: Hawley Introduces ‘PELOSI Act’ To Ban Congress From Insider Trading)

“The way your company handled the ticket sales with Ms. Swift was a debacle,” Republican Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy said. “If you care about the consumer, cap the price, cut out the bots, cut out the middle people,” Kennedy added. He called for artists such as Swift and Springsteen to ensure fans pay a fair price for their tickets.

Taylor Swift fans dealt with website outages, astronomical prices, long wait times and widespread confusion surrounding presale tickets for Swift’s new “Eras Tour” in November. A group of Swift fans is suing Ticketmaster for alleged “fraud, price-fixing, and antitrust violations,” Deadline reported.

Ticketmaster blamed the debacle on “historically unprecedented demand” in a statement on Nov. 15. The company partially blamed its website malfunctioning from cyberattacks in a testimony Tuesday by Live Nation President Joe Berchtold.

“There was unprecedented demand for Taylor Swift tickets. We knew bots would attack that onsale, and planned accordingly. We were then hit with three times the amount of bot traffic than we had ever experienced,” Berchtold said. “While the bots failed to penetrate our systems or acquire any tickets, the attack required us to slow down and even pause our sales. This is what led to a terrible consumer experience that we deeply regret,” Berchtold added.

Senators and witnesses at the hearing suggested the Justice Department re-examine the 2010 merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster overseen by the Obama administration.

Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee asked witness Kathleen Bradish, an antitrust advocate, if there was “gross negligence” by not enforcing antitrust law against the 2010 merger. She explained the difficulties Justice Department officials face in enforcing anti-trust law in its current state.

SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger said “the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle,” as long as Live Nation continues to possess monopoly power. SeatGeek possesses an estimated 12% of the live entertainment market share, according to Front Office Sports.

Ticketmaster did not immediately respond to a request for comment.