Congress will host a hearing on Ticketmaster issues in the wake of the Taylor Swift fiasco.

Flickr Image Gage Skidmore

When registered fans who received codes for a pre-sale on Tuesday attempted to purchase tickets for Swift’s next tour, they encountered delays and error warnings. This is when Ticketmaster’s most recent problems started. After that, the corporation apologized to Swift and her supporters and stopped all sales to the general public on Friday.

A U.S. Senate antitrust panel will convene a hearing on the lack of competition in the business in the aftermath of the significant issues surrounding Ticketmaster’s administration of Taylor Swift tour ticket sales last week, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT) said Tuesday. The hearing was held in response to claims of significant service issues and holdups on Ticketmaster’s website that prevented concert ticket buyers from making purchases.

“The high fees, site disruptions and cancellations that customers experienced shows how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company does not face any pressure to continually innovate and improve,” Klobuchar said. “We will hold a hearing on how consolidation in the live entertainment and ticketing industry harms customers and artists alike.” “It has vast majorities of the market and it affects things in many ways. Number one, they can charge what they want, they can put hidden fees, there’s no competitor to actually go to for something as big as a concert like this.”

“I write to express serious concerns about the state of competition in the ticketing industry and its harmful impact on consumers. Reports about system failures, increasing fees, and complaints of conduct that violate the consent decree Ticketmaster is under suggest that Ticketmaster continues to abuse its market positions,” Klobuchar wrote to Ticketmaster President and CEO Michael Rapino.

“Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services. That can result in the types of dramatic service failures we saw this week, where consumers are the ones that pay the price,” Klobuchar continued.

Klobuchar has long led efforts to preserve competition in the live entertainment industry. In April 2020, she and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division to take action to ensure small and independent venues can compete on a level playing field in the live entertainment marketplace. In August 2019, Klobuchar and Blumenthal called on the DOJ Antitrust Division to investigate the state of competition in the ticketing marketplace, given news reports that Ticketmaster-Live Nation was not adhering to the conditions of the antitrust consent decree governing its merger.

Full text of the letter is available HERE and below:

Dear Mr. Rapino:

I write to express serious concerns about the state of competition in the ticketing industry and its harmful impact on consumers. Reports about system failures, increasing fees, and complaints of conduct that violate the consent decree Ticketmaster is under suggest that Ticketmaster continues to abuse its market positions.

Ticketmaster and LiveNation dominate the live entertainment supply chain with powerful positions in primary ticketing, secondary ticketing, concert promotion, artist management, tour sponsorships, and event venue operation. Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services. That can result in dramatic service failures, where consumers are the ones that pay the price.

I have been skeptical of the combination of these companies since you merged in 2011, when the Senate held a hearing into the merger. At that hearing, you appeared as a witness and pledged to “develop an easy-access, one-stop platform that can deliver … tickets.” And you said that you were “confident this plan will work.” It appears that your confidence was misplaced.

When Ticketmaster merged with Live Nation in 2010, it was subject to an antitrust consent decree that prohibited it from abusing its market position. Nonetheless, there have been numerous complaints about your company’s compliance with that decree. I am concerned about a pattern of non-compliance with your legal obligations.

I look forward to your response to these questions, which I would appreciate receiving by November 23, 2022.

Are you still “confident” that your plan to develop an “easy-access, one-stop platform” that will be a “trusted business partner” is working?
Typically, what percentage of high profile tour tickets are available to the general public compared to those allocated to pre-sales, radio stations, VIPs, and other restricted sales opportunities? Please provide specific recent examples.
Ticketmaster has been repeatedly accused of violating the requirements of its consent decree with the Department of Justice. Is Ticketmaster aware of any complaints that have been made to it or to government agencies about potential noncompliance with the consent decree in the last twelve months? If so, please provide details about each alleged incident.
In the last twelve months, how much have you invested in upgrading your systems to address demand surges, and specifically, what improvements did those investments generate?
In the last three years, has the Ticketmaster Board of Directors received information about decree compliance? If so, please provide copies of any materials provided to any Board member on this topic.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Klobuchar stated last week that a hearing would take place; the specific time and witnesses will be revealed at a later time.

 

 

 

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