Ticketmaster in the hot seat on Capitol Hill

    Taylor Swift performs at Taylor Swift reputation Stadium Tour in Japan presented by Fujifilm instax at Tokyo Dome on November 20, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/TAS18/Getty Images)

    Ticketmaster is in the spotlight on Capitol Hill following its Taylor Swift tour debacle, which saw droves of fans unable to secure tickets to her wildly popular upcoming tour.

    Why it matters: It took an artist as big as Taylor Swift to get the conversation about why Ticketmaster controls so much of the live event industry going again, and now lawmakers have their sights on Live Nation, the site’s parent company.

    • In a time of unprecedented antitrust scrutiny over big companies, especially tech, LiveNation is set to be grilled by lawmakers eager to notch wins for consumers.

    Details: “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,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who during her opening remarks said young people should have the opportunities to go to concerts like she did when she was young.

    • “Restoring competition to our markets is about making sure that fans get fair prices and better service,” she said.
    • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) urged LiveNation’s CEO to do more to root out bots and if the previous agreement allowing the two companies to merge isn’t working for consumers said there should be structural remedies like breaking LiveNation and Ticketmaster up: “Your approach seems to be it’s everyone else who’s responsible here, not us. I hope that approach will change in the future.”

    Driving the news: Joe Berchtold, president and CFO of LiveNation, which owns Ticketmaster, is testifying Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the state of competition in the ticketing industry.

    • “The recent onsale experience with Taylor Swift, one of the world’s most popular artists, has highlighted the need to address [ticket scalping] issues urgently,” said Berchtold. “We were hit with three times the amount of bot traffic than we’ve ever experienced… This is what led to a terrible consumer experience, which we deeply regret.”
    • “We apologize to the fans, we apologize to Miss Swift. We need to do better.”
    • Other witnesses include: Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek; Jerry Mickelson, CEO and president of JAM Productions; two antitrust scholars and a singer-songwriter.

    What they’re saying: Ticketmaster has previously blamed the Taylor Swift “Eras” tour debacle on bot attacks and unprecedented demand and interest.

    Flashback: LiveNation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, in a deal that was brokered by former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department. Senators suggested during the hearing that the deal should be re-examined.

    • “As long as LiveNation remains remains both the dominant concert promoter and ticketer of major venues in the U.S., the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle,” said SeatGeek’s Groetzinger. “Our industry provides a cautionary tale about how behavioral remedies cannot solve the problems inherent in an anti-competitive merger.”
    • Groetzinger said venue owners fear losing out on LiveNation concerts if they don’t use Ticketmaster, and the two companies should be broken up.

    Go deeper: Ticketmaster blames bots, demand for ticket issues

    Ticketmaster cancels general public sale after Taylor Swift shatters record

    Editor’s note: This story is developing and will be updated.

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