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U.S. Senate Holds Hearing on Ticketmaster Operations: “The Solutions Are There for the Taking”
A United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee convened a hearing about Ticketmaster on Tuesday (January 24), prompted by the company’s cascading failures with the sale of tickets for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour. During the hearing, led by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee, the panel heard testimony and asked questions about ticket sales, monopolization, resale markets, and Ticketmaster’s impact on the live music industry. Find footage of the livestreamed hearing and full testimonies here.
Klobuchar, who spoke about her own music fandom and advocated for $15 billion in pandemic aid to independent entertainment venues, emphasized the bipartisan nature of the hearing. Senators Josh Hawley, Marsha Blackburn, Dick Durbin, Lindsey Graham, and others joined her and Lee in asking questions about Ticketmaster’s operations. Klobuchar, Lee, and other participants occasionally quoted Taylor Swift lyrics throughout the proceedings. Testimony included input from singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence, and Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek, who explained the numerous logistical challenges that ticketing platforms face.
Joe Berchtold, president and CFO of Live Nation Entertainment also spoke at Tuesday’s hearing. The company merged with Ticketmaster in 2010, vertically integrating its venues with the Ticketmaster platform. He apologized to Swift on behalf of Ticketmaster, claiming that bots were to blame for the issues that resulted in the cancellation of the Eras Tour pre-sale date in November. “We apologize to the fans. We apologize to Ms. Swift. We need to do better and we will do better,” he said. Berchtold further addressed the company’s ticket fees, a consistent gripe for fans, saying that venues, not Ticketmaster, set the additional charges.
Klobuchar explained that the hearing was intended to raise public awareness, uncover information for the Justice Department, and to encourage Republicans and Democrats to consider legislative options for curtailing the firm’s monopoly. “The solutions are there for the taking,” she said as the hearing drew to a close.
Ticketmaster is facing two lawsuits from Taylor Swift fans who are accusing the company of fraud, misrepresentation, and more. The company has come under fire for its practices for nearly 30 years: In 1995, Pearl Jam led a campaign to divest from the company due to its grip on the live music market. In addition to the Swift fallout, the company was heavily criticized (and later apologized) for canceling several hundred legitimate tickets at Bad Bunny’s sold-out concert in Mexico City.
The Justice Department has also opened an anti-trust investigation into potentially iniquitous behavior by Live Nation Entertainment; the investigation was reportedly opened before tickets to the Eras tour went on sale.