US Senate Holds Hearing on Ticketmaster Operations: “Solutions Are Out for the Taking”

A United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee convened a hearing about Ticketmaster on Tuesday (January 24), prompted by the company’s failures with the sale of tickets for Taylor Swiftit’s coming Era Tour. During the hearing, chaired by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee, the panel heard testimony and asked questions about ticket sales, monopolization, selling markets, and Ticketmaster’s impact on the live music industry. Find footage of the livestreamed hearing and full testimony HERE.

Klobuchar, who talked about his own music fandom and raised $15 billion pandemic support of independent entertainment venues, emphasizing the bipartisan nature of the hearing. Senator Josh Hawley, Marsha Blackburn, Dick Durbin, Lindsey Graham, and others joined him and Lee in questioning Ticketmaster’s operations. Klobuchar, Lee, and other participants occasionally quoted Taylor Swift lyrics throughout the process. The testimony included input from singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence, and Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek, who explained the many logistical challenges facing ticketing platforms.

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 into the Ticketmaster platform. He apologized to Swift on behalf of Ticketmaster, saying 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 have to do better and we will do better,” he said. Berchtold even addressed the company’s ticket fees, a persistent complaint among fans, saying venues, not Ticketmaster, set the surcharges.

Klobuchar explained that the hearing was intended to raise public awareness, disclose information for the Department of Justice, and to encourage Republicans and Democrats to consider legislative options for controlling the company’s monopoly. “The solutions are there for the taking,” he said near the end of the hearing.

Ticketmaster faces two cases from Taylor Swift fans accusing the company of fraud, misrepresentation, and more. The company has been criticized for its practices for nearly 30 years: In 1995, Pearl Jam led a campaign to divest from the company because of its hold on the live music market. In addition to the Swift fallout, the company was heavily criticized (and later apologized). cancellation several hundred legitimate tickets to Bad Bunny’s sold-out concert in Mexico City.

The Justice Department has too opened an anti-trust investigation to the potential misconduct of Live Nation Entertainment; the investigation was reportedly opened before Eras tour tickets went on sale.

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